Mondays free of judgment at KSS [UPDATED]Published 11:12am Wednesday, October 10, 2012 Updated 4:07pm Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Fergus Falls can be a fantastic place to grow up. There is a strong sense of community in the schools, and there are plenty of resources available to help students. For students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, however, it can sometimes be difficult to find a comfortable place in the community to talk and be accepted.
The Rainbow Club was started at Kennedy Secondary School to offer a safe, judgment-free place for students to get together to learn and talk about things that are often viewed as taboo in Fergus Falls, said club president Avalon Hoff.
“A lot of people don’t understand the club,” Hoff said. “They think it’s just for gay people. It’s not. It’s a gay, straight alliance.”
The club got off to a quiet start three years ago. The goal was never to be loud and public about “gay pride,” but there were still community members who were upset with the school for allowing the club to be formed, she said.
“You don’t have to agree with someone being gay, but to bully and torment someone over it is disgusting,” Hoff said.
The Rainbow Club has about 30 students signed up but about 10 come to each weekly Monday meeting. The club has established more of a presence this year and even decorated a float for the homecoming parade.
KSS is one of the only schools in the county to have a GLBTA (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and ally) organization, and Hoff said the Rainbow Club is important to the school.
“It has helped get some students to a place that is comfortable,” she said. “It has especially helped people who come from families that aren’t open to the idea of being gay. You can’t exactly blame the parents because that’s how they were raised, and that’s what they have learned. It can be frustrating though.”
Suicide is the number one cause of death for GLBT teens and young adults. By having a safe place to talk about things like depression, students can receive support from peers in an environment where they don’t have to worry about being judged, said Hoff.
“We have a rule that anything said in meetings stays in the club,” she said.
The club has invited various speakers to meetings, including a transgender man who graduated from Fergus Falls High School as a woman, and local pastors and religious leaders. Education is one of the main goals of the organization, said Hoff.
Hoff is a junior this year, and she said she hopes the Rainbow Club can continue to provide everything promised in its mission statement: “A safe, welcoming place for LGBT youth, their allies and their leaders. We work to educate the community and school to increase understanding and decrease discrimination.”