Students offer supportive environment for people of all genders, sexual orientations

Riverdale is always having some sort of event. Patricia Torvalds

We had Week of the Girl last month, a week dedicated to raising awareness about undocumented young women across the world.

We had Spirit Week last month, which was in honor of homecoming and was all about underclassmen wearing weird costumes and making everyone else a bit uncomfortable.

We participated in Ally Week last week, devoted to making Riverdale students better allies for people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, questioning or any other sexuality.

Ally Week is important. As a school, we’re learning about major social issues and giving out Ally bracelets while doing so. This is the progressive, aggressively kind and fully enthusiastic Riverdale I know and love. It’s a Riverdale I’m proud to be part of.

On the first day, Oct. 28, the tagline was “Know Your Community,” and there were posters about the statistics concerning the Riverdale High School community’s sexualities, gathered from surveys sent out the week before. The posters addressed Riverdale students and how many of them had family members who identified as LGBTQ, giving all the students a sense of solidarity.

Then, Oct. 29 was centered on “Be an Ally,” a day about how to demonstrate an active alliance with marginalized people. Students who came to the meeting during lunch received a bracelet to show that they supported the cause, and then they learned about how to be a good ally through video and discussion. The video, of Laila Al-Shamma’s acceptance speech for her Student Advocate of the Year award was inspiring and thought-provoking. The meeting helped people realize what it meant to be an ally and that it’s more than just claiming to be one. Instead, alliance with LGBTQ students and people is an ongoing practice.

I hosted an event called “Challenge Gender Stereotypes” on Oct. 30. Students filled out an anonymous Gender Gumby survey, noting how they felt they presented themselves, who they were attracted to and how they felt about their own gender after learning about and discussing the gender spectrum. Junior Ingrid Myers said it was “surprising that so many people felt that there was just male and female, and that was it. I liked discussing how different people can be, such as guys that can be girly and still be ‘straight.’ I wish we could have reached out to even more people.”

Everyone left the room with a little more knowledge of the gender spectrum than they entered with, and Riverdale students had a positive impact on the educational portion of acceptance that day.

We discussed hate speech and sloppy language Oct. 30. The day was called “Think Before You Speak.” During lunch, students had a conversation about what it means to use anti-gay language, even if it isn’t meant as a homophobic slur. The conversation expanded to include thoughts on feminism and fat-shaming. The group debated the difference between sloppy language and homophobia as well as the similarities between anti-gay language and what it means to call someone “fat” or “slut.” It was an important conversation to have as a whole, and while conflicting opinions remained on some topics, all agreed to be more mindful of their language.

Then, Friday was a day of support. Students wore blue and their bracelets. Many people wore shirts with slogans on them, such as “Talk to Me” and “Be an Ally.” Signs were posted encouraging people to tell their friends why they love them and to hold hands. At lunch, music played and friends hung out in teacher David Thompson’s room to eat food and talk about Ally Week.

All in all, Ally Week was a success. Of course, more people could have attended lunchtime meetings. The problems LGBTQ youth face haven’t been solved at Riverdale yet. But those who did attend learned something. The first step to equality was taken, and Riverdale students celebrated it.

Riverdale High School junior Patricia Torvalds writes a monthly column for the Review. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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