Illustration by Kate Greenblatt
In a small alcove within the H-Building sits a room where LGBT+ support group meets every Friday. The support group was made as part of the Health Center’s initiatives to help the mental health of students at Berkeley High School (BHS). Jose Rostrom and Robin Olip-Booth run the support group. Both are staff members at the health center and self-professed members of the LGBT+ community. “I really wanted to have a safe space for students who identify under the LGBT umbrella, a place to be themselves,” said Rostrom. His purpose in creating the group was for LGBT+ students to be able to talk about issues that are currently affecting them. He also believes that educating LGBT+ students about the struggles of other people in the community would help unify them. On the growth of the support group, Rostrom said, “We are in the process of developing a curriculum that is going to be made with the students who are members of this group.”
The group is very new and is still growing and changing. Having only been around for two weeks, one of the group’s main issues is the attendance. The meeting observed had three people attend, slightly less than the administrators anticipated. As the three people trickled in and everyone got settled, they started by introducing themselves and explaining their connection to the community.
They then talked about a goal for the week and how they were feeling. This meeting took place the day after the threat of a shooting at BHS and was obviously a very tender subject for the group. They discussed the target that LGBT+ people have on their back and the impact of the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub, a gay bar in Orlando, Florida. Students echoed that it is especially scary to be LGBT+ when you feel like the people in power are against you. One exercise done in the group included everyone writing down different parts of their identities, crossing aspects out, as if they were not a part of their identity anymore. People ended up with a similar result, either keeping their sexuality or their age. This showed how important their sexuality is to their overall identity.
While none of the members of the group wanted to be interviewed, other students who identified themselves as part of the LGBT+ see how a support group can be extremely helpful, especially concerning topics such as coming out and mental health. Jose hopes that through this article, more people will find out about the group and join. Since they want to structure the curriculum around the students, more students involved would help create a broader view of the community. Meetings are every Friday in H-215 during fourth period, and everyone is welcome to join.