March 31, 2016
In the past year alone, there has been an exponential increase in transgender visibility.
Many watershed moments in the past year have brought transgender issues into the public eye: Caitlyn Jenner’s interview with Diane Sawyer, Jazz Jennings’s reality show I Am Jazz, Laverne Cox being named one of the world’s most beautiful women by People, Jennicet Gutiérrez interrupting President Obama at a pride event to call for an end to LGBTQ immigrant detention, and the list goes on.
Visibility for transgender people is so important. It inspires people and gives them the hope and strength to be who they really are. In fact, the increase in transgender visibility gave me the courage to come out as gender nonbinary and start using my preferred pronouns last October. It’s amazing how recognition of transgender identities can affect a larger group of people on such a personal level.
Visibility also changes the attitudes of society. It can help to destigmatize transgender identities and open people’s minds. However, what the transgender community needs in this moment is more than visibility; what we need are rights, protection, justice, and acceptance. We have our visibility; now we need action. That’s why the theme of this year’s Transgender Day of Visibility, observed each year on March 31, is #MoreThanVisibility.
Despite 2015 being a landmark year for visibility, transgender people still experience shockingly high rates of violence and discrimination compared to their cisgender (non-transgender) peers. There were more reported murders of transgender people in 2015 than any other year. Most of the victims were transgender women of color.
According to the latest National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 6 percent of trans people have lost a job due to bias, 50 percent have been harassed on the job, and 20 percent were evicted or denied housing.
Finally, GLSEN’s most recent National School Climate Survey found that transgender and gender nonconforming students faced the most hostile school climates of all LGBT students, and a third of all LGBT students heard anti-transgender remarks frequently or often. This data is appalling, and something must be done to change these trends.
To combat these high rates of violence and discrimination, we need comprehensive legislation that protects transgender people, and we need to actively oppose bills that target this group. Recently, GLSEN helped defeat a so-called bathroom bill in South Dakota, House Bill 1008, which would have required students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their sex assigned at birth, not their gender identity.
Unfortunately, just last week in North Carolina, House Bill 2 was signed into law, which not only prevents transgender students from using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity, but also overrides LGBT protections in local ordinances statewide. We need to take action now.
Transgender communities do not deserve to be trivialized, and yet transgender people still face too many injustices to count. We can acknowledge the importance of transgender celebrities making headlines and TV shows portraying transgender people in a more positive light, but we must also acknowledge that this is not enough. There is still so much work to be done to ensure equality and justice for all, not just equality and justice for cisgender people.
Visibility is important, but so is action. On this Transgender Day of Visibility, it’s time we make it visible that we’re done with discrimination against transgender people. We can all take action by writing to our state legislators and telling them that we believe in more than visibility—we believe in justice.
Katie Regittko is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.
March 30, 2016
I have written a book called Truly Willa. It’s about my story as a trans child, before, during and after transition. The words in the book are my words and what I wanted to say. I had to practice writing and reading it to get the words just as I wanted them, but it didn't take long because I knew what I wanted to say. My mum and dad helped me put my words into sentences to make it proper for a book. It was brilliant writing the book, because I knew that it would help people out there who either are trans or have a trans person in their life.
Before transition, I walked through life knowing I was Willa, but society was saying that I wasn't Willa. I thought I was Willa, but then people flushed that down the toilet. I thought I was Willa, but I couldn't be because society said I couldn't. Society took that part of my childhood away.
Even the pain of having to go to school with really short hair. I felt like a girl with my hair taken from me. I know people treat people like me not very nice, and that needs to stop. People need to understand what hurts trans children and what situations they might have gone through. I think kids like me need books like mine to show them they are not alone, and society doesn't have to win. You can be who you are, who you know you really are!
Willa Naylor is the author of Truly Willa. Learn more here.
