A Look into Queer Relationships in High School

Ella Sharrers, Staff Writer

The cheerleader and the quarterback. The jock and the nerd. The bad boy and the good girl or the two most law-breaking teenagers ever seen. Homecoming posters, corsages, boutonnieres, flowers, and slow dancing. It is common to grow up believing in and being excited about the big deal that is high school relationships. However, if you are not straight and cisgender, what sort of high school right of passage do you get to experience? Do you get one at all? When you are not straight, who buys the flowers? Queerness is a complex, personal experience full of emotions and confusion; dating in high school can be hard for everyone, but when you are queer, it becomes much harder. 

I recently experienced my first real, long term relationship come to an end. I was broken up with in a park completely out of the blue (but at least it was not over text). Throughout the relationship, I dealt with a lot of different experiences surrounding the fact that I had a girlfriend. From ignorant, invasive questions to outwardly homophobic remarks, I realized that me being a lesbian in high school is still incredibly shocking to people, even in 2022. Yes, straight relationships can be hard. There is no denying that every relationship will suffer through emotional waves and communication issues. However, straight folks have many more resources to learn from when it comes to being safe and comfortable in a relationship; queer students, like me, do not. This can be seen clearly in the classroom, especially in health and sex education. According to junior Logan Burbank-Kemp, “IHS could incorporate a unit in health about LGBTQ sex education… they should also touch a little more on the history, like the AIDS epidemic.” Burbank-Kemp points out a dangerously dismissed fact; queer students are not taught how to have safe sex. Sure, we know about condoms and birth control, but for the couples that cannot use that type of protection or do not need to use that specifically, how can they prevent STDs? Sophomore River Johnson also speaks on this conflict, saying, “[The health curriculum] educates you on protection for two males, but for two females, there is nothing there.” There can be many conflicting opinions about whether or not sex education is written fairly or not, but no matter how you look at it, you cannot deny that one of the biggest issues can be boiled down to one core thing: a lack of queer education. 

Outside of the classroom, there are many other struggles a queer teen can go through on the daily. Despite society’s progressive streak, weird looks, microaggressions, misgendering, and blatant discrimination are still raging issues. Freshman Ciera Perrin believes that regardless of education, this is still a problem, suggesting that the school could “do better to reach out” to students. Queer relationships are often gawked at and whispered about throughout the hallways, regardless of if the couple is totally minding their business or making a scene. Senior Katie Eddins brings up a pivotal and unfortunately common perspective among many students: “because being queer is seen as ‘other’ and many queer people fall out of social norms, they are seen as weird.” According to the Horace Mann School’s weekly newspaper, “Being aware of outside factors while in a relationship can be tough for many LGBTQ teens…. Aside from discussing relationships with friends, public displays of affection (PDA) can be stressful for queer couples, since almost all couples in high school are straight, so LGBTQ couples can be seen as abnormal.” Since heterosexuality is always going to be the considerable “common default,” finding other queer people to surround oneself with or date is like finding a needle in a haystack. But when queer people do find partners, it is common to be told that we or our partners “do not look gay.” When asked if other stereotypes are still relevant in IHS’ community, Johnson confirms, “Yeah, for sure…. There are still questions about ‘who is the guy and who is the girl’ and how some queer people do not look gay.” Going public as a queer couple is often intimidating. Perrin voices their perspective, saying, “Some people are very accepting and same people will see [a queer couple] and then lash out.” Perrin adds, “there are more aspects than just sexuality that come with being queer. Sometimes you can come out to people you think are cool, but it turns out they do not support you.” This can be some of the most heartbreaking reactions a queer student could receive. Losing a friend over something that you cannot control, over something that is as harmless as liking the person you do, incites a sort of pain that words cannot describe. 

No matter how much society improves, queer people are never going to see true and total acceptance. We will never not have to come out. We will never not receive dirty looks and whispers and we will never not have to have the conversation with our partners of whether or not we feel safe enough to be public about our relationship. Burbank-Kemp wants to tell the student body that “being queer is not a disease. You cannot catch it. It is not a mental health issue. I cannot change it.” Even in such a modern and somewhat progressive age, unfortunately, queer couples often still receive uncomfortable looks in public regardless of minding their business. Johnson affirms that, stating, “Being queer is challenging. It is beautiful but it is difficult.” From having to investigate the safety for queer folks in places you want to travel to having to hide who you are in front of certain unaccepting family members, there is no doubt that queerness is equally as taxing as it is pleasant. Perrin adds, “It is just love…. Do not interfere. It is normal.” Lastly, Eddins says, “There is a lot of work to be done [to educate IHS about queerness], but we have definitely come far.” 

The homecoming royalty. The perfect Cinderella and Prince Charming. The physical embodiment of “10 Things I Hate About You.” Dating in high school is complex for every student, but the different experiences that straight students and queer students face are drastic and everlasting. Queer students are here and we are not going anywhere. So who is to say we cannot also live the lives of Kat and Patrick?