Park City High Gay-Straight Alliance comes out in full color
Event aims to raise awareness of LGBTQ teen suicide rates
January 17, 2017
Kevin Boldin knows from personal experience that being an openly gay student at Park City High School is different than being out elsewhere in Utah.
Boldin, a gay junior, has had to deal with things like people talking behind his back, but he said most of his peers at PCHS are open-minded and supportive of who he is. When he leaves the bubble of Park City, however, he understands how difficult life often is for gay students in other parts of the state.
"At the average high school, I don't think people would be out," he said. "And if they are, they would be fearing for their emotional and physical well-being. They'd be nervous about telling anyone and if it's going to get back to their parents."
Given that, Boldin is not surprised by statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that say the national suicide rate among LGBTQ teens is four times higher than other teens and twice as high for adolescents questioning their sexuality.
To shine a light on the issue, the PCHS Gay-Straight Alliance club held a "color out" event at the boys' basketball game Friday evening. Dozens of students dressed in rainbow-colored T-shirts dotted the cheering section, the cheerleaders wore bright colors, and members of the club encouraged their peers to voice support for LGBTQ pride during halftime, eliciting a loud roar from the packed stands.
Boldin, one of the club's board members, said the students were aiming to use PCHS's status as a well-known school in the state to show gay students throughout Utah who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts that there are places that will embrace them for who they are.
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"We wanted to do this as a means of, 'If there's a kid out there in some part of Utah where it is not acceptable to be gay or trans, there are places out there where you can be loved and that people will accept you. This bubble you're in in high school is not everything.'"
To Grace Mason, the club's president, the color out was possible because of the dedication of the Gay-Straight Alliance and the support from the rest of the school's student body. She said events like the color out can go a long way toward shaping the perspectives of people who participate in or witness them.
"It was all the people who were willing to take a chance that really made this night happen," she said. "Because all the people who thought, 'Hey, I think I should probably go to this.' Those are the kids who will go home and maybe reevaluate where they're coming from. That's exactly what we want. We want to thank all the kids who came out who were unsure at first. And we are so happy that they did come out, because I mean…they came out."
Bea Giauque, another member of the Gay-Straight Alliance, said it was "exhilarating" to see the PCHS community unite in support for the LGBTQ cause.
"When I came here tonight, I was kind of afraid to see how it would turn out," she said. "We've been going … this entire week and even previous weeks just telling everyone, 'Come to the game! Invite your friends! Invite everyone! Just get everyone in on board!' So when all these kids came in and everyone was so hyped up and when we saw the cheerleaders taking part and even the vice principal with his own rainbow ribbon, it was exciting."
The color out was just the latest effort from the Gay-Straight Alliance this year to raise awareness for LGBTQ issues, Boldin said. The club is aiming to make itself more prevalent within the school and get more students involved in the cause, even if they don't officially become members.
Those initiatives have led to an even greater level of acceptance within the school's halls, Boldin said. He's eager to see the progress that will be made in the future and hopes students in other parts of the state see PHCS's example.
"I do feel as though it's had a positive impact on the student body," he said. "I feel like everyone is more comfortable with the idea that other students are gay and trans."
Park Record reporter Griffin Adams contributed to this story.
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