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PRHS Equity Club Hosts First Ever ‘Stories of Pride’ Event


PRHS students celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride and lifestyle in new event CALLED Stories of PRide

Over a year following 2021’s Coming out Against Hate event, the Equity Club hosted Stories of Pride at the PRHS Performing Arts Center on January 20, 2023.

A survey from the Trevor Project shows over half of LGBTQIA+ youth have considered suicide, rates that slightly decrease when looking at SLO County in particular. Stories of Pride was a way to acknowledge these struggles, celebrate identity, and scorn hate. 

The Equity Club defined the event as “an opportunity for members of the LGBTQ+ community to share their stories”, a tradition the students and teachers behind the event hope to see “continue for years to come.” 

It comes after a mass of “community support” for the Coming out Against Hate Forum, an event that was organized after many PRHS students and teachers were concerned by what they considered to be a lukewarm district response to an LGBTQIA+ hate crime and subsequent policies regarding the pride flag at school. 

MCing the event was senior Israel Perez-Pedraza (he/him), who began and introduced the audience to the program.

Following him was 2022-2023 Equity Club president and junior Sprout Aragon (she/her), who recapped last school year’s purpose and contrasted it with the motives behind this year’s event.

“We are not here because of tragedy,” Aragon said. “We are here because of legacy.”

Perez MCing the event, a pride flag draped on the podium where he speaks
Screenshot 2023-01-21 at 11.45.16 PM
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Speakers for Pride

The event spotlighted 12 speakers who shared their stories, including students, teachers, and community members. The highlights included: 

Corley reads their speech of their phone- “Support Indigenous Resistance” is on their shirt in big white letters.

I mourn the loss of not getting to know myself as an out and supported queer trans teenager. But my journey isn’t over and neither is our collective struggle… I came here tonight to say ‘thank you’ to all of you queer and trans relatives from the depths of my big gay heart… I know I would be damned to continue to stay silent when all of you have spoken up so fiercely in the face of such ugliness and adversity.

Leo OG Corley

The first speaker was Bearcat alumni Leo OG Corley (they/xe), who provided a land acknowledgment and information about indigenous non-gender conforming people- most commonly known as ‘two-spirits’.  Corley also spoke about his experience with his own and others’ queerness at PRHS and breaking free from fear. 

I realized I was stopping myself from doing what I wanted to do. So I started getting help. I spent last summer recovering my credits to make this year better. I’ve also been going to group and they’ve helped me find ways to deal with my dysmorphia… I’m very proud of myself for how far I’ve come.

Jae Cota

The second speaker Jae Cota (he/they), a sophomore, described his journey with being transgender, the dysmorphia that affected his life and education. Ultimately, he worked through his struggles through determination and with support from those close to him. 

With the trans flag draped over their shoulders, Cota tells the audience his story.
Collins, despite not sharing her own story, steps up to the event and helps others share their experiences.

I’m not going to say it will be ok, because it’s not, but it will get better… They did what they did and in the end, they were right about one thing: You are a monster. But that doesn’t mean you’re bad, that just means you’re going to have to protect yourself no matter what happens. Even though you can’t tell people who you really love, who you really are, at least you’ll have people supporting you.

Euphoric alsaela

The third speaker, Sky Collins, sophomore, read the anonymous story of ‘Euphoric Alsaela’ (she/her). Euphoric Alsaela describes her coming of age story as a self-described “bisexual-leaning lesbian”, past losses, and more recent triumphs, all formatted as a letter to her younger self. 

I wish that every student, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, disability, race, ethnicity, and any other difference be treated as a human being with respect and dignity and given opportunities to be successful in life, however that looks to them.

Douglas Heumann

The fourth speaker was Douglas Heumann (he/him), queer community member, attorney and contributor to the PRJUSD LGBTQIA+ task force. He spoke about Paso’s journey in LGBTQIA+ inclusion for the past year, his work in the community, his adolescence as a queer person, and the urgency of addressing these issues.  

Heumann spoke well of the strides made by Superintendent Curt Dubost in dealing with LGBTQIA+ issues.
Talbert is dubbed “my queen” by Aragon in her introduction.

When you are 26, you will meet the love of your life. You will not pick her because of her gender. You will pick her because you have fallen in love with the amazing person she is… You will know who you are and have the chance to be that queer adult living a beautifully colorful life you wish you could have seen back when you were 12. The good times are just over the rainbow. Just you wait.
Sincerely, 28-year-old you.

Haley Talbert

The eighth speaker was Haley Talbert (she/her), PRHS English teacher and advisor of Equity Club. In her speech, she pens a letter to her past self, from ages 12 to 28. She speaks of her attraction to both men and women from a young age, and how she, after some strong denial from both herself and those around her, came to terms with herself and fell in love with her current partner- and being pansexual. 

