Gay Houston Youth Welcome New Policy
Students who were subject to harassment in area schools say prohibiting anti-gay comments and acts will help.
[HOUSTON, TX] - Justin Frazier, a recent graduate of Lamar High School in Houston, said he became accustomed to the name-calling he had to endure daily from other students because of his sexual orientation.
"I pretty much desensitized myself to it," Frazier said.
The 18-year-old, who has been out since age 14, said he would ignore the rude comments made because he was an openly gay student. But he said if he felt threatened in any way, he would protect himself.
In one incident, a frequent tormentor followed Frazier around at school for an entire day, harassing him. Frazier said he ended up stuffing the student in a locker to get him off his back.
Afterwards, the student never bothered him again, he said.
The Houston Independent School District added language to the student code of conduct last week that prohibits harassment of students based on sexual orientation, among other traits. Supporters said they wanted to list protected statuses because young people often harass those who are different in some way.
Being different is why Frazier thinks he was targeted in school.
"I was pretty flamboyant," Frazier said.
The 6-feet-tall, 230-pound Frazier crafted a style of his own. He grew his hair long and wore bell-bottomed pants to school. Frazier believes a lot of people disagreed with his look because he didn't fall into society's gender norms.
"We've been told that boys in school look like boys and girls should look like girls," Frazier said. "And when you don't fall into that norm, people have a problem with it."
Frazier supports the change in the student code of conduct, saying it should help give gay youths in HISD schools a sense of acceptance.
"It will let [gay students] know that there's someone there for them," Frazier said. "A lot of them feel that there's no one there to back them up."
Many youth are not openly gay at school but still get harassed. Tracy Pettus, a lesbian, said she didn't formally come out until after high school, but other students at Bellaire High School still called her derogatory names.
"I never told anyone; people just assumed I was [gay] because of the way I looked," Pettus said.
Pettus said she often wore baggy pants, tennis shoes, and kept her hair simple in high school.
"I just pulled it back in a pony tall and forgot about it," she said.
Pettus said she kept to herself and let the comments "roll off her back."
"I became used to it after a while," she said.
Pettus supports the code change, saying, "it would have made high school a lot easier for me."
The HISD move has won support from students all over the Houston metro area.
Tara Martinez, 19, who attended Cypress Creek High School, not part of HISD, said other school districts should add the change.
"It would definitely work in my district," Martinez said. "Having it put in the rules will make it so that students and teachers can't ignore it."
Martinez, a lesbian, said she was harassed in high school simply because she associated with students who were openly gay.
"I use to hang around people who were out in high school and stick up for them, so they assumed I was too," Martinez said.
Martinez said she never felt in fear for her life, but she does know gay students who were not as lucky.
"This one guy I know was ran off the road by this other guy because he was gay," Martinez said.
Currently, no other school districts in the Houston metro area have included in their student code of conduct language that prohibits harassment based on real or perceived sexual orientation.