EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

June 23, 2013

Your view: Letters to the editor

It’s taken time, but attitudes really have changed

To the editor:

Some might say that I’m overly sentimental, but when your new series “Difference Makers,” highlighting people making a difference in their communities, began Sunday, June 9, with a story titled “Methuen students created climate of acceptance,” I felt a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye.

Recognizing Zach Kerr and Brian Cook, two transgender young men from Methuen High School, and reading the sensitive and informative article by Douglas Moser about their respective achievements, brought to mind my 15 years as the Methuen High School Gay/Straight Alliance advisor.

As a retired English teacher at Methuen High, my thoughts returned to 1993, when Gov. William Weld instituted the Massachusetts Youth Commission to promote a Safe Schools Program for all the state’s secondary schools. Over the years, the Methuen High administration, its guidance counselors, teachers and student body gradually embraced the concept that sexual orientation and gender identification were not matters of choice but a natural, and, yes, confusing, part of the life of many teenagers.

After my retirement in 2007, I knew that my involvement with the LGBTQ community would continue. I began attending discussion groups and working with the Greater Boston PFLAG chapter, which is part of the national organization of PFLAG, designed to educate, support and advocate for Parents, Friends and Families of Lesbian and Gay youth, together with those who identify as transgender young people. Then in November 2010, we formed the first Merrimack Valley PFLAG Chapter, which meets monthly in Andover.

Zach and Brian’s involvement as speakers and representatives of the Massachusetts Youth Commission is the result of many years of arduous work and continual education geared toward school administrators, guidance counselors, teachers and, of course, students. Our hope is that all young people have the freedom and knowledge to attain their highest objectives and not fear for their lives or their futures. These two young men are on their way to becoming tomorrow’s leaders, thanks to their welcoming schools and communities.

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