Discrimination against LGBTQ+ kids in P.E. class causes them to dread the period

LGBTQ+ youth share their challenges and experiences regarding discrimination within P.E.


Photo by Daniel Ashlock

LGBTQ+ students have received discrimination during PE due to lack of supervision.

As children, the classroom is one of the biggest influences everyone has on their definition of kindness. Teachers explain not only the basics of English and how to share information with each other, but also that despite the barriers of language, respect and generosity is the international form of communication. But, when entering high school, these philosophies can be forgotten in some places like P.E. class, with people choosing to mock their peers for who they are inside.
“It can feel like I’m walking on eggshells, trying to avoid problems, especially when I’m in the locker rooms. Every time I walk in, everyone seems to be staring at me, almost like I’m unsafe. The first day of school, I was waiting for the all-gender bathroom so I could change, when two people walked by and called me a slur, which kind of caught me off guard,” freshman Alex Elam, who came out as transgender in 2020, said.
In other classes, such as English or Algebra, people do not tend to make comments like this as often. However, in P.E., it is almost as if everyone believes they are not being watched as closely and can make others uncomfortable with their identity, or uncomfortable in general. The problem that is on the harder side of most aspects of this dilemma, though, is that coaches and teachers are not as aware of what is going on in P.E.
“P.E. sort of lends itself because of the fact that we have so many kids and so much space. It can be hidden pretty well. There are probably so many different forms of bullying, and as an authority figure you always have to [determine the] fine line between bullying and teasing, [but] there’s so much time and space away from an instructor that it is definitely something that can happen,” Coach Hofmeister, general P.E teacher, said.
When one lives in a society full of many differing beliefs, such as ours, it can be difficult to protect oneself from those beliefs that are harmful. Not only is it hard for the students, but it is hard for the adults as well. Another problem to be dealt with is the seriousness of the situation. Usually, there are ways to deal with the emotional problems of the kids who have suffered through the bullying. But sometimes, the perpetrators of the degrading behavior are not taken care of, whether they need to be punished, or if their life needs to be investigated. What if they take out their emotions from their home life on whatever vulnerable people they can find?
“I was the poor kid—the poor gay kid—in school, so a lot of like, ‘don’t look at them because they’re part of this group, or I’m this.’ It needs to be taken seriously instead because it could go too far into an altercation… So, listening to them and doing the most that they can do immediately [is important] even if it means getting someone in trouble; even if they’re important to the school,” junior Alix Harris said.
Bullying and discrimination against not only LGBTQ+ youth, but all students, does not stop until a solution is found. This solution could be security and/or P.E. coaches paying more attention to their students, bystanders reporting incidents they see, or even mandatory mental health check-ups on students. Mission Hills, like many other schools, is a web; if one person is affected, others can go down with them. So for now, we just need to ask: what can we do to show we care?