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May 09, 2016

At the GLSEN Respect Awards, we recognize exemplary role modelsstudents, educators, individuals and corporationsthat have made a significant impact on the lives of LGBT youth. At the event in New York later this month, one of the role models we're recognizing is Amber Schweitzer, a teacher at Castle View High School in Castle Rock, Colo., who is GLSEN's Educator of the Year.

We spoke with Amber, who teaches yoga, adventure, dance and health, about what motivates her as an educator and what suggestions she has for for creating an inclusive curriculum, leading a new GSA and using GLSEN resources. Check out what our Educator of the Year has to say!

1. Why did you decide to become an educator? ​

I haven't been asked this question since I started teaching 18 years ago! My WHY: I have always wanted to make an impact. I have never wanted fame, but I do want to be "that one teacher" who sparks the passion inside of students and creates the desire to discover things about themselves and to be comfortable with who they are. Looking back at my very first "Teacher Philosophy," I wanted to make a difference in the health and mental well-being of students who can benefit from guidance.

2. What do you love most about being an educator? ​

I love a lot of things about being an educator. But what I love most is reaching those students who seem unreachable.

That boy who failed my class last year because he only showed up five times...well, he's back. This time, he is two days out of juvenile detention center. He is refusing to participate, but I tell him I'm glad to see him every day he comes to class. Then, I sit and talk with him during class for nearly 45 minutes. I listened to what he experienced, asked a few questions and told him how amazing I think he is for having such a mature perspective.

Now, that boy who failed is the boy who asks me about my kids and hugs me every time he leaves class. Everyone told me, "Good luck with him!" Well, I reached him. I found that spark and created that connection, and I know I'm "that teacher" for him. ​

I find that I usually have a couple of students like this in each class, and I love making that connection! These connections drive me to spring out of bed in the morning, so I can be with my students.​ ​

3. How do you incorporate lessons of respect in your curriculum?

Respect is the foundation of every lesson I teach.

My primary responsibility at Castle View is to teach and develop the yoga program. Each yoga workout is themed, and the title of each workout sets a cue for each student's intention. The themes are rooted in respect and self-empowerment. For example, the very first workout is "Perfect, Just the Way You Are." During the warm-up, I affirm that each person is perfect just the way they are, encourage them to give themselves permission to be perfect just the way they are, and respect that every individual around them is also perfect just the way they are.

Then, as we move into the workout, the music also supports the theme: P!nk's "Perfect," Nirvana's "Come as You Are," and Boyce Avenue's cover of "Just the Way You Are." The music seems to empower and inspire the theme while opening the students up to the vulnerable state of accepting themselves and others. After final relaxation, which, of course, matches the theme, the students leave class with a little more respect for themselves and for everyone else in their life.

4. What is the number one lesson you hope students take away from your classes? 

The most important lesson I hope my students learn in my class is acceptance of self. I would love to expand that to acceptance of others, and for many students, it comes naturally when they learn to accept themselves. I am so fortunate to have the class load to present this self-acceptance curriculum.

5. As state legislatures across the country are trying to limit the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming students, how do you make sure your classes are inclusive of these students? ​

I am fortunate to be at a school that celebrates individuality. However, even in an inclusive environment, we do struggle with finding equality. Castle View is currently in the beginning stages of introducing unisex restrooms. As a physical education teacher, I deal with the issue of appropriate locker room use for our transgender and gender non-conforming students. We do offer a safe, non-gender-specific restroom for students who do not feel comfortable selecting a locker room to use while dressing out ​for physical education classes

6. What advice do you have for educators trying to build their schools’ GSAs?

As an educator who is only a couple of years into building a GSA, I am also open to any suggestions! My experience with building a GSA included finding a couple of passionate students who recruited friends, starting several social media platforms to let the school know we are here, and gaining the support of our administration. Now, it's just a matter of being visible and listening to the GSA members to set goals, advocate, socialize, and educate. We are just starting to grow—from the two members we had last year to over 30 members this year. And we have hopes of reaching even more!

