The Northern Light The student news site of Portage Northern High School Tue, 10 Nov 2020 14:55:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Life beyond labels Tue, 10 Nov 2020 14:47:45 +0000
Lonsbury moves confidently through her senior year now that she has shed the pressure to be defined by a label. (Photo courtesy of Haily Lonsbury)

The least talked about and generally the most controversial part of the LGBTQ+ community is those who decide that they do not need to label their sexuality and overall feelings. During Lonsbury’s time of self reflection, she looks back indifferently on her time of research for a sexual orientation she could identify with.  “I was confused,” she shares, “there were so many different options to choose from with the labels. When I decided on pansexual, I didn’t really feel comfortable because at the time, I didn’t realize that I didn’t even need a label.” 

Lonsbury finds that her lack of a label allows her to be happy and comfortable with who she is as a person. “With a label,” she explains, “I feel the need to map out the specifics of my sexuality when it’s not specific at all.” Most people who identify their sexual orientation without the use of labels feel as if their complex emotions could not be defined by one word and that they don’t need to be categorized in order to tell themselves how they feel or who they are as a person. “If I like someone, then I like them,” Lonsbury states confidently. 

Lonsbury has an ally in her decision to live life beyond definitions in her friend, senior Naomi Randall, who also identifies as pansexual. “I think labels are for people that want them,” she says. “No one is obligated to define themselves for the benefit of others; if it makes you happy, use labels, if it doesn’t, don’t. Anyone who tells you otherwise has no right to do so.” 

Both Lonsbury and Randall agree on the fact that labels can add convenience and make it easier to understand others, but for Lonsbury, it’s still worth it to abandon them for her own identity. “If someone thinks that everyone needs to have a label for their sexuality, they are being inconsiderate about that person’s feelings because you don’t know what may have happened that made them not want to have a label,” she imparts earnestly. “I’m happier since I’ve found other people that also don’t have labels. There haven’t been a lot . . . but the ones I do know are very supportive.” 

The lack of a label allows Lonsbury to be able to pick and choose which aspects of her sexual orientation she is willing to share, making her feel much more confident. “Now, I’m happy with my decision to not have a specific label and I feel comfortable with it. I don’t feel like I’m forcing myself to do something anymore,” she concludes thoughtfully.


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Confusion and acceptance Tue, 10 Nov 2020 14:44:28 +0000 At first, Lonsbury decided to label herself as pansexual, but quickly learned that she would rather not identify with a label. “When I first realized I didn’t only like men, I wasn’t sure what to identify myself as because I didn’t really know the different sexualities,” she explains. “Once I found out what pansexual was, I decided to identify as that. I thought it would be nice to have a word that represented what I felt. I kind of forced it on myself.”

Pansexuals are a minority in the LGBTQ+ community as statistics pertaining to the amount of individuals who identify as pan are not found or at least widely mentioned. As a minority group, there is a lot of misinformation about pansexuals, leaving many to feel outcast and even misinterpreted. The exclusion can cause feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety, and confusion. 

Lonsbury found herself surrounded by copious amounts of untrue information pertaining to this group in the LGBTQ+ community, limiting her ability to discern what was true or false. She gradually became her own biggest obstacle for finding acceptance, unable to accept the pansexual label or acknowledge herself for who she really was. “I completely am supportive of the [LGBTQ+] community,” she conveys sincerely, “but I sometimes feel like it’s hard to support myself. I feel like I don’t deserve to be able to express how I feel about my sexuality and I don’t deserve to be a part of the community. Sometimes, I feel insecure about my sexuality . . . pretty much, in the most simple way I can put it, what goes through my brain is: yes, pansexuality is real and it is valid, but I’m not allowed to be pan.”

A big part of the LGBTQ+ community is the need to be accepted for who they are by the ones they love. According to One of Us INC, an organization dedicated to providing support for those in the LGBTQIA+ community since 2018, 42% of people who are LGBTQ+ report living in an unwelcoming environment and that the biggest problem they face is unaccepting families. 

Lonsbury was fortunate enough to be able to confide in her younger sister, sophomore Cynthia Brown, during times of uncertainty. Brown identifies as pansexual within the LGBTQ+ community and the two sisters fully support one another and have grown closer since they came out. “My sister supported me when I came out to my mother and when I was struggling on what I identified myself as.” Brown recounts fondly. “I supported Haily when she came out to me. . . and I supported her on the labels she went by, and now that she chose not to have a label.” 

The fact that both Lonsbury and Brown were able to find acceptance in one another during a time of confusion and struggle has made their bond stronger and allowed them to grow confidence without the fear of judgment from those who lack understanding.

