The Foothill Dragon Press

BUFFORD: “Foothill is not exactly the queer haven people like to pretend that it is”

Abbey Bufford '19 is a Foothill students who submitted this column to our publication as a guest writer. Read more about our policies on accepting student content on our 'About' page.

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BUFFORD: “Foothill is not exactly the queer haven people like to pretend that it is”

Credit: Abbey Bufford / Used with permission

Credit: Abbey Bufford / Used with permission

Credit: Abbey Bufford / Used with permission

Credit: Abbey Bufford / Used with permission

Abbey Bufford, Guest Columnist

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When I was in Seattle over fall break, I was scared. I was scared because of the recent Trump Administration threat to define gender on biological sex and refuse trans people the right to legally change their gender.

I was scared because I am trans and some of my friends and loved ones are trans and any rights we have now are still SO NEW.

When I walk around Foothill campus with my yellow ‘they/them/theirs’ pin, I am scared. I am scared because when my teacher corrected my pronouns in a bio I wrote, her only explanation was that I should have warned her before writing it (complete with blatant misgendering). I am scared because I have already been called ‘dyke’ and ‘lesbo’ and I’m just waiting for the next iteration of transphobic slurs. I am scared because my dysphoria already skyrocketed after a male “friend” of mine made a comment about my breasts and I don’t trust him around my own body anymore. Uninvited comments about a person’s body are always bad, but they can be especially damaging for trans students and are disappointingly common at Foothill.

I wanted to address some of the comments under a recent column in the Dragon Press. A lot of people, students and non-students alike, seem to think that oppression on the basis of gender or sexuality at Foothill is a myth, or that the administration has made incredible strides in inclusion and access.

Comment reading “As mentioned, nobody denied LGBT students their humanity, or that they are not worthy of the support of our school. To preach that they are somehow oppressed in this school is simply an unbased allegation. The Foothill Administration has gone to great length to secure the rights of these students.” The next sentence is cut off.

Screenshotted from The Foothill Dragon Press website

However, I invite you to ask yourself: what have they actually done?

The sign reads “Ventura Unified Education Association believes Black Lives Matter, no human is illegal, science is real, love is love, people deserve second chances, women’s rights are human rights, kindness is everything.”

A sign posted in FTHS classroom window during the Creswell controversy. Credit: Rachel Chang / The Foothill Dragon Press

Aside from refusing to endorse Pride Week and passively putting up signs after the fact, that is.

LGBTQ+ students should know that they are supported because of your actions and words, not because of your posters. Foothill staff and administration should consider measures like openly supporting Pride Week and pride in general, condemning the actions of Creswell or teaching about LGBTQ+ history instead.

Additionally, I hope those of you who are straight and cisgender can at least imagine that perhaps your experiences with discrimination might not be the same.

Sometimes, I walk through the hall beyond the Media Center and stare at the gender-neutral bathroom, which is covered in a “staff only” sign that actually reads “it’s not even that we can’t afford to build new bathrooms, it’s just that we don’t care enough to offer you the ones we already have.”

Image is of the door of an all gender restroom with a pink “Staff Only” sign

All gender restroom not available to students. Credit: Rachel Chang / The Foothill Dragon Press

Foothill has two accessible, gender-neutral bathrooms, neither of which are open to students. Sometimes, I wonder what would happen if I took the sign off.

Of course, I understand that staff and teachers need bathrooms, and I even know that the administration sometimes offers trans students the keys to one or more of these bathrooms if they ask.

But this places the responsibility of advocating for their own access on the students instead of the administration. This forces high school students to intentionally out themselves just to gain access to a bathroom. Due to incredibly high rates of homelessness, bullying, domestic violence and suicide among trans and queer youth, there is an active danger involved in being out, which does not magically disappear when a student walks onto Foothill’s campus. That is why it is absurd to hold hostage the few options for access you have.

Comment reads “You do realize that the LGBT students got their week and nothing happened, no one was attacked as far as I know, and the majority of the school population at Foothill has no problem with the community that is LGBT. Next sentence is cut off.

Screenshotted from The Foothill Dragon Press website.

Comment reads “There is no oppression at this school so don’t make it seem like there is. We like in California one of the most liberal states,” the rest of the sentence is cut off.

Continuation of comment by Young_guy123. / Screenshotted from The Foothill Dragon Press website

It is certainly true that Pride Week occurred, and it was lovely. I helped run a booth on gender, biological sex and gender expression, and most of the (albeit few) people that approached seemed genuinely curious to learn. Unfortunately, in terms of the message that Bova and the administration sent to gay, bisexual, queer and trans students regarding their identity, the damage has already been done. Specifically, that celebrating ourselves, educating others and advocating for our rights is “too political;” that our existence is only respected by the school if we remain silent.

