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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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A Student’s Search for Acceptance

When Brittany Kalosza arrived at Frontier High School, no one dared to say the word ‘gay.’

Gay students in Hamburg, NY., a diminutive, predominantly white, town near Buffalo, NY., used to opt to keep quiet about their homosexuality, evading the risk of being physically or verbally abused by their peers, strangers or loved ones.

This was the mentality of the community before Kalosza, 19, from Blasdell, NY., had entered the school as a freshman, eager to conquer her peers’ intolerance.

Kalosza, who now attends Stony Brook University, realized her affinity towards women after a brief period of bisexuality at Frontier Middle School. She struggled revealing her true identity to the public, knowing that she would not be accepted.

According to the 2007 National School Climate Survey, 79 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender students, or LGBT students, in New York had been verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation. Also, from kindergarten through 12th grade, 41 percent of LGBT students had been physically harassed because of sexual orientation and 28 percent because of how they expressed their gender.

Many gay students have, and continue to, endure verbal and physical abuse. Some gay students in New York hide their homosexuality because of the risk of physical harm. Other openly homosexual students try to fight for equal rights for the gay community, in hopes of putting an end to the violence.

The Gay Straight Alliance, GSA, was founded at Frontier High School during Kalosza’s freshman year. Even though she yearned to walk into the office to join, the fact that straight students would peek into the office, then harass the club’s members in the parking lot, coerced her not to.

The transition from middle to high school made Kalosza decide that she was no longer uncertain about being gay. She confessed to her friends, ”I’m not bisexual. I’m a lesbian. Sorry, guys,’ Kalosza said sarcastically.

Kalosza did not expect such a large, negative reaction from her peers.

After getting kicked out of her lunch table for being gay and eating lunch for weeks in the classroom of one of her teachers, she eagerly went to the GSA and assumed the role of vice president.

The GSA held a major event sparked by Kaloza’s desire to stop the violence in the high school. They celebrated Ally week from Oct. 19 to 23, an event dedicated to recruiting straight allies to pledge not to discriminate against the gay community. The event stirred up hundreds of people who signed papers pledging their allegiance to the GSA’s cause.

Although things were improving in her school, Kalosza was fighting a battle at home.

On Mother’s Day, Kalosza and her mother have a tradition to plant flowers in the whole yard. The day before Mother’s Day during Kalosza’s junior year, she had asked to sleep over her girlfriend’s house, who her mother knew as just a friend, promising to be back at noon the next day to plant. Unbeknownst to Kalosza, she came home with a hickey. After her mother noticed it, Kalosza confessed that it was from her girlfriend.

The incident caused Kalosza’s mother not to speak to her for weeks.

Kalosza’s then stepfather tried to talk to her firmly one afternoon, by saying ‘Don’t piss your mother off,’ as if those five words were enough to stop her from being gay.

‘I decided enough was enough and I told my mom, ‘Hey, I know you’re ignoring this and trying to make it go away by not saying anything, but I’m gay,” Kalosza confessed. ”You know. I just need you to say, ‘I know you’re gay.’ Whether you accept it or don’t accept it, I need you to tell me, so we can stop pretending.”

Kalosza’s mother grounded her for more than a year, which caused Kalosza to lie about receiving detention regularly, in order for her to attend GSA meetings after school.

Kalosza not only influenced the community as a whole, but also changed the lives of individual students. Fi Figiel, 17, of Hamburg, NY., came out as transgendered, for the first time, to Kalosza and feels that if it were not for Kalosza, she may have never came out at all.

‘She has literally saved my life on numerous occasions,’ Figiel said. ‘She helped me understand that anyone who has a problem with me being transgendered isn’t worth talking to in the first place.’

Kalosza helped Figiel out in the past by bringing her to Compass House in Buffalo, NY., a safe shelter for runaway youth, after her stepfather had abused her.

Figiel, who is a senior at Frontier High School, said that the GSA has grown to over 30 members, a number that would have been unheard of four years ago. She said that community acceptance has gotten better and that the club’s members no longer feel wrong for being who they are, all in part to Kalosza’s efforts.

In 2008, Kalosza was apprehensive about her move to Suffolk County to attend Stony Brook University after graduating high school. Hearsay from her friends about Long Island’s reputation of being conservative made Kalosza second-guess her prior rationale.

‘I came to Stony Brook in the closet again,’ Kalosza said. ‘I had to feel it out. Before you come out, you always have to feel out your surroundings. You learn who you can come out to and who you can’t. There are certain people on campus, even now, that I don’t talk [to] about my girlfriend, and they don’t know anything about me. When I got here, I hid all of my rainbow stuff.’

Kalosza joined the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Alliance, LGBTA, her freshman year, and is currently vice president.

‘What I really want to bring to the table is more activist work. Instead of just having programs to draw in the gay community, I want to do more programs that will bring in allies to make our group a lot more inclusive. In groups like GSA and LGBTA, people tend to think that it’s only for gay people, which isn’t true.’

Kalosza’s efforts are not without opposition.

Chris Tanaka, the special projects coordinator at the Center for Prevention and Outreach at Stony Brook University, feels that discrimination towards the gay community is largely because of the government.

‘The moment that the government gives anyone a reason to say this person is not as good as me, it gives them the permission treat them like they’re less,’ Tanaka said. ‘Everybody knows that same sex couples do not have the same rights. That’s basically telling people that these people don’t deserve to be treated like everybody else. It’s almost like the government is giving permission to be discriminatory.’

Student Krupa Gohil, 20, a resident of Queens, and citizen of South Africa who practices Hinduism, said she is personally accepting of gays, but has never met anyone gay who practices her religion.

‘Gay people are not mentioned in any of my texts. Even in our religious songs, nothing of that sort is addressed,’ Gohil said. ‘People think that they are crazy. In the Indian community, no one is gay; at least that’s what my culture says.’

Despite opposition to Kalosza’s cause, she continues to be determined.

Five years after coming out, she has managed to have her mother come to terms with her sexuality.

‘I think she’s fine with it now,’ Kalosza said. ‘I call her when me and my girlfriend get into fights. She is allowed over to the house now.”

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