Gender Representation Within West Morris Mendham High School

The+Mendham+GSA%2C+or+Gender+Sexuality+Alliance%2C+aims+to+create+a+safe%2C+accepting%2C+and+meaningful+atmosphere+for+students+of+all+gender+identities.+

The Mendham GSA, or Gender Sexuality Alliance, aims to create a safe, accepting, and meaningful atmosphere for students of all gender identities.

Even as the world transitions into an era of acceptance, the discussion over gender identity and discrimination is ongoing. The struggle against bigotry and previously held perspectives are hidden in all corners of society, and oftentimes, these issues are found within the walls of our own schools. In 2021 alone, state legislatures across the country have introduced more than 100 bills to restrict trans rights. These restrictions include banning transgender students from accessing locker rooms and bathrooms of their gender identity and prohibiting trans participation in sports teams of their gender identity.

Recently, in November of 2021, a school in Indiana has been sued over the limitation of transgender bathroom access, with reports stating that the school has been illegally denying two transgender high school students the use of school restrooms and locker rooms associated with their gender identity. In the same year, the state of Tennessee has been sued over a law that bans transgender athletes from playing in public high school and middle school sports aligned with their gender identity. These nationwide cases signify a step backward in the acceptance of trans youth.

These disturbing accounts of student discrimination beg the question: does gender discrimination exist within West Morris Mendham? Officers Mirabelle Pierre-Louis and Nate Schoenbrodt of the Progressive Perspectives Club, a club aimed to educate and engage students in conversation surrounding social justice issues, discussed their opinions on gender identity and discrimination. Mirabelle and Nate both agreed that the staff and administration of the school were doing a satisfactory job. Nate elaborated, saying that, “it’s nice to see teachers doing their best whether it’s putting pronoun stickers on their laptops and identifying what their pronouns are, or just treating everyone equally”.

There is always progress to be made. ”

— Mirabelle Pierre-Louis

 

Through further discussion on the efforts of teachers and students combined, Mirabel noted “there is always progress to be made.” Both of these students are cisgender; they align with their gender assigned at birth. While their accounts on gender identity and discrimination within the school are of significant value due to their advocacy through Progressive Perspectives, their personal experiences differ from those of transgender and nonconforming students. 

Maddie Adinolfi, a non-binary individual using all pronouns, is the founder and co-president of the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA), a club aimed to create a safe, welcoming, and accepting school environment for all youth, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. During student introductions in the beginning of the year, Maddie stated that only two of her teachers asked her what her pronouns were. Maddie reports that while she herself has never faced any direct discrimination, she has “seen teachers that have asked students their pronouns, but then refused to use [those pronouns]”. Jaimie, a sophomore member of the GSA who is agender and uses they/them pronouns, offered a similar opinion about the teachers and administration in the school. “I think [the school administration tries] and trying is really important,” adding, “I wish they would ask what [they] could do better.” Both Jamie and Maddie identity as labels within the umbrella term non-binary, meaning that they do no fit in with the female and male gender. While the two groups had varying opinions on actions taken by the school administration to combat gender discrimination, both groups are aware that the situation is still far from perfect. 

When it comes to gender identity and discrimination, Mendham High School is certainly more progressive than many others. By all reports from the founders of the GSA and Progressive Perspectives club, Mendham High School is pushing to be more inclusive. Still, it is evident that increased advocacy and efforts of inclusiveness must be taken to ensure the entire student body feels safe, accepted, and represented within the school community.