What can we do ourselves individually and collectively to work toward a more inclusive world for our beautiful LGBTQIA+ individuals? Well, in my view, we can recognize the importance of this moment and moments like this, of listening to stories of pride… We can educate ourselves humbly… We can pace ourselves, (for) working for equality and inclusion is a marathon effort. (And) we really must be willing to see the humanity in those who belittle and oppose our efforts.

Geoffrey Land

The tenth speaker was Geoffrey Land (he/him), PRHS social studies teacher and ACT Club advisor. He commended the other speakers and acknowledged his imperfect, but always earnest ally-ship, attributing his growth to his students and queer daughter. He acknowledged queer struggle at PRHS during his career, noted the growth, and outlined ways to improve the educational experience of LGBTQIA+ students at PRHS.

Land was described by Perez as someone who “changed (his) life entirely.” He received the title of SLO County’s Teacher of the Year for the 2021-2022 school year.
Coyler-Worth wore his grandmother’s pearls to the event in honor of her and her unrelenting love for him.

I remember sitting in a chair in my grandma’s living and just breaking down: ‘Why can’t I be normal? I just want to be normal.’ Ingrained in every fiber of my being was my grandma’s response: “Why the f- would you want to be normal when you can be marvelous?”
I say this to all the kids- to everyone here. In case no one has told you, in case you’ve never felt like you don’t have permission to be your authentic self: I see you. You are beautiful. You are worthy. You are marvelous.

Dusty Coyler-Worth

The eleventh speaker was Dusty Coyler-Worth (he/him), Gala Pride and Diversity Center Executive Director and Bearcat alumni, who described his journey growing up gay, the harm that derogatory words for gay people had on him, and finally his struggles in high school. His journey was smoothened by his beloved grandma who had an affinity for using the word ‘marvelous’- something she always reminded him that he was. 

Other speakers included Nicole Rodgers reading the story of Kamille Higuera, Connor Railsback reading the story of “Jehelop”, Faith LeGrande a queer community member, Ne’jai Bryant reading the story of “I”, and Aislinn Byllesby, a Judkins Middle School student. 

In total, five current PRHS students (three of which were anonymous), one middle school student, two teachers, and four community members spoke about their experience.  

Q&A and Performance

After the eight speakers shared their stories, it was time for the Q&A section of the evening.

Perez told the audience that they were going to pass out a piece of paper so attendees could anonymously write down questions to be publicly read and answered . 

The questions were mainly addressed by Sprout Aragon and Perez, however, some were also answered by the other speakers. Eve Barajas was a surprise speaker at the event. She was also MC at the Coming Out Against Hate event held on October 21st, 2021. She was in the audience and was welcomed to the stage to answer the question, “How can I learn to love myself?” 

“Be yourself because people are going to have something to say no matter what,” Barajas said.

Similar responses were shared by the speakers.

“Just be yourself, people are going to judge you regardless of what you do or how you express yourself so you might as well just be who you want to be,” Railsback said.

Following the Q&A, the unity choir performed “Love is Love.”

Though the event didn’t pack the house in the same way Coming Out Hate did, the people who did attend were apt and committed audience members, often whooping and cheering at the speakers and participating as much as possible.


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About the Contributors
Kalani Gaviola
Kalani Gaviola, Editor-in-Chief
Kalani Gaviola, senior, is one of the Editor-in-Chiefs of Crimson Newsmagazine, as well as co-InDepth Director. This is her second year as Editor-in-Chief and InDepth Director, and her third year in Crimson. Outside of Crimson, she is a varsity Cross Country and Track athlete, ASB Staff and Student Director, and an enjoyer of creative writing, reading, and drawing.
Michelle Rosas
Michelle Rosas, Carmesi Co-Director

Senior Michelle Rosas is in her third year of Crimson. She is taking on her first year as a Video/Carmesi director. She hopes to continue to shine a light on important and pressing issues and students' voices, as her last year in this program comes to an end. Before departing from this program, she hopes to inspire other students from different cultures to bring their culture to the program. Outside of school, she enjoys reading, drawing, going on long walks while listening to music, and being outside in nature.

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    Sue GranzellaJan 30, 2023 at 1:23 pm

    What a great event, and a great article about it! Well done, Kalani, and congratulations to all of the people who rose up and spoke their truth. Your stories enriched and inspired all of us. It’s great that the student Kalani wrote about it, and that Miguel and Joseph shared their photography, so that more people can benefit from this fabulous event. Thank you!