When I was little boy my family used to call me Benito in honor of five-time Mexican President Benito Juárez. It wasn’t because I showed potential of brilliant leadership at 6 years old or that I looked like him, it was simply because I was born on his birth date. I never embraced the name mostly because I didn’t understand the importance of this man to my family and partly because I just wanted to be myself.
It wasn’t until adulthood when taking a Modern Mexico class that I found out Benito’s legacy was that of progressive politics and equal rights for all. His most famous quote is:
"Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace."
I would have never guessed that 20 years after I was last called Benito; the above quote would become the motto and inspiration for my work. Since joining GLSEN, the most common question I have been asked has been “why did you decide to work for GLSEN?” My answer has been that I empathize with the mission of ensuring that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
After working here for two weeks and having time to reflect on this question my answer has changed just a bit. I work for GLSEN because I am passionate about respect and because I understand the importance of appreciating young people for being themselves.
As a young kid my family called me Benito because they had high hopes that I would be a leader just like my iconic birth date twin. As I got older I knew I wouldn’t be like him but that I could apply lessons I learned from him to my work. GLSEN provides me with an opportunity to carry out a mission that is based on ensuring respect for the rights of everyone and according to Benito: peace!
We're excited to announce a new partnership with the Ad Council and Talenthouse inviting artists to submit a public service announcement (PSA) that reflects the theme of GLSEN’s Think Before You Speak campaign, which is raising awareness among teens about the impact of anti-LGBT language. Directors Brett Ratner, Tom Ford and Evan Bernard are serving as curators for the project and will help determine the new PSA. The winner will receive an award presented by Brett Ratner at GLSEN's Respect Awards - Los Angeles.
Learn more about the partnership
Contest details and submit your own PSA at http://www.talenthouse.com/create-psa-glsen-brett-ratner-tom-ford
Do you know someone who should submit? Send them this article or post it to your social networks so they can get started
Last month, Robert, our Director of Training and Curriculum Development, forwarded me four Team Respect Pledges to post on Changing The Game: The GLSEN Sports Project. I looked down to see that they were all from Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, MD. Right down the road from my home in Montgomery County.
I soon learned the story behind these four pledges: Chris Murray, a straight teacher and coach at WJ is on a mission to get every single team at his school to take GLSEN's Team Respect Challenge. And he wants Walter Johnson to be the first school in the country to have 100% participation.
Take a look at this video that Chris made sharing his story and offering a challenge to you.
Will you step up and commit to getting the teams at YOUR school to take the challenge? I'll be looking up the coaches and administrators at my high school to ask them to step up. If you want be an advocate for respect in athletics, you can commit to working with your K-12 sports teams to take GLSEN's Team Respect Challenge. We'll follow up with you, providing resources and other materials so that together we can change the game.
And help us spread the word about the Team Respect Challenge. Share this blog post on your Facebook profile. Or tweet about it using #RespectChallenge and @glsen in your update.
It's here! We are excited to make the debut of Xelle's newest single, "Invincible." This inspiring song and touching video is sure to make your toes tap. I've already added it to my running playlist. Not only is it a great song, Xelle is generously donating proceeds from the single to GLSEN. We'll be putting that to work in our efforts to ensure schools are safe for every student, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
The message of respect and self-love resonates throughout this video. Take a look!
You can buy the single on iTunes.
We want to know: What makes you invincible?
Let us know in the comments below!
News broke this week that anti-LGBT group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) sent home fliers to students in Montgomery County schools advertising potentially harmful ideas about so-called conversion therapy.
Montgomery County has a long-standing tradition of allowing groups to send fliers home. After a court decision in 2006, the county's new policy is to allow any registered non-profit group to send home fliers at four times during the school year. As MyFox DC points out, these fliers are normally from the PTA or a Girl Scout troop. This is not the first time PFOX sent their flier home with students, and its not the first time they have drawn the ire of parents, students and educators alike.
Thankfully, Montgomery County, though forced to distribute the flier, has not taken a neutral position. Superintendent Joshua Starr said the fliers are "reprehensible and deplorable," according to NBC 4 in Washington.
In case you were wondering, so-called conversion therapy has been thoroughly debunked and discredited by a coalition of 13 national medical and mental health organizations. Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators, and School Personnel is an amazing resource that serves as a guide for school employees who confront sensitive issues involving lesbian, gay, and bisexual students. It is intended to help school administrators foster safe and health school environments, in which all students can achieve to the best of their abilities.
I grew up in Montgomery County, Maryland and attended Montgomery County Public Schools for kindergarten through 12th grade and while my school wasn't perfect, it was safe. Montgomery County has an enumerated anti-bullying policy. Schools are full of thriving Gay-Straight Alliances. Our county's non-discrimination laws include protections for transgender people. There were multiple openly gay teachers at my school. Openly gay students are everywhere: from the varsity track team to the school's theater productions.
