Josh Steinberg is a seventh-grader at The Rashi School in Dedham. Teenagers are busy: sports, extracurriculars, homework, friends. But, as an LGBTQ ally, Steinberg is prioritizing the Boston Pride Parade, with the full support of his family. He talked to JewishBoston about why he plans to march this weekend alongside more than 50 of his Rashi peers.
First things first: Why do you plan to march?
Well, there’s really two main reasons. One, our school is going, and I’d like to support the school and be with my friends to help support the cause. And two, I think it’s important for the LGBTQ community; a lot of them have trouble because a lot of people don’t accept them. The more people go to the marches, the more they know there are people out there who care.
It’s great that you’re so empathetic. Where did that come from? Do you have a personal connection to the community?
Well, for one, in the time that I’m growing up, there’s a lot of LGBTQ activism, so it’s pretty prominent, and I hear about it a lot. I hear a lot of stories, and I can really learn. And I do have some friends from my camp and such who are part of the community, so I get to hear directly from them what it’s like.
Can you describe a little bit more in-depth about the stories you’ve heard and why you care?
Sure. One of the kids at my camp, her name is Bree, and she is transgender. And luckily, her family was very accepting. She decided that she wanted to change genders because the body she was in wasn’t the right one for her at that point. So she was very honest; she went to her parents and she told them, ‘I don’t think I’m a boy. I think I’m actually a girl.’ … Her parents could have been, obviously, very mean about it and not accepting, but they said, ‘That’s great. Thanks for telling us.’ And a lot of people accept her at camp, and she has a community that embraces her. But recently we had a speaker [at Rashi], and she said she wanted the state to recognize her marriage in Indiana. She had cancer. They wanted everyone to recognize that, yes, they were married. They had to stand up for themselves; they did speeches, they were on TV and they actually made a big change where a bunch of gay couples could actually be recognized as married couples.
How is this kind of education about LGBTQ woven into the curriculum at school?
We do have speakers and such, but if it’s something that’s mentioned in a book or something, a lot of times we’ll have a discussion about something like that. Let’s say in social studies, we might have a discussion about the past laws about gay marriage. And it’s very open. You could talk about whatever you want to within that topic. If it comes up, then it’s something that’s a good discussion in a class.
Can you tell me about your sense, as a seventh-grader, of acceptance around LGBTQ kids your age? Are kids starting to grapple with that in your grade?
Yeah. That’s something that recently came up in a wellness class. Someone commented that coming out as gay is starting to become something that used to be a really big deal, but now if someone came up to you and said, ‘I just wanna tell you that I’m gay,’ nowadays, for communities like Rashi that are accepting, they’d be like, ‘Cool, thanks for telling me.’ It doesn’t change their view on a person that much; it’s just good to know. It’s something about their identity. And I really think that’s how it should be. It’s like when someone comes up to you and tells you what their favorite color is. It shouldn’t really matter that much; it’s just a color that they like. And then if they tell you what gender they like, it shouldn’t really be any different; it shouldn’t really make a difference about who they are. They haven’t changed as a person at all.
Have you been to any Pride parades before?
I have. And everyone is just very happy and proud to be there—if they’re part of the LGBTQ community, if they’re an ally and they just want to support other people, or they know people. Everyone is just proud to be there and support. And it’s a very happy time.
What are you most looking forward to about this weekend? What do you expect?
To see other people, meet new people and show the world, well, not necessarily the entire world, but the community, that there are people who care, and that I’m one of them.
If a friend came to you and said they were struggling with coming out, what would you be thinking about?
I don’t know about their family situation; I don’t know if their family is supportive or not. It’s really difficult because you want to say, ‘Oh, just tell them.’ But a lot of families still aren’t supportive of the community. And if they told them, it could seriously affect their family life. And it’s difficult. They can’t just hide it forever because it’s something important about their identity. What we would have to do is find a way to change people’s view, and once everyone is accepting of the LGBTQ community, then coming out is no problem. Then coming out would be easy. You wouldn’t have to worry about your family disowning you or not accepting who you are.
What do you find yourself talking about with your friends?
Something that I mentioned earlier, which is how being gay or lesbian or whatever shouldn’t change who you are as a person. … It’s not a category of people; it’s a community. Or, not necessarily community, it’s just an identity, something about yourself. It’s not like a category of people. And so we’re talking about how right now laws are better than they were in the past. And, yes, there could still be fixing, but something we need to change is not laws necessarily but how people view the LGBTQ community. And that they’re not just their own group of people; they’re just people like us, and they just love different people.