14 Days of Love Day 8: MPSH says Gay: The Power of Community

Brooke Wilensky and Paula Ortiz

When one fills out surveys or applies for jobs, a question will always reference gender. For some, they are able to click either male or female without a passing thought. Some, however, do not always find the option to describe their identity, so they are forced to click “other.”

At Miami Palmetto Senior High School, there is a strong LGBTQ+ community that serves as a safe space for students outside of their homes.

“The community here at Palmetto with the Alliance Club is pretty amazing. We have kids from all grades, all different classes from regular to APs. Once we walk into that room, and we get started with a meeting, or we have a roundtable discussion, just talking about our experiences, no one judges anyone, everyone just gets along and is really supportive of what other people are going through,” MPSH senior and President of Gay-Straight Alliance Sophia Tomczak said.

Adrian Morales, a junior at MPSH, describes the feeling of having a supportive community at school. They are able to bond with their friends through one common link — being part of the LGBTQ+ community.

“I think it is just like, there is a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood amongst all the queer kids here. We stand out from everyone else, so we kind of just have to be there for each other,” Morales said.

Along with the powerful sense of community, MPSH has a no-uniform policy, permitting students to express themselves through their clothing without being held back by the constraints of biological sex. 

“The lack of dress code makes [MPSH] different because when it comes to being queer, one thing we all do is express ourselves via the way we dress or the way we do our hair. And without the dress code, it makes it easier for us to like, express ourselves in the way we want,” Morales said.

Being LGBTQ+ in a high school in Florida does not come without its challenges. Homophobia, transphobia and gendered restrooms remain a constant cause of discomfort for many. With the recent passing of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in 2022, being a member of the LGBTQ+ community has only become more difficult.  

Melisa Tunon, an MPSH junior who goes by he/her pronouns, was able to participate in this year’s Mr. Panther without facing questioning regarding her gender.

“ [Mr. Panther] was really fun. I decided to join, because why not? It was a little scary at first because I wasn’t sure if people were going to look at me weird, but it ended up being a fun experience,” Tunon said.

This is not the first time MPSH has accepted gender-nonconforming students to participate and serves as a step in the right direction. 

“I think [MPSH is]more towards the accepting side. I feel like any other person in the school. No one treats me differently or looks at me differently just because of my gender or anything,” Tunon said.

Through the MPSH alliance club and having the Trevor Lifeline number accessible through student identification cards, Miami-Dade County has shown its dedication and awareness of LGBTQ+ students and their mental health.

“I think Palmetto really goes above and beyond in making sure that our queer students have resources and that they feel safe coming to school,” Tomczak said.