LGBTQ, GJH and how (not) to discuss minority rights
Il Ponte editorial note: The author of the article is not a current member of Il Ponte. The original text was first published in Slovak on the author’s personal blog. After the mutual agreement between Il Ponte editorial board and the author we translated it into this edited version with full awareness and permission of the author.
Sebastián Bražina / May 4, 2019
( 5 min read )
Disclaimer: This article is purely my opinion. It has nothing to do with the official stance of the school, the students’ assembly or the opinions of other students.
Recently, the school which I am student of, the Jur Hronec Gymnasium (GJH), was going to have a day on which students could come dressed as the opposite gender. It was quickly hyped by all the media coverage and the school decided to cancel it. Many called out my school for being cowardly. Many said the LGBTQ community was trying to promote itself. Long story short, GJH found itself in the middle of a shootout between conservatives and liberals. The actions of my school were misinterpreted and twisted. But most importantly, if a discussion about any sort of rights, such as minority rights, is to take place, it must be handled with caution. And that is precisely what did not happen…
It all began with another so-called “topical Thursday”. This “topical Thursday” is a small event, which takes place every now and then and the students' assembly organizes it. For example, we had a Thursday on which we could all come to school in striped clothing, or a Thursday on which everyone wearing a sweater would be served cocoa. It is quite a harmless event. Some time ago comedians dressed up as women on a TV sketch show would be considered the peak of Slovak entertainment. And although, those days are (thankfully) gone, the student’s assembly decided to organize a “gender swap Thursday”.
In my opinion, the goal was to support gender equality and to support the LGBTQ community, but most importantly to have fun. Some interesting photos would have been made, posted on Instagram and nothing bad would have happened. However, the whole event has been medialized by media commonly associated with conspiracy theories such as Slobodný Vysielač, Sputnik, Hlavné Správy and so on. The satirical Facebook page Zomri with around 200 000 followers then took a stance and soon enough the “gender swap Thursday” became a scandal. In my opinion, however, neither side managed to paint the full picture and the conspirators even managed to paint a completely different one.
The conspirators perceived this event as organized by the LGBTQ community, as an event that urged the students to dress as the opposite gender, thus undermining “traditional values” and of course as using and manipulating the students for a certain kind of agenda. I myself can prove these allegations wrong at this very moment. Maybe it means I am not the most initiative student, but I have not participated in a single “topical Thursday” (and I still wasn’t expelled!). Nor did I want to participate in this particular one. But I do fully respect those that did.
I can also disprove the participation of anyone besides the students that were organizing this event. Our school is liberal to say the least, and LGBTQ students luckily do not have to fear harassment. In this liberal spirit, the students’ assembly probably wanted to show them some support, given that they do not have it easy in our society.
Despite all of this, I still think the main idea was to make an ordinary school day a bit more entertaining, while also spreading some tolerance. And this idea came purely from the minds of students. To those doubting this, I can gladly show from which minds specifically.
So why was it cancelled then?
The satirical Facebook page Zomri wrote that the school authorities “chickened out”. They did not. First of all, the school authorities were not aware of this event at all, they first heard of it from the media. It was organized purely by the students, who before consulting with anyone, posted it on Facebook. Secondly, as soon as the whole scandal began, a meeting with the delegates from each class took place and an announcement was made in the school radio. It was described to us how after the event was made public, the school started receiving e-mails from graduates and current students. They quite reasonably pointed out that though the LGBT community is in need of support, this was definitely not the best way to do so. Dressing up as the opposite gender is reserved for humorless Slovak comedians such as Peter Marcin, our school can do better.
A call for better organization of the event was thus recognized by the school authorities. The topic of discrimination based on sexual orientation is unfortunately still quite sensitive and controversial in Slovakia. Our school, being a state governed institution, responsible (beyond other things) also for the upbringing of young people, recognized the need to do this event fairly and properly. Not hastily and mockingly. Also, the primary task of a school is not to battle half-educated conspirators in pseudo-media. That is precisely why our school authorities also stated, that what is written about us by the likes of Rostas and Blaha (famous Slovak conspirators), does not bother them at all.
Who is to blame then?
In Slovakia, this question always comes to mind first. In this case, I recommend blaming everyone. The students’ assembly is to blame, because they did not think it trough. Students of GJH are to blame, because they hate Slovakia and they are the ones electing the students’ assembly. The school authorities are to blame, because they are cowards. The conspirators are to blame, because they blatantly lied and misinformed. Zomri is to blame, because in the eyes of the “traditional values” defenders, Zomri is always to blame.
Now seriously. We all are people. People make mistakes. This whole scandal is the result of many mistakes in the discussion concerning the LGBTQ community in Slovakia.
It upsets me to see that most of the people missed the point. The LGBTQ community needs our support. Slovakia still somehow does not understand that there is nothing wrong with being part of the LGBTQ community. It is not something people get to choose when they are born, so that they can spend their lives sabotaging cultures. I have friends that are part of the LGBTQ and they are great people. They truly do not deserve us “supporting” them by mocking the opposite gender. And they definitely do not deserve to be in the middle of hateful discussions between conservatives and liberals. For they are the same people as we are.
So, what do you propose Sebastian?
Great question, I propose we wait. Our school authorities emphasized, that no student organized event was ever forbidden by them, and that they only want to clarify and go over it. If this “gender swap day” does take place and all students from our school are raped while the building itself burns in rainbow colored flames, then Andrej Danko, Slovakia’s chairman of the National Council who immediately called the “gender swap day” “gender propaganda” and condemned it in his Facebook post, can say events such as this one are ruining our country. But nothing like that will happen. Anybody who wants to, will participate and everyone will have fun. And hopefully the members of the LGBTQ community will be glad, that at least someone is not harassing them. On one hand, I do not think this will be a breaking point in our society. On the other hand, I think it is a small step in the direction of tolerance and equality. But even with small steps, we will one day get there.
Though I myself will not dress up, those more courageous and outspoken deserve respect.