March 23, 2016
GLSEN Research is continually conducting new research to move GLSEN's mission forward, and we regularly share our latest findings with the academic community. Next month, the GLSEN Research Department will be presenting at conferences in Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC. We'll be at the Society for Research on Adolescence Biennial Meeting and the American Education Research Annual Meeting to present some of our latest findings. See below for more info, and follow @GLSENResearch on Twitter for the latest updates!
March 18, 2016
March is Women’s History Month! It’s a time to celebrate how women, including LGBT women, have shaped history. At GLSEN, we want to specifically recognize women in the LGBT community who have made a significant contribution to the movement for LGBT justice and for safe and affirming schools. Here are four of these women.
Tammy Baldwin is the first openly LGBT Senator in US history and one of the most progressive members of Congress. In 1999, Baldwin became the first Wisconsin woman elected to Congress and the first openly gay non-incumbent to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She served for seven terms, fighting for Wisconsin families, women, the middle class, veterans, affordable education, the environment and affordable health care. Upon her election to the U.S. Senate in 2012, Baldwin was the highest-ranking incoming senator due to her 14 years in the House. Learn more about Sen. Baldwin here.
At the time of her election, Kim Coco Iwamoto was the highest-ranking elected official in the United States who openly identified as transgender. Born and raised in Hawai’i, she attended law school in New Mexico and then returned home, where she volunteered while working as a civil rights attorney. She became a foster parent to several children in Hawai’i, which led to her involvement with the Hawaii Board of Education, to which she was elected in 2006. She has also participated in the Hawaii Board of Education’s Safe School Community Advisory Committee, the Hawai’i Teacher Standards Board, and the Career and Technical Education Coordinating Advisory Council. Learn more here.
Megan Rapinoe is an Olympic gold medalist and member of the U.S. women’s national soccer team. After attending the University of Portland, she helped the U.S. team place second in the 2011 FIFA World Cup and was honored by being named ESPN’s Next Level Player of the Week, among other honors. In 2012, she came out before taking part in the London Olympics, where she helped lead the U.S. to the gold medal. Just last year, Rapinoe helped the U.S. team capture the 2015 FIFA World Cup. She has been honored by the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center with a Board of Director’s Award for being a symbol of hope for LGBT people and has been a vocal supporter of GLSEN’s work. Learn more about Rapinoe here.
Deborah Batts is the first openly lesbian African American sworn into the federal judgeship in the United States. After being appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, she was hired by Fordham University School of Law, where she was the first African American faculty member. In 1994, Batts was nominated by President Clinton and confirmed by the Senate to the federal bench. She has been involved in numerous high profile cases and remains an active member of the Bar Association of the City of New York, the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, and the Lesbian and Gay Law Association of Greater New York. Learn more here.
These four LGBT women have made heroic contributions to our world, and they are among countless other women who have shaped history. Celebrate Women’s History Month by learning more about these and other history-making women here.
March 14, 2016
As a bisexual genderqueer person, I never saw or even imagined seeing myself in my classes. Then, in a college genetics class, I learned that there were biologically(!) more than two sexes. Then, in an animal behavior class, I learned that same-sex mating was pretty common in the animal kingdom. My major instantly became far more fascinating. Although early in college I had considered dropping my bachelor of science major and focusing on my bachelor of arts, my interest in what I was learning about gender and sexual diversity contributed to my sticking with my original plan.
Through my experience as a student and later as a high school science teacher, I recognized that LGBT inclusion in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curricula has a real effect on students’ choices. GLSEN’s research confirms this. According to GLSEN’s most recent National School Climate Survey, LGBT high school seniors whose STEM curriculum included positive LGBT content are twice as likely to choose a college major in those fields.
To me, this was no big surprise. We all have a desire to go to places where we belong, where there are people like us. Our choice in careers is not all that different from our choices in parties — we want to know who will be there and if we’re welcome before we go.
When students see themselves reflected in their curriculum and pursue STEM in college, they gain access to numerous opportunities. People with skills in STEM are in high demand for interesting and dynamic work making amazing new things and sometimes fundamentally changing the way we view the universe. STEM careers also pay well and provide a high level of job security.