While the message of PFOX is troubling and problematic, the good thing is that Montgomery County has a foundation for respect. The same thing is not true in all school districts. Growing up is hard enough, schools should be places of safety and support. That's why I work at GLSEN and that's why GLSEN's work is so important. Research like the National School Climate Survey and Playgrounds and Prejudice, give us a clear understanding of what school is really like. And resources such as the Jump Start Guide for Gay-Straight Alliances and Ready, Set, Respect! give students and educators specific tools to foster a climate of respect.
I look forward to the day when there simply isn't any group who would want to send home such a flier. Until then, we must all work to ensure that schools are safe for every student, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
If you'd like to do something concrete to help make schools safe, here are two suggestions:
- Sign-up for updates from GLSEN. We'll keep you updating on a variety of ways you can get involved from emailing your senator to signing a petition.
- Send a Safe Space Kit to your school. I made sure that my middle school and high school each have a kit. You can designate a school of your choice to receive a kit. The kit contains resources for educators and "Safe Space" stickers and posters that teachers can display to indicate they are a safe place for LGBT students.
At Bettendorf Middle School in Iowa, students had a “Walk In Another's Shoes Day” to demonstrate every child’s different personalities.
At Greenwood Elementary in Wakefield, Massachusetts, two students made a Monday morning announcement over the school public address system:
“Good morning! Remember we are all different and unique. Let’s celebrate our differences. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but mean words can tear holes in your spirit.”
And at Hammond Elementary School in Columbia, Maryland, guidance counselor Patty Smith led students in an “activity of the day” to affirm the goal of mutual respect for one another:
- on Wednesday, each student was asked to say one positive thing to someone they don’t know;
- on Thursday, they wrote “Kindness grams” to deliver to peers they don’t usually hang around with;
- and on Friday, all students and staff dressed in blue and gold — the school colors — as a show of unity against name-calling and other forms of bullying.
These are just a few of the creative and impactful ways that students and teachers across our country observed No Name-Calling Week 2012.
No Name-Calling Week was a tremendously positive way to deliver GLSEN’s message of respect for difference and diversity. And it’s an event made possible largely by your generous contributions.
In Tennessee, state legislators advanced a bill to actually protect bullies by shielding them from disciplinary action or other intervention if their name-calling and torment is based on “religious freedom.”
It’s a sad day in our country when “religious freedom” is defined as the right to make a vulnerable young student’s life miserable and unsafe.
This is precisely why events like No Name-Calling Week, and GLSEN’s National Day of Silence in April, are so very important. We must continue to beat the drum that bullying and name calling are wrong in every circumstance, in every school, and when directed at any student.
Today, December 1, marks Worlds AIDS Day. At GLSEN and in my personal life, I am taking a moment to remember the impact HIV/AIDS has on millions of people around the world. We are thankful for the tireless of activists, educators, medical health professionals, policymakers, parents, children and friends.
HIV/AIDS affects people of all ages. UNAIDS report on the global AIDS epidemic found that every hour, 30 children die as a result of AIDS.
Students in schools in the USA live with HIV/AIDS and have family affected by HIV/AIDS. It's my hope that these students will be able to live safe, healthy, full lives. I am thankful for every person working to eradicate new HIV infections and to ensure that those living with HIV have happy and healthy lives.
David Barr was a young man when the first cases of AIDS were diagnosed. While many people he knew were getting sick and dying, Barr began working in the community to fight the epidemic. The work of Barr and his colleagues changed the response to AIDS in the U.S. and galvanized the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
David's story is featured in Unheard Voice, a project by GLSEN, the Anti-Defamation League, and StoryCorps. You can listen to his story or read a transcript by visiting glsen.org/unheardvoices.
Brian Gerald Murphy is the online strategies manager for GLSEN.
MTV Music Group's O Music Awards are set to invade Los Angeles on Halloween night to celebrate digital music counter culture. On Saturday, October 29th a livestream kicks off as O Music Awards attempts to set a world record live from the Roxy Theater on Sunset Strip.
Ventura County Superior Court Judge James Cloninger Monday set the preliminary hearing for 15-year-old murder suspect Brandon McInerney to July 8.
Brandon is accused of fatally shooting classmate Lawrence King on Feb. 12, 2008. You may remember Brandon's father was found dead of an accidental death back in March.
- Judge sets preliminary hearing for McInerney (Ventura County Star)
>Maddie Smith, 14, will be given the Queer Youth Leadership Award this Saturday at the Santa Cruz County Task Force awards ceremony.
Smith, who is an out bisexual eighth-grader, is an outspoken member of her school's Gay Straight Alliance and has worked to educate teachers and staff about bullying of queer youth. Before the November election, she wore anti-Proposition 8 T-shirts to school every day.
- Students, allies heralded for raising awareness of gay youth (The Mercury News: Central Coast)