Sheila Raghavendran

Leave a comment

Bloomington PRIDE Film Festival

My friend Vicki and I went to the Bloomington PRIDE Film Festival yesterday and watched three shorts and one feature-length film. The film festival is a yearly event that started in Bloomington in 2003 and explores LGBTQ+ issues and themes. Bloomington has a thriving LGBTQ community and we were excited to check out the films for the first time — and were not disappointed.

These films did an astounding job of sharing very personal, intimate stories without adhering to stereotypes or disrespecting the characters. We saw the short films “Nasser” directed by Melissa Martens, “100 Crushes: They” directed by Elisha Lim and “Veracity” directed by Seith Mann and the feature-length film “Real Boy” directed by Shaleece Haas. Vicki and I walked away from the theater realizing something profound: unlike many stories of LGBTQ characters in mainstream popular television and film, none of these queer characters died.

I think it’s unfortunate that queer characters are often portrayed stereotypically or negatively. The good parts of the story are missed, and therefore the depiction isn’t accurate. I am really glad that the directors of these films focused on the people, not the expectations, and think it made for exceptionally honest, real stories.

Leave a comment

Lucky: an ode to high school journalism

I recently talked to a friend of mine who attends Kings High School — which is the school 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn attended for some time before switching to the Ohio Virtual Academy.

Leelah, a transgender girl, committed suicide on December 28, 2014 because she felt like she could never truly be who she wanted to be because of the surrounding environment and people, including transgender conversion therapy.

You’d think that, after this tragic event, Kings School District would have implemented some policies for tolerance, for anti-LGBTQ bullying or creating safer spaces for LGBTQ youth. According to my friend who is a junior at KHS, there hasn’t been much of a change, though a quick search on WCPO let me know that counselors were made available by phone and the basketball teams held a moment of silence. KHS also held a candlelight vigil shortly after her death. I didn’t find any information regarding policies or programs advocating for LGBTQ safe spaces or against LGBTQ bullying.

I asked my friend if someone who we know at Kings who is gay is taking his boyfriend to prom. He replied that no, he didn’t think it wasn’t allowed. I don’t have information about whether or not gay couples are allowed at Kings’ proms, but my friend said most of the gay students at his school weren’t out. He said he could only think of five openly gay students, whereas at Mason High School the list never ends.

We both thought it was a little ridiculous that gay couples weren’t allowed at Kings’ prom, or at least that their appearances weren’t common, and that gay students felt uncomfortable or unsafe bringing a same-sex date.

I asked him if his school had a newspaper and he nearly laughed at the question. He pulled up an online news site on his phone, populated with quick tidbits of news, but it doesn’t have an opinion section or any kind of forum for student opinions. So students who feel strongly about Leelah’s call to “fix society. Please” or who may have known her personally can only sit idly by watching as their friends stay hidden in the closet, at prom or elsewhere.

It’s times like these when I notice how lucky I am to be attending MHS and to be working as editor of the newspaper. Our opinion section thrives, thanks especially to the incredible work of Jessica Sommerville, Madison Krell and our columnist staff. Our staff editorials consistently take an intelligent perspective on light and heavy topics alike — ranging from our generation’s desensitization of terrorism to bathroom graffiti. We have Tweets to the Editor which allow MHS students to use social media to voice their opinions on our hot-button questions like how far is too far when directing social-media angst toward the superintendent.

The Chronicle is also fortunate enough to have Emily Culberson, the Business Manager, and Ashton Nichols who is diligently learning how to take Emily’s place next year when she graduates. Through advertising with various businesses, Emily and Ashton supply all of the money to print the newspaper. We receive no additional funding from the school — because we don’t really need it. Emily and Ashton do such a great job that we are able to operate completely self-sufficiently.

Some other schools, like Steinmetz College Prep high school in Chicago, didn’t have enough money to support its printing. Luckily, Hugh Hefner, a graduate from Steinmetz, pitched in money to keep the newspaper running for five years.

But not every school has an Emily or an Ashton or a Hugh Hefner — many school newspapers have been forced to fold because their staff cannot support the funds.

