A number of years ago, some students attending the private school at which I work started a group know as the Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA from here on out). The GSA can be found in a number of high schools throughout the country. The idea of the group is to promote tolerance and understanding between the gay and straight communities. This was a gutsy move to say the least, since homophobia was pretty much rampant in our school at the time.
There were several obstacles that had to be overcome to get this group started, not the least of which was the prejudice of some of my colleagues. There was one gentleman in particular who would spend his afternoons walking around the halls tearing down any signs he could find announcing the next meeting of the GSA. Much to the credit of the administration, he was quietly told to "knock it off."
There were other problems too. Many of the students who attended these meetings suddenly found their friends were not available to each lunch with them, or to go into town for coffee after school.
Gradually, the "novelty" of the group wore off, and the GSA has become a regular fixture at the school. Which finally brings me to the point of this post.
A student I'll call "Bill" belongs to a family that for all intents and purposes believes in a strict interpretation of the Christian bible. Bill, on the other hand does not agree with his parents beliefs but doesn't want to "rock the boat" at this point in his life. Bill has been a regular member of the GSA for the last 3 years. You could always tell the day of the GSA meeting, as Bill would usually volunteer to bring refreshments of some sort, consisting of donuts or bagels, or something similar.
Suddenly, Bill stopped attending the GSA meetings. There was no warning of any kind...he just stopped coming, and refused to talk about it at first. Gradually, it came out that Bill's parents had found out about his affiliation with the group, and had put a stop to it. What kind of pressure was put on Bill was never clear, but what was clear was that his parents went ballistic when they found out he was "hanging around" with those types of people. To make a long story a bit shorter, Bill's friends did not abandon him as they understood that this decision was brought on by his parent's bigotry, not Bill's. Sadly, there are probably a lot of students like Bill out there, but it is encouraging that this younger generation seems determined to change things. Maybe a few of us old folks can even give them a hand once in a while? I wish them all the best of luck!