Eighth Grade Girls Speak Out for Gay Rights in St. Louis

Three Maplewood Richmond Heights Middle School students are stepping up and speaking out for the issues they believe in—even if adults won’t listen.

By Lindsey Toler – Maplewood Richmond Heights Patch

Eighth graders Maja Eernise, Lucy Miller and Symphonie Cameron Read

Meet the fourth wave of feminism.

They may only be 14, but the more eighth-graders Maja Eernise, Lucy Miller and Symphonie Cameron learn about the world, the more they speak up for change.

This week, the Maplewood Richmond Heights Middle School trio released a political commercial promoting gay rights. It asks viewers to speak out against bullying and advocate for gay marriage.

“It is something that we all care about deeply,” Miller said. “We’ve all seen how this issue has affected not just us but the country as a whole. We wanted to speak out about it.”

The foundation for their political beliefs is simple: all people are created equal.

“There are people in our community and around the world, everywhere you go, that are against homosexuality,” Eernise said, “but at the end of the day, we’re all people, and we should look at each other as equal beings and not look down on someone for their beliefs or homosexuality.”

The girls haven’t had to go far to hear about gay rights issues. Same-sex marriage dominated the headlines this summer as New York became the sixth state to allow gay people to marry, and the It Gets Better anti-bullying campaign videos are viral on YouTube.

But at the middle school, the girls say, the issue isn’t touched on enough. That’s why they made a video, Eernise said.

“If students talk about it, other students will want to listen to us,” she said.  The hardest part of being a 14-year-old activist is getting adults to listen.

“They tend to disregard my ideas and thoughts because of my age, which is infinitely frustrating,” Miller said. “Even if I’m making valid points, they still disregard everything I’m saying because I’m 14. It’s still something I struggle with.”

The girls said their families have been supportive of their opinions and beliefs, but the debates come when they talk to their parents’friends. “Usually, when adults try to discourage me because of my age, I try to share my point and my true interest in it,” Cameron said.

At the middle school, the girls said, they haven’t seen instances of gay bullying. But they do hear students use derogatory slurs. And when they hear it, they speak up.

“I’m not one to keep my mouth shut,” said Miller, whose friends laughed in agreement. “I’m definitely very outspoken.”

The girls agree that sexism is the biggest social issue they face—especially discrimination in sports and unwanted heavy petting. Eernise said boys her age disregard girls’ sports because they aren’t “masculine” enough.  “They think we can’t handle the pressure and how much stronger they are than us,” she said.

Miller said she sees sexual harassment in her school’s hallways, especially when boys are being too “touchy-feely” with girls who don’t want that kind of attention. “I see a large amount of petty sexual harassment, but still sexual harassment, that goes unnoticed because … .” Lucy pauses and Eernise picks up the thought for her: “Because it’s ‘normal’ at our school.”

Alex Pepin, the girls’ social studies teacher, calls the trio “a very talented group of girls” and said she is impressed with the maturity they showed in their gay rights commercial.

“As much as people are like, ‘Oh they’re middle schoolers, they don’t know,’ they are passionate about these things,” Pepin said. “They are at the age where all these—gay rights, abortion, are you a Democrat, are you a Republican, do you even care—all those things are starting to come out and take shape in themselves. It’s nice to be able to give them a medium to let them get that out there somehow.”


State Rep. Stacey Newman

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