According to The Chicago Tribune:

In 1991, nearly 100 percent of Chicago public high schools surveyed in a study byRoosevelt University‘s College of Communication had newspapers. By 2006, the number had dropped to 60 percent, according to Linda Jones, associate professor of journalism at Roosevelt.

This can be attributed to a bigger interest in social media, teachers’ focus on standardized testing and diminishing interest in the news media in general.

Further in the same article from The Chicago Tribune:

At Morgan Park High School, English teacher Keith Majeske used to have to hide stacks of newspapers in the school’s main office so students wouldn’t grab them before they were ready for distribution. Today, stacks go untouched for days — unless it’s an issue with prom pictures or Valentine’s Day personal ads.

This is particularly interesting to me — especially since we spend so much time working the kinks of our cover page. We try to make something appealing to a huge demographic, hoping that everyone will be eager to pick up our paper. But lack of interest is lack of interest, and we’re very fortunate that our student body (on the whole) thinks highly of The Chronicle.

Journalism has the potential to make change. At Kings High School, it could allow gay couples to safely attend prom together, or for the school to implement anti-bullying policies. And I hope it does. High school journalism in particular is crucial because it provides a forum for students to be heard.

We’re lucky.

Leave a comment

Power in the equal-sign

red equal-sing

My ‘=’ is powerful. Or so I think.

I will be completely honest and straight-forward. I am fully in support of LGBT marriage, LGBT rights, what have you. I have friends that identify themselves as LGBT, and I want them and every other LGBT human being to be able to love and marry with the same rights and without discrimination. I hope that the Supreme Court of the United States repeals the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8.

I uploaded a red equal-sign as my Facebook profile picture. I smiled at my friends who did the same, and frowned at the ones who instead uploaded a picture symbolizing heterosexual marriages as the only acceptable type of marriage.

And why? Why was that so upsetting?

With each click, we give the red equal-sign power. We form unspoken alliances with the people who post the same picture, and share a mutual (hidden) hatred of the ones opposite to us. For those of you like me, who support LGBT rights, we want to build the red equal-sign. We want to rally-up followers and hope the court hears us.

But what’s the point? The court is not going to hear us, and even if it did, it wouldn’t matter. What can a million Facebook pictures have over the United States’ Constitution?

For myself in particular, since I am under the age of 18, posting my political beliefs online makes me feel like I have a say. I cannot vote, but I can share what I think about our country’s policies. It’s understandable that the people of my generation are taking to Facebook to express their thoughts–it’s all we have. And while it doesn’t make a difference, it makes us feel strong. Whether we actually are strong or weak is a completely different question. But we feel so, and become evermore passionate about our beliefs.

Here’s my problem, though. I’m not a fan of argumentation. Especially argumentation behind the comforts of a computer’s screen. I have expressed my opinions on LGBT rights in various ways, just as many others have. I was disappointed in seeing a Facebook profile picture defining marriage as solely between a man and woman, but I didn’t comment in frustration. I didn’t call these people out or gang up on them in any way.

I’ve seen people fight over Facebook–it just gets messy and immature. There’s no use.

Furthermore, everyone has the right to their own opinion. I respect others’ beliefs that marriage is strictly between a man and woman. I can’t go about claiming that everyone has the right to marry while denying certain people the right to an opinion. It’s unfair, and that is exactly what I am protesting.

I just want a peaceful community. I want to be able to attend a homosexual wedding in Ohio, where it is currently banned, and I want my friends to grow up and marry their same-sex partners. I don’t want LGBT people to be looked at any differently in society’s currently-judgmental eyes. Frankly, I don’t want anyone to appear weird or inferior at all–whether they are LGBT, African-American, Hispanic, disabled.

I want the Supreme Court to make the decision that is best for this country, aligning itself with the Constitution, while keeping in mind the evolving needs of our society. I believe the right decision is to grant LGBT people equal rights, and though I cannot vote and will not fight, my Facebook profile picture will reflect my opinion.

So if you can’t vote either, don’t argue. Just update your profile picture.