The Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Association hosted MCPS’ first LGBTQIA forum May 18 at Wootton High School to raise awareness and discuss potential solutions to the struggles LGBTQIA students face in schools. The forum included a discussion panel made up of students, educators and public servants.
Evan Glass, the first openly gay member of the Montgomery County Council, and Gabriel Acevero, the first openly gay man of Afro-Latino descent elected to the Maryland General Assembly, spoke at the forum. They both emphasized that although our country has progressed in terms of acceptance, we still have room to grow.
“Even those who are well intentioned need to understand the changing times, the changing terminologies and the changing issues that we’re advocating for,” Glass said.
Around 200 MCPS students, parents and faculty attended the meeting, including Gretchen Gilmore, a seventh grade student at Tilden Middle School. Glass is Gilmore’s “personal hero” because of Glass’s strong devotion to LGBTQIA constituents, she said.
During the forum, LGBTQIA-identifying students brought up how they hope to see more steps to address the unique concerns of their community; some suggested specific mental health checkups in schools for LGBTQIA students.
“We should be continuously checking up on our students, especially when it comes to gender-dysphoria,” Tengeya said. “I’m non-binary; when I was going through this, there wasn’t anyone who understood.”
Attendees also discussed the need for gender-neutral restrooms. Though many past Student Members of the Board have proposed gender-inclusive restrooms, students and educators are still waiting for schools across the county to adopt the policy. The restrooms are “one of the best ways we can make our county inclusive,” Montgomery County Regional SGA member Pranav Tadikonda said.
After the panel discussion ended, the attendees split into groups for a series of workshops. Each workshop tackled a different topic—ranging from an LGBTQIA-inclusive curriculum, to supporting LGBTQIA students, to becoming an LGBTQIA “ally.”
“As we work through these issues at the local level, parent to teacher, student to student, neighbor to neighbor, I do believe that we are making progress,” Glass said. “This is how we change hearts and minds.”