What are Synonyms for Bad? Naches and the Queer Agenda


Nataly Edgerly-Arciga, seen here smiling in her car, co-founded the Naches Valley High School GSA club.

Most of the people of Naches, Wash. are politically right-leaning people, historically making life for queer people incredibly challenging. 

 Naches is a boiling point of queer discrimination within the towns of Yakima County. There are other small towns surrounding Naches, but only one public high school for so many of them.

Seniors Gavin King, Xavier Charlet, Nataly Edgerly-Arciga and Jackson Ellenberger are some openly queer people in Naches. Their experiences in Naches would be described as awkward, rough, trapping, and as Edgerly-Arciga asked, “What are synonyms for bad?” 

Last school year, they all share started a Gay-Straight Allicance (GSA) club at their high school, creating stronger bonds and friendships between the students. Other students and teachers were not supportive of this club and did not hesitate to show their disapproval. The club’s first attempt to pass the school’s administration was not successful.

However, the club’s second attempt to pass the administration was successful, and they got the club. Some witnesses in the room where the meeting was taking place said that it seemed that one of the administrators was almost afraid to say the word “gay” because of the way they were stuttering and not able to maintain eye contact with anyone.  

“Admin shouldn’t be so opposed to GSA representation,” Edgerly-Arciga said. 

The club members had to figure out a way to make GSA a part of the school. In order to do this, they had to make their presentation appeal to the administration in a way that they were comfortable with, which is unfair for all the queer students in the school who just want to feel safe and protected at school. Some students who decided to participate in the presentation tried to appeal to the administrators by explaining how the club would help other students at the school who are not openly queer, rather than how the club would help the kids who are already facing discrimmination. 

“People are stuck in their own biases, and they do things to seem cooler in front of their friends because it is such a widely accepted belief in Naches,” King explaining her theory on why people in Naches are so close-minded when it comes to queer people. 

Ellenberger thinks queer people face discrimination because of religion and how it is deeply rooted in American systems. 

Because Edgerly-Arciga identifies as a racial minority, he has a harder time living around Naches. 

King, Ellenberger  and Charlet all claim they have it easier because they are white than queer people of color. 

“It is just the cultural and traditional views of a Hispanic household,” Edgerly-Arciga explained why being a person of color and queer is a challenge. 

Charlet believes their experience as a white queer person rather than a queer person of color is much easier. 

“White privilege is real and exists and most queer spaces are white people,”  Charlet said.

Queer people of color have intersecting identities with race and queerness and without highlighting their experience and voices, only a narrow white queer perspective is known. With only learning about the experiences of white queer people, no one can have a well-rounded understanding of the entire LGBTQ+ community. 

There is so much work to be done when it comes to Naches and its surrounding towns becoming a more open-minded community. That work should not have to be done by queer people, but the people who never have to think twice about leaving their house because there is a risk of being harmed because of their gender identity or sexuality. 

In order to create a more inclusive community in Naches for LGBTQ+ people, Charlet suggested, “stop being bigots, via teaching in schools.” 

Contrary to what Ellenberger believes, Naches is moving in the right areas because of the GSA club that started last year. But if more people were open-minded, he thinks life for queer people would be much easier. Edgerly-Arciga believes that people who have done harm towards the LGBTQ+ community should never go without punishment. 

“There are so many problems that contribute to the issue,” King said. A good starting point would be people calling out their friends more, although she does believe there is one easy answer to make Naches a more inclusive community.  

Even though her time in Naches has been anything but easy, King tries to look for the best in people and approaches every situation with a “not everything is black and white” attitude. 

Even though there are lots of conflicts with being a queer person in the town, having strong and supportive friendships with people who share the same struggles is important to overcoming the hatred and discrimination. 

If they could all leave and go somewhere else King, Charlet, Edgerly-Arciga and Ellenberger would. 

“They are not cool, and they are jealous,” Charlet said is the cause for discrimination against queer people.  

“Things get better,” Edgerly-Arciga reminds herself through all of their struggles.