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Hailey Helpenstell plays the flute for the Plum Senior High School band. Here, she is pictured sitting in the stands with fellow bandmates during an Oct. 27 football game against Fox Chapel Area High School. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

Bullying is still alive and well in high school, and it is especially brutal for LGBTQ students. Take Park, one of my Plum Senior High School classmates whose name I’ve changed here for privacy reasons. He identifies as a bisexual, transgender male. For Park, things that cause anxiety for ordinary high schoolers are aggravated by students who target him for his gender identity.

Park has almost become accustomed to students lobbing slurs at him because it happens so often. He said he can’t use either bathroom without getting weird stares. When he has to participate in swim class, looks — ranging from curiosity to disgust — are common. The scrutiny is exhausting and upsets him. One day, he said, “I nearly fell down the steps when I was shoved by someone calling me names, but I tried shrugging it off and going to my bus.” On the bus, he said students flung broken pencils around him. Park has experienced many upsetting moments on his bus route. Twice, other students have thrown gum at him and it’s landed on his clothing.

I asked Park if he had ever gone to the guidance counselors about these incidents. He replied, “No, I haven’t gone to the guidance counselors. I feel like they won’t do anything.”

Editor’s note: At PublicSource, we believe in giving a platform to voices not often heard or consulted. That’s why we asked teenagers in the Pittsburgh region to tell us what matters to them and write about it. We will feature their stories as an occasional series.



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