POCATELLO — LGBTQ-centered prejudice in Pocatello has not been eradicated, but undefeatable optimism reigns among LGBTQ members.
Talk to Pocatello High School sophomore Vanna Haddock. The bisexual girl says she was physically assaulted at a Pocatello park in the eighth grade because of having a gay pride tattoo, but somehow still finds a way to have great hope for the future and is satisfied with the current state of affairs in her city.
Talk to Century High School senior Justin Quirk, who considers himself to be an LGBTQ ally and has been called gay slurs while walking through his high school’s halls, but considers the bullies the “extreme minority” and is pleased with the overall support from his school and the community.
Both are presidents of human rights clubs at their respective schools and shared a booth recently at OK Ward Park for an LGBTQ event organized by Priddaho, which raises awareness about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, straight and unidentified individuality issues.
Haddock said Pocatello is one of the best cities in Idaho for LGBTQ people, making the Priddaho event suitable for the city.
“If you tend to focus on positivity in the community and the gay rights community as a whole, things just get better for you,” Haddock said. “Learning about the civil rights and what people went through then compared to now, it has a good way of showing how the gay liberation movement has progressed and gives you a positive outlook of what’s going to happen in the future.”
Haddock spoke about the benefits of a Pocatello youth counseling center, All Under One Roof LGBT Advocate of Southeastern Idaho. She also mentioned the welcoming atmosphere at her school.
“Overall, Pocatello High School’s been fairly accepting of us,” Haddock said. “They always support us. (Pocatello High School Principal) Lisa Delonas is one of the best principals to ever exist because she’s so supportive of our club and what we do.”
Haddock said those who discriminate against LGBTQ individuals are in the minority. However, it takes just one or — in her case — two people to cause a negative event.
While the then eighth-grader was waiting for a friend at a local park, Haddock said two boys physically assaulted her and she suffered a black eye because she was wearing a visible temporary gay pride tattoo.
“It wasn’t anything too bad and I got over it pretty quick,” Haddock said. “It happens.”
As a freshman this past November, Haddock said her club painted Pocatello High’s Spirit Rock in rainbow colors in support of gay rights, only to have LGBTQ slurs painted on the rock by someone or multiple people. But again, her positivity persists.
“A lot of our club was very distraught about it,” Haddock said about the Spirit Rock incident. “(We) had a few days of talking about it and trying to figure things out. But overall, I feel like our school staff has been the most supportive and they’ve been trying to fix things ever since then.”
Quirk explained why he shares her positive worldview.
“There’s always going to be room for improvement, but right now there is crazy good support in the schools and all throughout the community,” said Quirk, a vice president for the Pocatello non-profit Rainbow Roots Inc., which holds social events for kids who identify as LGBTQ and their friends and families.
Quirk said he rarely experiences bullying for being an LGBTQ ally, but has been called gay slurs for wearing rainbow colors. He expressed his disgust about the Pocatello High Spirit Rock incident.
“I was very disappointed and angry, and it definitely sparked some rage in me,” Quirk said. “But after, I had realized that it’s just the extreme minority that is against this group of people.”
Asked for his advice on making a better environment for the LGBTQ community, Quirk encouraged non-LGBTQ people to educate themselves. He also said LGBTQ individuals need more resources and support.
“For everyone, it’s good to learn. I think that under any circumstance, it’s great to research more to find out more because even I’m learning more about my community every day.” Quirk said. “Schools could do good by consistently having support for students when they ask for it.”
The Priddaho event held earlier this month at OK Ward Park is a start for the Gate City, Haddock and Quirk said.
“It just shows how much people have changed and — overall — how our community is growing more accepting toward LBGTQ,” Haddock said. “And as it impacts the community as a whole, it shows people that the LBGTQ community isn’t something to be afraid of and it’s an inconclusive event to be themselves.”