Hanan Rashid has family members and friends who are gay. She sees how much people pick on them, calling them "queers" or making other disparaging remarks.
Rashid, a Tokay High senior, is vice president of the campus Gay-Straight Alliance, a student group designed to make students feel more comfortable on campus.
Rashid, who is straight, said she's aware of about 15 Tokay students who are gay. Alliance adviser Jamie Anaforian says she knows of at least 20.
Although she isn't familiar with Senate Bill 48, which will require school districts to include contributions in gay history in their social studies curriculum, Rashid likes the idea.
"It would be nice," she said. "The school needs to teach that they have feelings, too."
Rashid said she has a bisexual friend who sometimes walks up to her and starts crying over an insensitive remark she heard.
Rashid said her attitude toward gays is consistent with the Lady GaGa hit song "Born This Way."
"I'm beautiful in my way 'cause God makes no mistakes," the lyrics read. "I'm on the right track, baby. I was born this way. Don't hide yourself in regret. Just love yourself and you're set. I'm on the right track, baby. I was born this way."
Rashid said she learned about homosexuality when she was in the sixth grade, when her sister's best friend opened up.
"My first reaction was, 'Oh, that's nasty,'" she said. "Then I saw that they go through hell."
Anaforian, a history and psychology teacher at Tokay, where she's served for 20 years, says she supports the Gay-Straight Alliance goals.
"I support the right of students being safe in being who they are," Anaforian said. "We're not teaching anything."
Some girls can be seen holding hands on campus, but open displays of affection seem to be limited to girls, Anaforian said.
"I know about three girl couples at the junior-senior prom who held hands," she said.
Gay students, or those who wonder if they're gay, have come to Anaforian just to talk. Many still hide it, while others are open about it.
Some students wonder about their sexual preference in the same way teenagers wonder about other facets of their lives, Anaforian said. Some don't know if they're straight or gay, just like they don't know if they're a Republican or Democrat, she said.
A dozen students showed up to Tokay's first afterschool alliance meeting recently. During the last school year, there were usually 20 attending meetings, Anaforian said. About half the attendees were gay. The straight ones came because they had a friend or a family member who was gay.
"It doesn't mean we're teaching it or encouraging it, but we're not discouraging it," Anaforian said. "I don't recruit anybody."
Rashid says that freshmen find the idea of homosexuality rather confusing. Last year, a couple of students in the Gay-Straight Alliance began the school year thinking they were straight, only to discover by the end of the year that they weren't, she said.
Some 30 students participated in Tokay's Pride Week in April, Anaforian said. One day, they had a rainbow dress-up day to support gay pride. Pride week emphasized gays, but it focused more on tolerance among all students, she said.
Students designed a T-shirt with a quotation from the late San Francisco gay activist Harvey Milk, which was sold as a fundraiser during Pride Week. About 30 students bought the shirts.
The T-shirt reads, "All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential."
"I want to make this a fun club," Rashid said. "We really want to go to Frisco for the Gay Pride Parade."
The only problems with such a trip are whether students can raise enough money to attend the parade, and that the parade takes place in late June, when school is out for the summer, she said.
In Lodi, some residents cite the Bible in declaring homosexuality a mortal sin in God's eyes. It's no different among Muslims, said Rashid, a Muslim with Palestinian heritage.
"I've met some Muslims who are gay, and they have to hide it from their parents," Rashid said.
In some cases, Muslim parents will disown their children if they find out they're gay, Rashid added.
Lodi High has had a Gay-Straight Alliance chapter in the past, but it depends on the level of interest in a given year. This year, there is no such club on campus. Galt High has a chapter this year.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.