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With the help of the internet Tue, 10 Nov 2020 14:43:34 +0000 Lonsbury has always been aware of the LGBTQ+ community all throughout her life. “My parents both have friends that are a part of the community and they’ve known them since before I was born,” she recounts, “so they’ve been there pretty much my whole life. When I was younger, I knew that girls can like girls and boys can like boys, but I never really knew what the words for those were. . . Once I had internet access I got to learn a lot more. When I got on social media, I started following people that are a part of the community more and more and it never occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, I was actually a part of the community too.”  

The internet, and more specifically, celebrities and the social media app Instagram, have allowed Lonsbury to find all the missing pieces of herself and finally connect them together. It was a very confusing and, at some points, heart-breaking process as some of those she trusted completely reacted negatively towards the pansexual label she initially identified with. “I’ve known someone in real life who threatened me because I said I was attracted to girls too,” she says somberly. “That person isn’t in my life anymore, thank goodness, but they made me realize that I have to be careful with who I give this information [sexual orientation] to.” 

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The LGBTQIA+ community Tue, 10 Nov 2020 14:42:47 +0000 The LGBTQIA+ community (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual) consists of many different sexual orientations and gender identities. There is little to no information given on the amount of people in the United States who identify within this community as the U.S. Census does not incorporate any questions pertaining to sexual orientation and/or gender identity into its data gathering. 

However, research conducted by Gallup reports that in 2016, about 4.1%, or about 10 million Americans, identified as LGBT here in the United States. In 2012, only 3.5%, or 8.3 million Americans, identified as LGBT, so over the span of five years Gallup underwent for data collection, their results show an increase each year. This increase is likely not due to a literal increase in people affiliating as LGBTQIA+, but in changing social norms that are increasingly providing vocabulary and a safe space for members of the LGBTQIA+ community. 

Recently, the HRC Foundation (Human Rights Campaign) and the University of Connecticut released the results of a LGBTQ Teen Survey asking questions about the challenges these teenagers face, including questions concerning mental health. 12,000 LGBTQ teens, ages ranging from 13 to 17, from all 50 states answered the survey. A few results stated that 77% of LGBTQ teens reported feeling depressed recently, 70% reported that recently they have been feeling worthless and hopeless and 67% reported hearing family members making negative comments about those who identify as LGBTQ.

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Senior Haily Lonsbury commits to living life beyond a label Tue, 10 Nov 2020 14:42:01 +0000 There is a lot to figure out about yourself as you move through high school.  For senior Haily Lonsbury, a person who identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community, the primary thing she sought to figure out was her sexual orientation, and more specifically, the label. 

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Con Sat, 07 Nov 2020 01:15:33 +0000 Recently, a new rule has been put into place: we are only allowed to have one of four things for our Google profile photo: an appropriate picture of yourself, your initials, the Portage Northern logo, or a husky, the school mascot. So what happened that made this be put into place? We don’t know. Maybe someone ruined it for everyone, or maybe they just want more control. Whatever the reason, this decision has digital “school uniform” written all over it. 

If the main reason behind this is the  first one, why punish everyone for something one or a few people did? For example, if one kid in a group was wearing something that went against the school’s dress code, we would make the entire school wear uniforms, or if someone pulls a false fire alarm, which is much worse, we still wouldn’t punish everyone for that one person’s actions. Punishing all students for the actions of a few – who could easily be asked one at a time to change their pictures if they were a problem – makes this rule the virtual equivalent of a school uniform. 

Also, the reason for the change was broadcast by many teachers as, “It’s so we can recognize you if and when you come back to school.” But if that’s the argument, how are initials or a generic school logo, or even a husky, going to help that? Maybe that argument works if you’re only allowed to use your face, but the argument does not validate the other reasons. I’d almost think seeing a profile picture and having it be related to a student’s interests or hobbies would help teachers recognize them more than a logo, and it would also let teachers learn about their students. If we don’t have school uniforms in person, why would we police our profile photos in the same kind of way online?

Some would argue it’s more like a virtual “dress code.” I think it compares more to a uniform, as uniforms give you a strict “this is what you HAVE to wear” versus a dress code which allows more freedom and personal expression. A dress code says “just don’t wear this and you’re fine.” The difference comes down to you get more freedom than less with a dress code and less freedom than more with a uniform. If the policy did represent a dress code, it would focus more on what you can’t have as your profile photo as opposed to prescribing what you can. There would be a small list of things that aren’t allowed, not a small list of things that are allowed. 

