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Somewhere over the rainbow

Somewhere over the rainbow

Nikita Sarmiento

PLAYING POOL WITH HER CREW—An Agoura High School student plays pool and hangs out with her friends at the annual Gay Straight Alliance Dance. This year’s dance was called the Rainbow Dance because it was held on the Friday before Saint Patrick’s Day. Hosted and organized by Newbury Park High School, the event invited all the GSA clubs in Marmonte.

Eighth grade was the first time junior Haley Fick kissed another girl, but from then on, she could not deny what she felt. She knew she was bisexual. This realization would later lead Fick to join the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Club.
“I joined GSA because I saw it as a big support group for any sexuality,” Fick said. “It’s a big group of friends that we can talk to about anything and not feel judged.”
Fick does feel judged at times but only by people who she believes misunderstand her. However, her family and friends have been supportive of her sexuality and her decision to join the GSA club.
“I get judged a lot because of my sexuality,” Fick said. “It’s something I’m used to but not proud of, but my family and friends love it because I have embraced my true self and don’t care what people say. I have gotten more friends because of it.”
To embrace oneself was one of the reasons why the GSA hosted the Rainbow Dance at the Thousand Oaks Teen Center on Friday, March 14. This year, Newbury Park organized the event.
“The Rainbow Dance is for the all the Marmonte League Gay Straight Alliances,” Fick said. “It’s a big dance for us to have a party and make new friends.”
Even though the school accepted the GSA Club on campus, the club did have some issues with the school in the early 2000s, involving a girl and the fifth period announcements.
“Her agenda was to get the school to broadcast the Gay Straight Alliance Club because they always called it by its acronym. She felt that this was discriminatory against gays,” English teacher and former GSA adviser Felix McGinnis said. “She wanted to push this agenda and although she claimed that she was not gay, her sister was, so this was kind of her pet issue.”
McGinnis tried to advise the student to go through the principal but instead, she took the issue to the American Civil liberties Union (ACLU).
The ACLU did get involved. They came to the district and said that they would sue the school in a civil right case. The school obliged.
“As soon as she achieved that goal, she was not interested in GSA anymore and stopped going to meetings,” McGinnis said. “I told her that that was a foolish way to deal with the issue because the school was not actually hostile to this. The school might have been conservative, but she had to negotiate with it.”
The club died down after that incident and a new group of students would start it again years later. Douglas Pollock, a former Agoura High School teacher, who helped form the Marmonte GSA by connecting the different clubs together, praises this new leadership at TOHS.
“The club has restarted with enthusiastic leadership, a great adviser and the support of the counselors and administrators at the school,” Pollock said.
Pollock decided to help create the coalition of GSA clubs after an experience that touched his heart.
“When a senior girl said, ‘That’s the first time in my life that I was able to just be myself,’ that statement struck me hard,” Pollock said. “This dance was the only event in the Conejo Valley area for LGBTQ youth and their friends and allies over the 10 years that I had been at Agoura High School. I decided to help students create a coalition that would plan local activities and support one another.”
Besides the dances, the coalition also hosts movie and bowling nights and other activities listed on the Facebook page.
For Pollock though, there is nothing more endearing to him than knowing that the club members are having fun at these meetings.
Pollock does not have a particular GSA event he treasures the most. This is because he believes that something special happens at all of the club’s events, due to the coalition’s camaraderie.
“One example is Friday’s dance when everyone danced with whomever they wanted and the time when everyone passed around cell phones to share contact information with their new friends,” Pollock said. “Or the movie nights when the crowd cheers at the end of the movie and then talks about what happened. These are all very satisfying for me because I know that participants are safe and having a good time.”

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