Welcome back to “The Spectrum of Aloha High School”! If you haven’t heard, “The Spectrum” is a project of The Closet that seeks to empower LGBTQ+ students by featuring photos and interviews of LGBT+ and ally students, teachers, and community members. This week, we interviewed our very own Mercedes Barraza, the 2016-2017 head of Aloha High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance and staff writer for The Closet.
What do you identify as?
Gay. I use the word gay to refer to the community as a whole. Just about anything that isn’t straight really, just because we’re all part of the same community; it’s short, sweet, and to the point.
Are you out?
As confusing as is, with how open I am with my friends and being the leader of GSA, I’m actually not — for two specific reasons.
- I haven’t really figured out what I am, and if I’m going to bring my sexuality into the spotlight, I’d at least like to be able to tell them exactly how I feel. I’m really not one-hundred percent sure about how that is right now.
- I don’t feel like I should have to — straight people don’t come out, so why should gay people have to? Why do we have to announce who we find attractive?
[W]hy is it so important who other kids like? Does it hurt them that much to know that a girl likes a girl or a guy likes a guy?
How did your perspective change when you realized you weren’t straight?
It hasn’t changed very much — except for the fact that I make a lot of straight jokes now. I’ve always been one for gay rights. So when I turned out to be one of the gays, it wasn’t much of a difference because it has always been one of my priorities. My friends are gay, some honorary family members are gay, so I’ve been pretty well exposed to the LGBTQ+ community.
But ultimately, mind your own business! Everyone has varying opinions, and you’re always going to find people who do things you don’t like. Don‘t waste your breath spreading hate.
In your opinion, is AHS accepting of LGBTQ+ community? What are some possible improvements that could be made?
Personally no, upperclassmen are accepting because they just don’t care, or at least the ones I know.
Our underclassmen are very aware of the LGBTQ+ community and don’t seem to like us. I’ve gotten and heard a lot of homophobic remarks from underclassmen but it’s kind of ridiculous — why is it so important who other kids like? Does it hurt them that much to know that a girl likes a girl or a guy likes a guy?
If you could say one thing to bullies, what would it be?
I guess if I could say something to bullies… it wouldn’t be something you really could put in The Voice of the Warriors, so I’ll try and censor myself. [She laughs]. But ultimately, mind your own business! Everyone has varying opinions, and you’re always going to find people who do things you don’t like. Don‘t waste your breath spreading hate.
If you could offer advice to any young LGBTQ+ kids, what would it be?
There are always gonna be people that don’t agree with you or just outright don’t like you, and that’s okay.
You weren’t made to be a people pleaser, you weren’t made for the enjoyment of others. It’s okay to not have a label. Yes, it makes other people more comfortable giving you a label and knowing exactly what you are, but if you don’t know that’s fine. A label doesn’t make you who you are.
Note: Answers have been edited for length and/or clarity.
Note: The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the Voice of the Warriors, Aloha High School, or the Beaverton School District.