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    Student Voices: Reflection and Advice from Tom Ammiano

    By Jenn Bowman

    (Editor’s Note: Teacher Jenn Bowman of San Francisco’s Mission High School is teaching LGBTQ Studies. In this column, Bowman’s students share their thoughts about LGBTQ-related matters, including their concerns, what they have learned in class and more. Leif, a 10th grader at Mission High, wrote the following piece.)

    Tom Ammiano, a retired politician and current comedian, was the latest speaker in our Mission High Gender and Queer Studies class. Tom’s bright personality, dyed blue hair, and humorous jabs made it easy for him to connect with us students in a myriad of ways. He made us feel safe and receptive to what he had to say.

    Just prior to Ammiano’s visit, our class had studied the life, activism, and death of Supervisor Harvey Milk. Tom talked about his past experience working with Milk on his “No on 6” campaign in the 1970s. He said that one of the things that made Milk such an amazing activist was his ability to compromise, to keep his eye on what is important in the movement, and to build bridges with different communities. Together they went to Glide Memorial Church, and supported the Tenderloin community, the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Liberation, and, obviously, the LGBTQ movement.

    It was especially interesting to hear about Tom Ammiano’s own experience as a young person. He spoke about the many parallels, and also the obvious changes, which have occurred since he was a student in a Roman Catholic school in New Jersey. As a teenager, he struggled a lot and used humor as a way to deflect bullying. Later, he took a bus to San Francisco in the hope that this city would offer him a better life.

    He still sees the struggles of being a gay teen, but he also notices a deeper empathy and understanding that kids can tap into. He told us that the way to succeed in this society is not to focus on the differences that isolate ourselves and the labels we go under. He told us to focus on the overlapping and interwoven intersectionality that each minority can draw from, and to use that support to come together and create positive change.

    He explained that his driven mindset can show us how motivation works to create safer places, even through setbacks and tragedies like the Milk assassination and the Trump presidential election. We can learn from history that the power of the people can trump the power of the oppressor.

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