By Sofia Pham
High school junior Katie Vierling, at just 17 years old, is a local leader – she’s found herself as president of the growing community of LGBT teens at Seven Lakes High School.
The SLHS Pride Club, according to Vierling, garners around 15 members per weekly meeting. Although they’re a small organization, their impact is huge for the people they’ve touched.
“It’s made me feel more open about myself because I can now talk about it with other people who are like me,” Vierling said. “It’s really hard to find people when you don’t have a club like this.”
But the club has had clashes with the school’s administration in the past few years. In March, anonymous students began a petition on Change.org asking the district to “endorse the equality of ALL students, regardless of sexuality.”
The petition details a disagreement between the administration and Pride Club on whether students needed to bring permission slips signed by parents to indicate that their parents were aware of their child’s sexuality and appearance in the school’s yearbook.
The Pride Club, however, has moved forward after the clash last year. Vierling’s plans for the future include increasing engagement and adding more structure to club activities.
“I’m trying to make it more structured and help people learn a bit more about the LGBT community,” Vierling said. “Some people will do their homework, some people do art. They’ll just have a nice time or participate in the activity if we have one. We’ve had a trivia day, we’ve played Kahoot, we’ve watched movies, all sorts of stuff like that. [It was founded] to give a safe space for people that are different, because there are not many clubs that will do something like that.”
Vierling, who describes herself as attracted to girls and aro/ace, said she’s learning more about herself this year. Although she’s still seeing many people in her community use “gay” as an insult and struggled through intolerance online, she’s found through the club people she can relate to.
“I’m not out to my parents, but I like to help [my friends] through their relationship troubles and help them figure out who they are,” Vierling said. “Try to find a good group of friends who accept you for who you are, and if you can’t find that in person, go online. There’s plenty of really nice people that like the same interests as you and who are the same and will be able to help.”