Utah High Schools
by Owen Hellfry Zazover
ST. GEORGE, Utah — More than 4,000 gay, lesbian and transgender clubs have been sanctioned by school districts across the fruited plain, even in the reddest of the red states, Utah.
Beginning in September, students who in past years might have been considered sexual deviants or social misfits suffering from psychological abnormalities will be welcomed as normal at after-school Gay-Straight Alliance Clubs at four high schools in this town that once featured the local Mormon temple on its letterhead.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah helped a handful of students charter the clubs.
"I can hardly stand waiting until fall," one student, Pat Downe, said Tuesday. "I hope my school's club will take me because I think I'm bisexual. I like watching 'The Ellen Degeneres Show,' but I also like 'Jersey Shore.' I think there are cute guys as well as girls in my school. So far I've been able to keep my real gender a secret, which will give me the freedom to do what I want when I'm ready to do that, even if it means having a laupitoffomy."
Another student, Gale Storm, wears an earring in a right ear lobe but declined to reveal his or her gender. A deep voice nonetheless indicated an abundance of testerone.
"I wonder what we're going to do in these clubs," Storm said. "I'm hoping it will be a good place to meet dates."
Meanwhile, the ACLU has rejected an application from several dozen heterosexual students who wanted to form their own clubs.
"We think high school students are too young to declare they're hetero," said Rico Lawe of the Utah ACLU. "A lot of people think they're heterosexual for decades before they finally decide they're gay. We don't want to encourage students to enter into long-term commitments with members of the opposite sex because it could harm them psychologically, emotionally and mentally in the long run. We cannot in good conscience contribute to such harm."
Heterosexual coeds June Flowers, Kathie Terr and Fannie May said it wasn't fair that gays had their own clubs, while they must search for dates in more traditional ways.
Snow Canyon student Les B. Frank said it's time to accept gay high school students.
"But frankly I don't see why they like to be called gay," he said. "If the truth be told, the gays I know are some of the most depressed and confused people in our school. Maybe these clubs will cheer them up, so I'm all for it."
Gay school advisor Willis Hurt said gay students need a place where they can share common experiences, problems and concerns.
"Gays don't feel comfortable at school dances where girls are dancing with guys," he said. "They feel out of place in a lot of places."
An athlete at one of the schools, Dee Klein, said he would turn down an invitation to join his school's gay club even though he suspects he might lean left because he loves poetry, singing, the color pink and Elton John.
"I see myself marrying a girl," he said, "and I want some little kids someday, so I'm going to decline."
Students at two of the schools said several of their teachers are gay and have been educating them about the homosexual lifestyle in their spare time.
"Some of the best things I learned by doing homework," junior cheerleader Joe King said. "Not at my house but at my teacher's house. For example, I've learned that I talk too much."
Swimming coach Phil Poole said several of the female athletic coaches he knows in southern Utah are lesbian and believes they are indoctrinating some of their students into the lifestyle.
"I certainly would not let one of my daughters play girls basketball at her school," he said. "Her red-headed coach is a flaming gay, and I'm afraid she could turn her into a lesbian, too."
One of the gay coaches, however, said she never tries to turn her students toward homosexuality.
"I believe you're born gay," she said. "Anybody who thinks otherwise is out of touch, living in the Dark Ages, uneducated, bigoted and just plain stupid. The Mormons around here are particularly idiotic. They're all homophobic, judgmental and discriminatory, and they think all gay people are child molesters. I can't believe the way they stereotype us and judge all members of a group by just one or two bad apples."
Female soccer coach Eileen Wright said her students don't know she is heterosexual because she keeps her sexuality private.
"I'm like a lot of teachers," she said. "If certain people find out we're heterosexual, they'll make life miserable for me, calling me a homophobe and denying me promotions and opportunities. The only reason I got into the college I attended in California is that I pretended to be gay."
Language specialist Rosetta Stone said she has no problem with homosexuals but wonders why students would want to broadcast their sexuality by openly joining a gay-lesbian alliance.
"What they do in private is their business," she said. "They don't need to blab about it."
School librarian Paige Turner said she has been ordering books about homosexuality to satisfy a pent-up demand for information about gays.
"I thought I might run into some opposition for some of the books that I've put on the shelves," she said. "The books that say gays are born that way get checked out once in a while, but the books that say gays are a product of their environment all have turned up missing. I've had to order Overcoming Homosexuality six times because some people just don't like it, I guess."
School landscaper Milan S. Browne said he might come out of the closet regarding his sexuality now that schools in the area have decided to embrace homosexuals.
"Then again, whose business is it?" he asked. "I think I'll ask my wife about it when he gets home."
Isabel Ringer, who is in charge of alarms, clocks and locks at one of the schools, said she doesn't like after-school clubs because she must work more overtime.
"Gay, straight, transgender -- who cares?" she said. "When school's over, let them go somewhere else. I don't want to have to hang around to ring the bells when club hour is over."
A parent of a gay student, Kerr Ryan, said he still can't get over the emotional trauma of discovering that his son wants to live a homosexual lifestyle.
"I've shed a lot of tears since I found a David Hasselhoff poster in his room and pink Nikes in his closet," Ryan said. "I always thought his musical tastes were kind of strange, but when I finally put it all together, I realized why he likes George Michael, Clay Aiken and Boy George."
The locally dominant religion, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) has seminaries adjacent to all four St. George area campuses. Seminary Principal Duncan A. Lake said he has baptized six or seven openly gay students but advises them to remain celibate to remain in good standing with the church.
Bishop-elect Marv N. Gaye of the local Episcopal Diocese said his church is one of the few Christian sects that ordains gays to church offices, blesses same-sex unions, and performs same-sex marriage.
"If God didn't love gays, he wouldn't create them," Gaye said.
Phoebe Lowe, president of the new clubs, said membership fees will be low and she expects them to disappear altogether after she persuades school officials to pay the costs associated with her group.
"If the school won't pay our way," she said, "we'll hit them upside the head with a big old lawsuit. Either they're going to have to stop paying the expenses of the football and basketball teams, or they're going to have to buy us what we need as well. The first thing we're going to do is take the school bus to San Francisco to attend the Gay Pride parade and see what it's like to live in a city where being gay is not the exception."
Undocument immigrant student Don Quilava of Pine View High School said the creation of gay clubs gives him hope that his predilection for non-humans might become as accepted in the future as homosexuality is today.
"The best way to win an Oscar or an Emmy is to be gay or make a movie or song about gays like Kiss of the Spiderwoman or Brokeback Mountain," he said. "Someday things might change, and what I like will be legal even outside Mexico. I dream of the day when a song like 'I Only Have Eyes for You' could win an Grammy or an Oscar."
Quote of the Day
"As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children." — Anita Bryant, 1977