Over the past couple of months, shy, inconspicuous Vermont has become my favorite state of the union. It's not because of the scenery from Camel's Hump mountain, the bitchin' maple syrup or the hundreds of snowmobiling clubs. No, I admire Vermont's recent standing as the 4th state to legalize gay marriage and for the after school program at Burlington High School called Gendertopia. The program helps students understand the vast spectrum of gender and sexuality past male/female, gay/straight. Amazing! Gendertopia is partly funded with tax dollars and run by Outright Vermont, Vermont's queer youth center and advocacy organization. The program teaches the difference between gender and sexuality, has students go into their community and photograph ways gender is translated in pop culture and explores the damaging ways homophobia and transphobia affect the individuals on the receiving end. In an AP article, Sophia Manzi, a student at Burlington High, said, "I'm straight, but I don't like using that word because then it feels like if you're gay then you're crooked, you're not meant to grow up in a certain way. I come because it's a really good program. The people, it doesn't matter what sexual orientation you are, they totally come in with open arms." Gendertopia indeed.
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