By Clara ’25
Harvard-Westlake has provided a welcoming space for me to proudly be myself. Over the last two years, I’ve been able to connect with other students, teachers and alumni who are members of the LGBTQ+ community in a variety of ways.
I love being a part of the Gender and Sexuality Awareness (GSA for short) club. I first got involved with GSA as a new ninth grader at the middle school. I helped organize and run booths for LGBTQ+ history month, the school’s culture fair and other events. We had a speaker from AIDS Walk Los Angeles come and talk to us about the significance of the event here in LA and how we can all get involved. We discussed current events as well as LGBTQ+ history such as the Stonewall riots, the history of the AIDS walk and ballroom culture in the 90s, even having an optional voguing workshop.
Now I am part of GSA at upper school. GSA provides a safe space for LGBTQ+ students, faculty, and allies to come and learn about queer culture, educate ourselves and others and make the Harvard-Westlake community as inclusive as possible. GSA connected me to close friends and wonderful teachers who showed me that being gay doesn’t limit what I can do or who I can reach. These faculty members and peers have made a huge and positive impact on my experience at Harvard-Westlake, and it’s a privilege to learn from them. GSA at both the middle and upper school provides a forum to celebrate what it means to be queer and to find community.
My mom and I are also part of the Harvard-Westlake Pride affinity group. Harvard-Westlake has a diverse selection of affinity groups. Some of these are for students, some for parents, and others alumni that share something in common. I recently attended a Pride meeting for the first time that brought together parents, students, alumni and staff. These meetings often take place at a student’s house, whose family belongs to the affinity group. I was especially excited to meet some amazing queer alumni, and we were able to talk about how much progress Harvard-Westlake has made. I met other students for the first time that I’m friends with now. This meeting was the first time that I’ve ever experienced a huge group of queer people of all ages, as well as allies, coming together around our shared experience of being part of the LGBTQ+ community and Harvard-Westlake. I really felt a sense of belonging.
Another thing I appreciate about Harvard-Westlake is that some classrooms have a small rainbow square or heart, either at the entrance or displayed inside that reads “HW Safe Space.” The faculty member that teaches in that classroom has been trained to help and talk specifically to LGBTQ+ students if they have any questions or concerns. Seeing these stickers or plaques in some of my own classrooms and other rooms around campus is incredibly comforting, knowing that my teachers care so much and won’t judge me; they have chosen to specifically learn how to support queer students like me.
It may sound cheesy, but it really does warm my heart to see all of the effort that Harvard-Westlake has made to be so welcoming. I am more than comfortable to be queer at Harvard-Westlake. I know that I’m respected, appreciated and celebrated for it.