by LINDA FRABL | photos by Zeena Gregg Photography

Sisters Speak Out

Gender identity is a hot topic, whether it be recent advances in marriage equality or Academy Award-nominated movies. In spite of the media’s focus on gender issues, however, there is still much to learn. Poway High school seniors and twin sisters, Alyssa and Emily Johnson, are doing their part to increase public awareness.


Alyssa, who re-opened her school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club, is working on a senior project documentary on gender. She also discusses gender through her speech and debate club, via the Original Prose and Poetry speech competitions. Alyssa elaborated, “A lot of people limit themselves to a certain label and all the things that come with it, but really everything, including gender, should be seen as a more fluid thing in people’s lives. No one should feel limited by their own body.”


Name: Alyssa Johnson (17)
School: Poway High School
Grade: 12
Parents: Rebekah and Eric Van Johnson
Favorite Place in 92064: Lake Poway and Iron Mountain


Name: Emily Johnson (17)
School: Poway High School
Grade: 12
Parents: Rebekah and Eric Van Johnson
Favorite Place in 92064: Old Poway Park

student_johnson3As the GSA’s vice president and co-founder, Emily concurred, “I’m most inspired by the hope that my children will live in a better world than I did.” Emily is also in her school’s Safety Wellness Advocacy Community Coalition, where she works towards ending sexual abuse in San Diego. As a survivor of an assault (her case is awaiting trial), Emily gives speeches about overcoming the trauma, and she’s writing a play about what happens after an assault. Emily also interns at state senator Joel Anderson’s office.

student_johnson4Both Alyssa and Emily keep physically active as members of their school’s varsity water polo team, yet they also enjoy displaying their artistic sides. Alyssa takes AP Art, and has won awards for her paintings. She aspires towards becoming a museum curator and hopes to participate in ancient world digs as an archeology professor. Emily sings in her school choir and adores sculpting ceramic pieces. After attending junior college, she wants to apprentice at a tattoo parlor and create elaborate skin art masterpieces.

“No one should feel limited by their own body.”

As residents of Poway’s Garden Road neighborhood, Alyssa exclaimed, “I love the feeling of living in a small town with all the opportunities of a larger city.” Many of those opportunities can be found at Poway High, where Emily professed, “I love how diverse the classes are; the courses really helped me figure out what I want to do in life.” We know both girls will continue to be game changers who will never let their expressive viewpoints be repressed.