While LGBT students benefit from an LGBT-inclusive STEM curriculum, STEM as a field benefits, too. When LGBT students see themselves reflected in their curriculum and choose STEM careers, diverse new perspectives are introduced into the field, which fosters new ideas and the growth of knowledge.
But what does an LGBT-inclusive STEM curriculum look like? For one, it acknowledges that nature loves gender and sexual diversity. In addition to there being more than two biological sexes, there are even animals who change their biological sex, individual animals with two sexes, and animals that have sex roles reversed from the stereotypes I had been raised learning. And same-sex mating is just the beginning of the diversity of sexual behavior in the animal kingdom. Sex, in nature, just as within human populations, has purposes far beyond reproduction that provide real benefits for individuals and their communities.
An LGBT-inclusive STEM curriculum is also one that acknowledges the lives of LGBT individuals in the field. For instance, Sally Ride was a physicist and astronaut. She was also a lesbian. Let’s talk about the whole lives of LGBT professionals in STEM so that anyone with the skills to go to space wants to get off the launch pad and go to that inclusive party in the sky.
Please encourage STEM teachers to be LGBT inclusive. There are countless reasons and opportunities to do so. Learn more about LGBT-inclusive curriculum here.
Mary Hoelscher, Ph.D. is currently out of their science classroom and working to help all teachers create inclusive classrooms as a school administrator in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
March 07, 2016
In January, members of GLSEN’s National Student Council (NSC), our student leadership team, attended the 2016 Creating Change Conference, a gathering of activists committed to the movement for LGBTQ justice.
At the conference, the NSC gave a workshop on reclaiming LGBTQ history – a history that is often erased. In fact, only 1 in 5 LGBT students reports that they were taught positive representations of LGBT people, history, or events in their classes. In the NSC’s workshop, the students spoke on how to remember those who have made LGBT history and how youth can make history today.
After the workshop, the students reflected on their experience:
“We built a giant LGBTQ timeline and went over the impact that it had on everyone. After building the timeline, we broke into small groups to narrow our discussions. My small group topic was gatekeeping history. Here my group discussed who has the right to filter history, and how we can break down barriers to where history can be all-inclusive of LGBTQ people.” -Zayne
“Our workshop space was intergenerational, which allowed for a variety of perspectives, and let the group hear from people who have seen our history recorded over the decades. Also, it was exciting to have a youth-led workshop that was actually youth-led. I loved having the chance to bring in my perspective as a queer southerner who does a lot of work in education policy.” -Nick
“Overall, the workshop we led was amazing, I didn't expect such a big turnout. I led the discussion group that focused on legacy. It was really cool getting to hear other perspectives on the importance of leaving lasting impressions of LGBTQ people on the earth.” -Cici
“The LGBTQ History workshop far surpassed what I ever could have dreamed of it being. Not only were we able to engage in wonderful group conversation with an audience that spanned all races, ages, identities, and experiences, but also our small groups provided zones where attendees felt safe enough to explore and share personal narratives and give us insight into their own histories.” -Peter
“In the discussion group I led on erasure, we discussed a variety of themes: the superficial framing of marginalized people in history, the emotional labor of educating and unlearning past trauma, and ways to tell the stories of people of color without being exploitative. Most importantly, we came to the conclusion that telling our own story is a revolutionary act and that being authentic and vulnerable is enough.” -Matthew
“So often, the media tries to tell our stories for us. By speaking up for ourselves we ensure that our authentic stories are told, and that protects a lot of our history. Mainstream media is getting better about representation. However, there is undeniably still a bias about what stories get told and which ones get forgotten. There are so many identities within the LGBT+ community, all of which deserve to have their stories highlighted.” -Lindsay
For the NSC members, it was also their first time experiencing the Creating Change Conference as a whole, and all of the unique opportunities to engage that it makes possible:
“I expected Creating Change to be revolutionary, and I left the conference transformed.” -Matthew
“Spaces like Creating Change provide me with so much hope. They remind me that I’m not alone.” -Lindsay
“It was amazing getting to be surrounded and validated by so many people that were just like me.” -Cici
“All in all, I couldn't have asked for a better weekend, and certainly couldn't have asked for better souls to experience it with. The NSC and GLSEN advisors never cease to amaze me. Each time we are together, every interaction drives deeper my longing to learn who I am, and more importantly dream of who I will become and the change that I will create.” -Peter
Overall, the students enjoyed the workshop and the conference as a whole, and they’re excited to continue presenting workshops that make school climates more positive for all.