Foothill administration—Joe Bova specifically: When you decided not to sponsor a pride week at Foothill, I think only the truly naïve could have been surprised. After all, if you cared about your LGBTQ+ students, you would provide trans students with a clear pathway to changing their name in the school database instead of getting dead-named every time there is a substitute teacher (e.g.  some colleges allow students to change their name in the database even if it is not legally changed). Foothill Yearbook even offers an option for students to submit their preferred name; why does the school as a whole not do the same? You would provide us with AT LEAST ONE readily accessible gender-neutral restroom. You would encourage staff to ask students their pronouns instead of assuming. You would remove the Blue Lives Matter flag from the slideshow in front of the school, considering that trans people, specifically Black trans women, suffer some of the highest rates of police harassment and violence. You would hire teachers that are openly queer/trans/LGBTQ+.

Comment reads “Why ruin my reverence for the FDP with this article? It contains no evidence that the admin were trying to shame the LGBTQ community at all. In fact, by their actions it seems as though they must care a great deal for these students.”

Screenshotted from The Foothill Dragon Press website

Sure, a lot of teachers and staff hung pride flags and wore the official Pride Week shirts, but even teachers I considered allies have stumbled over using the correct pronouns and names for past students, acting as if I could not expect them to get it right and should be happy that they are at least trying. I have felt discouraged from talking about my own identity because of the way in which trans students are discussed like their existence is a burden on our poor teachers. Why is it that Foothill staff and teachers don’t know how to address or deal with a real live trans person? Why is there no attempt at education or exposure? If there has been, it clearly isn’t working.

Foothill is not exactly the queer haven people like to pretend that it is. And while we could certainly find examples of less safe and more exclusionary schools, not being the worst has never been Foothill’s goal. Maybe instead of heralding your treasured standardized testing scores, it’s time to worry more about whether or not your LGBTQ+ students feel safe and supported.

I’m not being stoned in the streets or locked in a mental asylum, and for that, I’m certainly grateful. But a hidden, insidious denial isn’t really that much better.

What do you think?

13 Responses to “BUFFORD: “Foothill is not exactly the queer haven people like to pretend that it is””

  1. S.L. on December 20th, 2018 9:43 am

    What’s happening at the FTP? Can I get a guest column to rant about something?

  2. Jocelyn Brossia on December 20th, 2018 8:16 pm


    The Foothill Dragon Press always welcomes Letters to the Editor and columns. For more information, check out our ‘About’ tab. Hope this helps!

    Best regards,
    Jocelyn Brossia
    Editor-in-Chief 2018-19

  3. Canela López (they/them/theirs) on December 20th, 2018 7:13 pm

    This was really brave to write, and as a non-binary Alumnus, I really feel this post. Thank you so much for writing and stay strong.

  4. No name on December 20th, 2018 8:14 pm

    Any student can use the all gender bathrooms in the B building, they only have to ask.
    You can change your name in our database whenever you want, you only have to ask.
    Please seek out answers to your questions before writing a column.
    Mr. Bova did not chose to not sponsor pride week. The School is not allowed to sponsor any activity that is not a graded/for credit class.
    I’m disappointed with the Foothill Dragon Press and their lack of investagive journaling, but simply a place to rant without facts.

  5. someone on December 20th, 2018 10:28 pm

    Okay so I’m nonbinary too right, and also goes to fths, but practically no one knows because I’m hella afraid to come out as trans; mainly because I’ll probably face ridicule and backlash. But I honestly look up to you and how you’re doing something I could only dream of. Like, I’ve been meaning to tell you this like twice but I’ve backed out both times, obviously. I have they/them pins too but I keep them hidden deep in my “backpack” because I just can’t bring myself to wear them. When I saw you out in public with the pin, I was freaking out because I thought I was the only nb person at our school, and I’m not and I love that!!! You’re honestly my role model, please never change

  6. Eli Taylor on December 20th, 2018 11:59 pm

    I am a Foothill graduate. I disagree with you. Foothill from what I remember was the best high school out of the others. All of the teachers were very understanding. Especially Bova.

    I went to Buena my freshman year and I feel like you would have had a much rougher time there.

    The fact that you would like to publically bash your high school over decisions made not by them but the school district is not the best way to present these issues.

    Also the world, as you may come to find, will not always bend to your needs.

  7. Dylan Walker on December 21st, 2018 12:33 am

    As a straight, cisgender, mulatto, moderate, atheist student from Buena, I have a slightly different perspective and I do not know the issues affecting the LGBTQ+ Foothill students, nor do I know the issues affecting the LGBTQ+ Buena students. However, I remain unconvinced that the Foothill administration is biasing against LGBTQ+ students to this magnitude. After a brief look at one of your sources(specifically in paragraph 12 citing “[high rates of] bullying, domestic violence and suicide”), the webpage states that “Most lesbian, gay, bisexual, (LGB) youth are happy and thrive during their adolescent years. Having a school that creates a safe and supportive learning environment for all students and having caring and accepting parents are especially important. Positive environments can help all youth achieve good grades and maintain good mental and physical health. However, some LGB youth are more likely than their heterosexual peers to experience negative health and life outcomes.”(1) and many of the statistics are in fact true with being overrepresented by LGBTQ+ students in comparison to the same ones from heterosexual national figures(2).

