Sisters united

Published 8:36 am Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hannah Kreider, 16, left, and her sister, Grace, 14, are forming a Gay Straight Alliance at Franklin High School. Hannah is a lesbian, while Grace is straight. - Gwen Albers | Tidewater News

FRANKLIN—Sixteen-year-old Hannah Kreider is gay.

Her younger sister, Grace, is not, yet they have a total understanding for each other’s preferences.

The two Franklin High School students want to provide a better connection between gay and straight teens — a place where they can talk to others. That’s why Hannah, a junior, and Grace, a freshman, are forming the Gay Straight Alliance at FHS. The tentative first meeting is planned for Tuesday, Nov. 9, at the school.

“I’ve been so blessed to have (the support of) family and friends,” Hannah said. “I feel like I need to give back and give an open forum (for others) to feel safe.”

The Kreider sisters got permission to form the Alliance from FHS Principal Rodney Berry, who said he had no reaction to the request.

“Students have the right to form an organization and have the right to meet on school premises during non-instruction time,” Berry said.

A teacher will attend the meetings.

School Board Chairman Bill Scarboro believes the Gay Straight Alliance will provide a healthy outlet for students.

“There’s been a lot in the media about bullying and about the bullying of students whose ideas about life may be different from other people,” Scarboro said. “That is the nature of the world we live in. I hope this works for them and it gives them another way to express their individualism and deal with the fallout.”

As for Hannah, at one point, she was bisexual. Then at the end of eighth grade, she decided she liked girls more.

Hannah is open about being a lesbian and says her friends and others understand.

“I think most see who I am,” Hannah said. “My being gay isn’t the only thing about me. It’s an aspect of your personality.”

Grace was in sixth grade when her sister “came out.”

“I’m fine with it,” she said. “I couldn’t see it any other way. It would be really weird for her to come home with a guy.”

Grace remembers her friends being cool about the news, while some kids were mean.

“They used it as a tool to pick on us,” she said.

Hannah’s father said he wasn’t too surprised when his daughter indicated she was gay.

“I almost had a sense,” Kim Kreider said. “We have a very open relationship. We talk about all kinds of things, so it didn’t just hit me in the face.”

He wanted to be supportive.

“I came from a very conservative background where gay was wrong,” said the father of seven. “It’s different when it’s your kids, and it caused me to examine my beliefs. I realize a lot of kids grew up with ugly environments without support. I was determined my kid was not going to grow up that way.”

Kreider has found a network of gay adults and young adults for Hannah. For two summers, she has gone to a support outreach camp in Minnesota with 15 to 20 gay teens. She and her father also attended gay community events in Chesapeake and Richmond.

“My job has been to enable and support her,” Kreider said. “We make our home an open place for any kids. At times, we’ve had four to six gay kids there.”

“Hannah has that support,” he added. “She knows a lot of kids who don’t have a place. Some of these kids never have a chance to have that conversation.”