February 26, 2016
February is Black History Month, a time for us to recognize the contributions of Black leaders to our world throughout time. For GLSEN, it’s a time not only to celebrate Black history as a whole, but also to recognize how Black individuals have contributed significantly to the LGBT community. Here are four of these people.
Marsha P. Johnson was a transgender rights activist and was one of the first people to fight back against the police at the Stonewall Inn in 1969, screaming for her civil rights. She along with Sylvia Rivera founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) in the early 1970s, and they were the mothers of STAR House, which was provided food, clothing, and housing to transgender and non-gender conforming youth in NYC, one of the first organizations to advocate for and support this population. Learn more about Johnson here.
James Baldwin was an author, activist, playwright, and essayist and was one of the first people to explore the intersections of race, class, and sexuality in fiction. He was highly active in the civil rights movement, taking part in marches and helping to mobilize and motivate African Americans to fight for their civil rights in the South. Books, such as Giovanni’s Room and Another Country, are some of the first pieces of literature with clear and outright examination of same-sex relationships. Learn more about Baldwin here.
Bayard Rustin was involved in countless boycotts, protests, and initiatives aimed at protecting the civil rights of all minority groups. He played a pivotal role in the Black Civil Rights movement as an advisor to Martin Luther King Jr. Leaders of the movement asked Rustin to stay out of the public spotlight, for fear of being associated with what was at the time his “illegal” life as a gay man. He continued to advocate for civil rights until his death in 1987, including LGBT rights, a cause he adopted later in his life. Read more here.
Barbara Smith is a black feminist, lesbian, activist, author, publisher and elected official. In 1974, she became a co-founder of the Combahee River Collective, an organization credited with developing one of the earliest definitions of intersectionality. At the suggestion of her friend Audre Lorde, Smith also founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, the world's first publishing company run solely by women of color. She also served two terms on the Albany, New York, Common Council and worked in the City of Albany Mayor's Office, addressing systemic inequalities in the city. Learn more here.
These individuals make up up only a fraction of Black LGBT heroes who have shaped history. Although Black History Month is coming to a close, the end of the month does not mean the end of the conversation about Black LGBT history. Regardless of the time of year, educators can include these individuals in their curriculum, and GSAs can discuss them as a club activity. Learn more here.
February 23, 2016
When I was 15, I came out as transgender. That same year, I was kicked out of multiple men’s bathrooms because I didn’t pass as male. Now, I don’t go in any men’s bathroom without a partner to protect me, because I’m afraid of being yelled at or assaulted.
It’s no better when I visit home in Tennessee, a place that isn’t known to be trans-friendly (at home, for example, it is impossible to legally change the gender marker on my birth certificate for any reason at all). There, I’m so afraid to be trans that I dress femininely, use the women’s bathroom, let people misgender and deadname me, despite how much I hate to. I avoid appearing trans at all costs.
Tennessee is one of 12 states that have had so-called “bathroom bills” this year in the legislature. Currently proposed in states that range from Illinois to Kentucky, these bills would force transgender students to use the bathroom or locker room that aligns with their “biological sex” rather than their gender identity.
These bills often advance because of rhetoric that erroneously labels trans people as “predators.” In truth, we are in the bathroom only to use the bathroom, not to hurt anyone. It’s our own safety that’s at risk: the majority of transgender students report avoiding bathrooms at school because of feeling unsafe or uncomfortable, according to GLSEN’s most recent National School Climate Survey.