This might seem like a small issue, but actually it is very important. Profile photos are how students are presenting themselves when they can’t be in person. This rule is now limiting students’ only outlet for self expression. Since we’re in a virtual environment instead of being in person, expression is even more important. In person, students get a lot more opportunities to express themselves, however with being virtual, they really only get just this one. In enforcing this policy, administrators are dictating the one small opportunity that exists to let students express who they are. 

If it’s not hurting anyone and is safe for a school environment, what’s the matter with having a baseball, cat, or Star Wars character as your profile picture? Let students do what they want and let them safely express themselves instead of threatening to suspend them because their profile picture is a dragon.

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Pro Sat, 07 Nov 2020 01:06:30 +0000 Many students have been quick to say the profile picture change has been a bad thing, but there are many good things that come from this new rule. 

Many students do not turn their camera on in class, and when a camera isn’t on, the profile picture is displayed in its place. Using an actual picture of a student can help teachers become more comfortable, allowing them to know who their students are and identify who they have in their class. There are students who can not have their cameras on due to living conditions or other personal reasons, and teachers want to be able to know who their students are even if they can not have them in class at the moment due to COVID-19 cases. Seeing those profile pictures for camera-off students can also help teachers memorize names and faces, making it more likely that they will recognize everyone when students finally come back into the classroom.

Along the same lines, many students, especially in high school, feel much more self conscious about having their camera on due to the fact they feel like they might be judged. Being able to pick what picture they use of themself could help them get more comfortable with the school and the people around them so that by the time school starts back up face to face, they will feel less insecure about things and be themselves more. The guideline days that it can be any school appropriate portrait; students are free to use a filter or otherwise choose the picture of them that they like. 

In high school, students want to voice their opinions much more, but sometimes that can lead to arguments or disagreements in class and can take away from other students’ learning. If a students profile picture were to be offensive or went against someone else’s beliefs, students could be very distracted and a classroom that was otherwise a safe space could fill with tension. There have been videos of classes having full blown arguments because one student’s profile picture was a “Trump Pence 2020” and another student’s was a “Biden Harris 2020” picture. Other students have chosen, innocently or not, racially-offensive memes or inappropriate TikTok trends for profile photos. These disruptions in the virtual classroom disrupt the flow of learning and are just not necessary. 

Students need to start thinking about the fact that when we go back in person, hiding behind a screen is not going to work. A countless number of students have disagreed with having to change their profile picture and think the new policy is unfair, but in reality, not only will it be fine, it might even make the virtual learning environment better.


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Pro-Con: School-mandated Google profile picture change Sat, 07 Nov 2020 00:59:34 +0000 On Monday, October 12, students read the following message in their first hour Google classrooms:

To all Portage Northern High School students:
By the end of the day Thursday, October 15th 2020, your selected google icon must be one of three things:
  • School appropriate picture of yourself
  • PNHS logo
  • The automated initials that google selects for you
We appreciate your attention to this matter as we continue to work to make our virtual learning environments as professional and productive as possible. Failure to make this change will result in contact from your grade level assistant principal.
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Award shows in the virtual age Thu, 05 Nov 2020 19:39:00 +0000 “And the Emmy goes to…” 

As anxious fans wait for the moment their favorite actor’s name is called, tech teams and directors shuffle scurrilously behind cameras to make sure not one moment is missed in the virtual airing. This year’s Emmy Awards carried on even in the face of a worldwide pandemic. There was no red carpet, no guest appearances, and certainly no crowds. There was only a screen and a couch from where fans watched the award ceremony right from their own living rooms. Standing alone on stage, Jimmy Kimmel hosted this year’s Emmy Awards from the Staples Center in LA.

“I gotta tell you, just going into the Staples Center was kind of depressing, even though it was necessary for the safety of everybody,” says co-writer of the Emmy’s, Molly McNeary in an LA times article. “We still wanted to have that feeling of a live show and with audience reaction.” In the preparing weeks before the big show, producers spent hours trying to find the best audience recordings and reactions to pull from clips to have somewhat comforting sounds in the empty stadium.

Worried that the show being virtual would dull it’s impact, the Emmy organizers and producers went to extreme lengths to make sure that they would be able to capture every moment of the nominees evening that day. Hundreds of cameras were set up in the homes, backyards, and even hotels of the actors and actresses, where they were rehearsing what they would say if they had the honor of receiving the Emmy. Whether or not kids and family of the nominee would be on camera was their preference. 

The awards were delivered live, in person to the winner’s homes. As the winners opened their doors, they were greeted by someone in a hazmat tux. Yes, someone in a full hazmat suit hand delivered the statues. “ It was important to us that people got to hold the statue. . . we didn’t want to just say we’re going to drop it in the mail for you months from now,” says McNeary. “Every nominee had someone in a hazmat suit “stalking” their house.”

