A feel good story about Progress.
By Rebecca Borlik
Inspired by true local events.
Carla identified herself as a lesbian during her 6th grade year after three girls swung open the bathroom door to find her kissing another girl. This was, by the way, her first kiss. Up until her 6th grade year, Carla, a tomboy, was always popular with the boys. She was on a boy’s basketball team, and she always was first picked for football at recess. These feelings she had for girls however, were new. The feelings scared her, but Carla was a girl who didn’t let fear stand in the way.
Carla grew up in a rough neighborhood, and had a tough history of hardship and loss. She attended school at Newberry Elementary, a school that prided itself on rising test scores and academic excellence. Newberry had its problems though. With so much focus on test scores, there wasn’t a lot of time to teach life skills. Socially, kids bullied other kids on the playground. Not a day went by without hearing “That’s so gay” or “Faggot” at recess or passing periods. After those three girls opened the door on Carla’s kissing incident, Newberry’s world changed forever.
You see, once Carla admitted to herself that she was a lesbian, she didn’t care if the world knew. She figured that kids were already gossiping about her, so why not squash the gossip by just admitting that it was true. And she did. She wasn’t blunt about it though. She mostly just led by example and was kind to anyone she talked to, even if she was asking them for respect. And so, Newberry learned to stand behind her. If boy and girl couples were aloud to hold hands in passing periods, then Carla and her girlfriend could as well. If boy and girl couples got in trouble for PDA, then so did Carla. When Carla asked, against district tradition, whether she can wear a pantsuit to her 8th grade promotion, Newberry changed their rules to accommodate for her.
Newberry’s students changed too. After a while, kids stopped gawking at Carla walking by with her girlfriends. Gay slurs and bullying declined slowly but steadily. When asked why they thought that was, one leadership student said it was because “Kids didn’t want to offend Carla.” Always a leader academically, now Carla was proving to be a quiet leader socially by advocating for equal acceptance.
The change at Newberry is noticeable. It is a better place to attend school, and a better place to work, all because Carla existed with such a presence. She is a prime example of the quote,
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ― Margaret Mead
Today, Carla is in ROTC in high school, and has plans to enlist in the army, or to go to officer school. It is a good thing the army has overturned “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” because now Carla can walk into a world of acceptance, when before, she had to be the trailblazer.