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LGBTQ+ student experiences

Alliance student leaders Amy ’23 and Esmé ’23 welcome potential members at club fair 2021 courtesy of @marlboroughlife

LGBTQ+ students at Marlborough have developed a supportive community through spaces such as the Alliance club, and some have expressed the need to make Marlborough a more inclusive space for queer students.

Administration changes for the LGBTQ+ Community 

In the past year, Marlborough has made changes to school policies to become more inclusive towards all genders and sexualities, which have directly impacted most students who identify as LGBTQ+. One recent change made by the administration is that Marlborough is now called a “girls” school rather than an “all-girls” school to make the school more inclusive for trans and non-binary students. However, some students see this change as a performative, unhelpful act.

“Even though I don’t identify as a girl, I still view it [Marlborough] as an all-girls school because that’s what it is,” an anonymous student said. “The language that teachers and the administration use to address a group is still usually all feminine, which I mean is annoying but it’s Marlborough.”

Despite efforts to make the school more inclusive, trans students are frequently misgendered at Marlborough because of the all girls environment.

“I’m also genderfluid and although people are really respectful, it’s kind of difficult going to a school that’s known as an “all-girls” school because a lot of people assume that my pronouns are she/her, which can be frustrating sometimes,” an anonymous student said. 

Some LGBTQ+ students appreciate other smaller actions made by the administration to create a more inclusive community.

“I personally really appreciated the google forms at the beginning of the year where you put in your pronouns,” an anonymous student said. “You can specify whether or not you want the teacher to use them in front of the class or in front of your parents. So I think that really helped a lot of people that aren’t out to their parents or the rest of the class.”

For many students, the lack of LGBTQ+ representation makes it hard to feel heard inside the classroom.

“I love Marlborough, but one thing that frustrates me is the lack of LGBTQ+ representation in the curriculum, particularly the English curriculum,” a survey respondent said. “I think it’s really important to include LGBTQ+ experiences in our English curriculum.”

Another option Marlborough offers for LGBTQ+ students looking for support is Alliance, the LGBTQ+ club at Marlborough, which provides a safe space for queer students. 

“I’ve never felt uncomfortable being out as queer at Marlborough,” another anonymous student said. “Especially with Alliance, I went to Alliance in the first month of 7th grade and that was very fun, very nice, and felt very very comfortable.”

Alliance

Although Alliance, Marlborough’s Gay-Straight Alliance club, has always been a stable support group for LGBTQ+ students and their allies at Marlborough, this year there was a huge increase in membership. Leaders Esmé ‘23 and Amy ‘23 knew that Alliance was bound to adapt, look different and become a bigger representation of Marlborough’s LGBTQ+ community.

In the past, Alliance has been a relatively small group, with as few as six students showing up for lunch meetings. However, student leaders, like Esmé, were passionate about expanding the club.

 “Because it was such a small group of people, it did not reflect the amount of people at this school who needed it,” Esmé said. “I think the important thing is that it’s not going to be the same group or club that it has been in previous years. It’s going to be more widespread, and it’s going to be a bigger community than just a 10 person club.” 

 This year’s first meeting had a far larger turnout expected, with a total of 131 students signing up, and middle schoolers made up a hefty portion of the attendees.

“It’s been slightly overwhelming with the new kids coming in,” Amy said. “They were so open about it [their sexuality] and I was like, woah. I was not expecting middle schoolers to actually show up…it’s definitely a change in audience.” 

With the new, immense middle school crowd, Alliance’s events and meetings had to evolve in order to support and satisfy their up-to-date crowd. Movie nights for watching iconic LGBTQ+ films like “But I’m A Cheerleader” or brunches for open queer parents to meet and bond are just some of Aliance’s plans for the upcoming school year. At the end of the day, Alliance’s main goal is to be a support system for all of its members, whether out, questioning or in the process of coming out. 

“We are offering open arms, and we want to provide a space where you can ask for advice, you can feel supported and you can have any help needed with coming out,” Amy said. “It is a good way, even if you’re not talking about it directly, to be around people who have had the same experiences or similar ones. It helped me know that I have a place and I’m valid.” 

The leaders’ main priority this year is to focus on what their members want and need so every member of Alliance is getting something meaningful out of this club.

“It’s not just something where the leaders decide what we’re doing and everyone follows, and it’s gonna be a bit more democratic and reflect what the people need, what they want, what they wish for,” Esmé said. 

Relationships

One of the first things that may come to mind about being in the LGBTQ+ community at Marlborough is dating. Some students, including Sabine ‘23, feel like there is a bit of a stigma surrounding dating at school. 

“I feel like you’re always told not to date someone in the school, which is like good advice,” Sabine said. “When two girls are together at Marlborough, everybody knows and everybody is constantly sharing their opinion and everyone is constantly sharing what happened [between the couple].” 

By nature of Marlborough being a small school, and the LGBTQ+ community here being even smaller, some students, like Minnie ‘22, said that the relationships have complicated her friendships in the past because of how close knit the Marlborough community is.

“You’re like best friends with your friend’s ex. There’s too much over-contamination,” Minnie said.

Just like dating at a co-ed school, dating at Marlborough can be complicated. However, open couples at Marlborough often serve as role models for younger students. Minnie said that a well known past couple at Marlborough has been important to her.

“That [seeing a couple dating openly] was like a historical moment,” Minnie said. “That was a defining moment of my freshman year.”

Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t just affect people’s romantic relationships, but also friendships. One student, Katie ‘23, says that her identity has influenced who she’s friends with.

“I think a lot of queer people at Marlborough definitely gravitate towards each other, and without any like formal community, kind of build community between each other,” Katie said.

Having a queer community at school has helped some students discover their identities and come out. One student talked about how over quarantine she discovered her identity and found connections with other queer students. 

“There was only one person [in my friend group] that had come out,” an anonymous student said. “Later on, we figured out that most of us were queer. Coming out in general, even though it’s a small part of my identity, has allowed me to express other parts of myself.”

In addition to the Marlborough community helping students discover their identities, many student responses cited feeling accepted by the community once they came out.

“No one has ever been homophobic to me at Marlborough, and I’m grateful for that, but being gay can definitely feel alienating when I’m with certain groups of my peers,” one respondent said.

Some students have experienced microaggressions, and feel like their peers are not respectful of their identities. 

“There’s always people who are slightly homophobic, and when you say you’re gay, and they’re like don’t change around me!” Sabine said. “You know they view you differently after you say it.” 

The overwhelming majority of students survey responses said that they felt Marlborough was welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community, and that they felt supported. 

“I feel really lucky that Marlborough has created an environment in which I have been comfortable discovering myself and finding out more about myself and my sexuality over the last 5 years,” one survey respondent said. 

Staff Illustrator Ruby ’23

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