Behind the scenes, Kimmel only had 25% of his staff with him which had everyone working tirelessly over hours to get the show prepared in time. While everyone sat back eating popcorn, the directors, producers, and all other backstage personnel worked until they could no longer see the very show live streaming in front of them. 

“I think it’s always been assumed that this was going to have to be a virtual show,” the executive producer of the Emmys, Reginald Hudlin, said in a Daily News article. “The reality is, these types of shows are going to be virtual for a while now.” Whether or not this is pleasing to the fans, it is for the safety of everyone. 

They were able to flawlessly execute what  has never been done before. The Emmy Awards, but virtual. “That’s not an easy thing for anyone to do. . . I think it’s pretty incredible,” says McNeary.

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Learning to live with the endless loop of anxiety and depression Thu, 05 Nov 2020 19:25:08 +0000 Everyone’s eyes stare at me as the room begins to spin. I can’t seem to find any air; it’s so hard to breathe. “Deep breath in, and deep breath out,” someone says. I can’t seem to figure out who they are. They grab my hand and lead me out of the lunch room and into the girls bathroom. Tears are already streaming down my face, but as soon as the door closes behind us, I completely break down.

I was diagnosed with anxiety when I was 14 years old. Broadly, anxiety is described as a mental illness in which your body and mind are hyperreactive in situations that seem dangerous or stressful. I define it as something that makes my days full of agitation and nervousness. I always knew there was something about me that was different from a “normally” functioning person, but I kept it to myself. Nobody ever spoke out about their mental illnesses, and I figured I shouldn’t either. However, keeping it to myself only made it harder to function in my day to day life. 


Throughout the last four months of seventh grade, I felt lost and alone. My anxiety made me so overwhelmed at school that I’d have to run to the bathroom and calm myself down before I started to have a panic attack. I was dealing with this all by myself: none of my friends knew about my diagnosis because I was terrified of them looking at me differently. Eventually, in order to control myself, I developed a series of specific but harmful behaviors. I would pinch my arms and legs with my finger nails until the skin turned bright red, tap my right leg until it started to tingle, and bite my bottom lip, sometimes even making it bleed. My anxiety was manipulating my mind into hurting my body, and I knew that I had to tell someone before I reached my breaking point. What I didn’t know was that I was already too late.

I was in my seventh grade French class when I could feel my heart racing. I didn’t understand what was going on: I wasn’t scared or overcome by any jittery feelings. I tried to breathe, taking deep breaths in, holding, and releasing like I had practiced. I was starting to calm down when my partner next to me asked me if I was ok. I tried to respond, but I couldn’t talk. It was like my mouth was glued shut and the only thing I could manage to do was start crying uncontrollably, which disrupted my calming breathing pattern. My mind was racing and my eyes couldn’t stay focused on a single object. I knew that I needed to leave, and fast. I got up, ran to the teacher, and barely mumbled the words, “can I use the restroom?” As I left, everyone was staring at me; it felt like their eyes were watching my every move. When I finally got to the bathroom, I sat down and put my head in my knees and just waited for it to all go away. There was only one thing racing through my mind as I sat on the cold tiled floor: now, everyone knows. 

I had my next major doctor’s appointment to review my anxiety and how everything had been the next year, in 8th grade. After some long conversations,I received a new diagnosis: not only did I have anxiety, but I also had depression. My doctor explained to me that when my anxiety was triggered or acted out, it fed into my depression, which then fed into my anxiety more, causing an endless loop. My brain was constantly fighting itself, leaving me to deal with the end disaster. I was scared, upset, and most of all confused about why my own mind was functioning like this. I received a prescription for Prozac, which was supposed to help with both of my mental illnesses. It wasn’t easy taking the medicine: I experienced a good amount of side effects, including headaches, loss of appetite, nausea, drowsiness, and many more more. Despite this, I pushed through and took it anyway. I wanted to feel better, maybe even normal.

Going into ninth grade, my first year of high school, I was fearful of all the new people and a different school. However, after the first week of school, I had already talked to new people and found my way from class to class. Some of the new people I started conversing with were even like me and had mental illnesses as well. I felt comfortable and more accepting of myself knowing that I wasn’t the only one going through this. Now, sophomore year, I have a much greater awareness of the fact that mental illness is something many people have, and some don’t even know it or have the words to describe it. My wish is that other students don’t feel isolated like I did, and that they know that it’s ok to be afraid or nervous with what goes through their minds. Most importantly, they need to see that they’re not alone and that there are people out there that can help, even if it’s just to listen. 

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