Lauren Hannani culture editor
Priscilla Hopper media manager
Valentine’s Day has been around since the 5th century, but this year’s ‘Love is Love’ week here on campus is a first for both students and staff.
This month’s theme of forming healthy relationships, created and planned by intervention counselor Ali Norman-Franks, was first inspired by Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, or how Norman-Franks labeled it: “Love is Respect.” Focusing on different kinds of healthy relationships each week, Franks decided to make the week of Valentine’s Day devoted to LGBTQ+ students and community in general to emphasize the “Love is Love” theme.
“The Love is Love week I was most excited and passionate about because I feel like, one, LGBTQ students have the highest risk of suicide, but also during Valentine’s Day, we don’t always get to honor the different types of love,” Franks said. “So I just thought this was the perfect time to honor all of our students.”
One of the activities done this week to celebrate “Love is Love” was to create flags that start with the statement “Love is” and end in whatever the student writes.
“The flags represent a way of acknowledging all the different kinds of love and awareness to the different ways that people love each other and the different ways people identify with their own gender or sexuality,” Franks said.
In addition to students, staff members have also been getting involved by wearing rainbow peace sign necklaces all week and posting flyers around their classrooms to show support for the LGBTQ community: an action that has not gone unnoticed by some LGBTQ students.
“It’s amazing to feel so included. We are so incredibly lucky to have an administration that promotes equality, especially when LGBTQ youth are still marginalized in most of the United States,” senior Natasha Dardashti said. “It’s a first step that I wish more schools would take toward helping queer kids feel accepted, especially in today’s rocky political climate.”
Senior Rachel Khorshad, a peer counselor at the Norman Aid Center, thinks that this schoolwide LGBTQ support is “long overdue.”
“For my four years in high school, I have heard so many inappropriate comments, references and myths about the LGBTQ community. No one was an upstander, and it was extremely difficult to see that happen,” Khorshad said. “This week definitely has allowed for teachers and students to have necessary conversations about supporting one another, and I love seeing all the students showing their support…the next step should be education and respect.”
Norman-Franks hopes that students continue to feel comfortable to come to the Norman Aid to open up and feel supported even after this week is over. Next week’s theme is “Love is Equality” in support of Black History Month, while the following week’s theme will be “Love is Respect” to raise awareness about rape and sexual harassment.
“I think that it’s truly an honor when students come in and feel like this is a place where they can be open and visible and know that they will be accepted and supported,” Norman-Franks said. “Just the opportunity to give them tools and help them have the voice, if they’re having a hard time opening up to family or to friends, we’ve been able to provide a lot of resources for families who really love their child and want to support them but don’t know how, so we’ve been able to give them some tools and resources from Norman Aid but also what’s available outside in our community.”
However, Dardashti hopes that this week is only the beginning of a supportive and kind environment toward the LGBTQ community.
“Obviously, no matter what, we still have a long way to go in terms of defeating the homophobia ingrained in everyone. Just because we have one week of showing support for the LGBTQ community does not mean that kids will stop using homophobic language in the halls, or that LGBTQ kids across the nation will stop facing bullying that eventually drives them to suicide,” Dardashti said. “But every movement has to start somewhere, and having a week of acceptance seems like an excellent starting place for me.”