The bill in South Dakota, HB 1008, has advanced the furthest in the country. Today, the bill arrived on the Governor’s desk, and in no more than five days it becomes law unless he vetoes it. If it becomes law, it will exacerbate the danger we feel and set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the country. Please tell Governor Daugaard to veto HB 1008. Send him a tweet here.
Emet Tauber is a student at Purchase College and a former GLSEN Student Ambassador.
February 15, 2016
Last month, GLSEN celebrated No Name-Calling Week, an annual GLSEN program created for students and educators to engage in dialogue about ending name-calling and bullying in their communities. During the week, we invite students, educators, and community members to document how their school is creating a culture of respect and celebrating kindness through artistic expression, and we collect these submissions for our annual Creative Expression Exhibit. Here are some highlights from our previous exhibits in 2014 and 2015:
1. Farah Sanford, 12th Grade, Arlington High School, Poughkeepsie, NY
2. Red Creek Middle School, Red Creek, NY
3. PS 77 Lower Lab, New York, NY
4. St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School, Washington, D.C.
5. North Boulevard Elementary School, Pompton Plains, NJ
GLSEN is now accepting submissions, whether video, images, or other media, for our 2016 Creative Expression Exhibit. Every submission will receive a GLSEN's No Name-Calling Week prize pack, and five will be selected at random to receive an even bigger prize. How did your school celebrate kindness?
February 12, 2016
A year and a half ago, I moved from the U.S.A. back to my hometown in Durango, Mexico, and my life changed dramatically.
Back when I was in New Jersey, I was my school's GSA president as well as a GLSEN Student Ambassador. While being queer was never easy for me, there was always someone who had my back; I was not alone. Back in Durango things changed rapidly: I went from being a senior in high school to a full-time ESL teacher at a very strict Christian school. Needless to say, things were very different: I wasn't out, I didn't have a GSA anymore, and there was no GLSEN Chapter I could go to. Suddenly, I was alone.
I struggled to find my place in my new environment. At work, teachers would openly shame students based on their gender expression or perceived sexual orientation. Students would use slurs and insult each other on a daily basis. As a teacher, I tried to offer my students a safe space, but there was only so much I could do. If my orientation ever came out, or even my status as an ally, my job was on the line.
Outside of school, things were not very different. Finding support was nearly impossible: many of my friends were openly biphobic or homophobic, and even my therapist told me that the first thing we needed to work on was my orientation, as people were always either gay or straight.
After a while, I realized that I couldn't just sit and do nothing. While I couldn't be very open about my identity, I turned to storytelling as a source of support. Whenever I saw my students hurt by the words of their peers, I would use stories to help the situation. Whenever I was feeling lonely or upset about the things that the people around me would say and do, I would be reminded that I wasn't the only one going through this. Through the Internet, I was able to find people in similar situations who had gotten through them and had been able to make a change.
Storytelling is important because our shared experiences make us stronger. Sharing your story can be very empowering, and knowing that we are not alone can give us the extra boost to keep going.
Sharing your story can help people see from your perspective and understand what you are going through. I have found that sharing stories is the most effective way to change people's attitudes about the LGBT community.
That’s why I’m sharing my story with IGLYO, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Intersex (LGBTQI) Youth and Student Organisation. For an upcoming international conference on anti-LGBT bullying, IGLYO is collecting stories from LGBTQI students around the world who have experienced homophobic and transphobic bullying in school. Ultimately, sharing experiences and learning about the experiences of others can help bring visibility to issues that are often ignored.
Being in Durango is still not easy, and I know we still have a long way to go before people fully accept the LGBT community. But I also know that I will always have a safe space online where I am loved and accepted.
Learn more about how to share your story with IGLYO here.
Paulina Aldaba is a former GLSEN Student Ambassador and current ESL teacher who will begin college in the fall.