    The latter points in the article, however, suggest the message that you want the school administration to break district policy to accommodate LGBTQ+ students. The fact of the matter is that a staff nor an administration can express views supporting one group as an official, school-sponsored, event. Several Supreme Court cases support the fact that teachers and other staff aren’t allowed to express their views inside of school(3). If the school isn’t allowed to sponsor a white pride week, why should they be allowed to sponsor a LGBTQ+ pride week? If you truly believed in total equality, then you would not base your claims on unequal representation.


  8. Avidh on December 21st, 2018 2:03 am

    Hey Abbey,
    I would like to preface this with commending you for mustering the strength to share such a personal story in hopes of advancing the rights of LGBT students at Foothill. As you have included my comment in the article, I wish to set forth a clear motive behind that comment and others I have posted in order to concrete my stance and avoid any misinterpretation.

    I do believe that members of LGBT community are not held as equals in the hostile environments of school campuses, as you have qualified in your article. I also believe, however, that the Foothill Administration has little power over the social inhibition associated with the LGBT movement. Whilst relatively minor problems such as the bathroom issue ought to be resolved (I am still in the belief that the administration was not aware of the implications of having a keyed entry to the bathroom might have), the issue of social inhibition lies largely in the hands of the students. Of course, there is the argument that education programs such as Pride Week might help overcome this, however, one must recognize that the high-school student is generally a savage and immature entity that perceives actions from authority, such as a school, in a different light than intended. In my admittedly narrow but perhaps representative personal experience, I find that when the school attempts to shoehorn a concept such as this onto me, I am less likely to accept it due to my immature drive to rebel against authority, and instead more likely to mock the effort. Therefore I do not believe education is a major solution to the issue at hand. I propose instead that this solution lies in assimilation of LGBT students into the other students, which is dependent on the cooperation between straights and LGBT students. The point of this would be to demonstrate how little difference exists between straight people and non-straight people. That they are equal! Perhaps then Foothill students will learn to accept LGBT members as more “normal” members of society. The problem (and solution) lies with the students, not the administration, so if everyone could just stop attacking it, that would be awesome.

    Sorry for the lengthy comment, I just had to provide some concrete statements to support my earlier comments. Thanks.

  9. Young_guy123 on December 21st, 2018 6:00 pm

    Hey its me again actually surprised my comment would even be taken into consideration but hey here we are. So there are a few points I would like to make. First off I would like to I’m sorry for anything that happened to you in any negative manner that has happened and you makes you scared in any way for just being the way you are , that is something won’t be able to understand the same way as you. But i do have a few points I would like to address. Do not assume because the school didn’t openly express their support for Pride Week that there is some agenda. The school has accepted trans people , gay people , bisexual people in many ways for instance the week evening happening in the first place they could’ve easily said no and pleased the school district but they didn’t and they allowed you to put flags and didn’t say anything about teachers wearing shirts and showing their support. Now the point that I have a major problem with is this whole idea of “cisgender”. Which in my opinion is the biggest load of BS , I’ve heard in awhile. There is absolutely no point to call someone a completely new “gender” simply for the fact they live with their biological sex. Another point you claim the school should take down the Blue Lives Matter sign from the front of the school because of police brutality against trans black women. Which don’t get me wrong it is a very terrible thing to think about but I ask you this> you take that sign down what about the kid who’s mom or dad is a cop or the kid who knows a cop who was injured or killed in the line of duty. Are you going to take away those peoples views and not allow those shown for someone else’s to be expressed. . The fact you don’t seem to realize if that teachers are going to make mistakes I’m going to come off as a jerk but teachers have dozens of lessons , tests , and quizzes jumping up and own inside of their heads, just because they accidentally misgender you a few times doesn’t mean they don’t care for you and accept who you are as a person. My final point is this yes maybe Foothill can improve upon somethings to support their students but as we all know the world is a dark and violent place and it will sure as hell not bend to your needs and we all have to live with that knowledge. I hope everyone has a great Winter Break.

  10. Young_guy123 on December 21st, 2018 6:11 pm

    Also that Blue Lives Matter flag was most likely for the police officer who was shot and killed at the Thousands Oaks shooting

  11. Koda Delgado on December 21st, 2018 7:13 pm

    I feel that if i was told about resources in class about what was available (even if it was during fire) I probably would have came out a long time ago. Keep fighting and advocating and if you need advocates go to the community resource center located at 2471 portola rd

  12. Conni Carr on January 4th, 2019 4:26 pm

    NOTE: None of the restrooms in the B building are “keyed-entry”…the doors are only locked from within if someone is inside.

  13. Kat on March 4th, 2019 2:48 pm

    As a Transgender student that has yet to come out, I wish that I could come out without facing backlash, but I am worried that I could lose friends or be made fun of. Help please. A LGBTQ club would be amazing on campus.


Comments on articles are screened and those determined by editors to be crude, overly mean-spirited or that serve primarily as personal attacks will not be approved. The Editorial Review Board, made up of 11 student editors and a faculty adviser, make decisions on content.

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