We strive to value all genders and sexualities in our group, so every member knows that they are important to us as an individual, regardless of their gender or sexuality. What we have in common brought us together, and our individual strengths make us great!​ ​ ​

7. What tips do you have for educators trying to create an inclusive curriculum?

I challenge each and every educator to begin with the practice of opening their minds and spending a few moments in their students' shoes. It is only from multiple perspectives that we can truly embrace each student. Post affirming messages around your teaching area that create an expectation of equality and inclusivity. And, most importantly, put a stop to any bullying you witness. The common belief among students is that teachers need to be the first to step in with their expectations of respect for each individual.​

8. What GLSEN resources have you used, and how have you used them? ​

GLSEN is an endless resource! We have used several GLSEN resources and have plans to involve more. Our GSA is currently developing a Local School Climate Survey to analyze the needs of our student population. Our GSA is​ registered with GLSEN, and we use their regular GSA emails to find inspiration for projects and events and to make a connection to the greater LGBTQ community that thrives all over our country.

This year, our greatest impact came from our participation in GLSEN's Day of Silence. We had 216 students and two teachers take vows of silence! We also posted over 100 selfies for silence on social media with a very interactive lunchtime activity that was promoted by our GSA and administration.

Also, I recently joined the GLSEN Educator Network and have already been inspired by so many of the topics and ideas that are shared. 

 

 

April 29, 2016

High school is tough. Students like me are expected to juggle a social life and college readiness exams, while also completing various classes geared towards “creating effective leaders”—and keep on smiling through it all. The luckiest of us have an intricate web of sideline cheerleaders, from great friends to caring family members and sympathetic teachers.

Some of us only get one of the three. Those of us who cling on to a special teacher, because we may be lacking in these other areas of support, know about the unique bond you can have with this particular cheerleader. Having your go-to person within walking distance while you trudge through the battleground of high school is empowering.

Patrick Diemert was my cheerleader. To this day we still talk, and I consult him on any major decision in my life. He’s talked me off the ledge more times than I can count and pushed me towards fulfilling my biggest aspirations. We developed our bond over a year of U.S. History where I continually excelled under his supervision. I say supervision, because he wasn’t one of those overbearing teachers who felt they truly knew everything. He was this easy to talk to, approachable dude who helped me through some tough battles.

I had just come out as a lesbian the year before, so my sexuality was still a buzzing topic for many of my classmates. I wanted to die when a former girlfriend of mine was in that class. I cried and complained to him more times than I bet he wished to hear, but my favorite thing about coming to him was that he didn’t pity me. He didn’t pat my back and tell me everything would be fine. He was straight up with me; he talked to me like I was his equal, and these types of straightforward, respectful interactions really shaped me as a person. Now, my biggest fear is losing this intense bond I’ve created with this incredibly empowering man.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Patrick’s younger brother, Nick Diemert, a brand-spanking new teacher at Gulf Coast High School who teaches the same class as his brother. He’s my go-to when I need a laugh. Though Patrick also has a direct line to my funny bone, Nick is like a 17-year-old trapped in a 27-year-old body.

Teachers like these two inspiring adults are what push students to excel, and they deserve special attention during Teacher Appreciation Week.

Alyssa Candelmo is a student representative of GLSEN Collier County.

Have a teacher you’d like to thank? Show your appreciation during Teacher Appreciation Week by purchasing this bouquet from Teleflora for 20 percent off. Ten percent of proceeds will benefit GLSEN’s work to make schools safe and affirming for all students.

April 28, 2016

Hoy día la lucha sigue. La lucha para asegurar que todos los estudiantes se sienten libres ser quienes son sin el miedo del acoso, violencia, chistes, chisme, o bullying. Cuando pienso que es posible que las escuelas donde se educa la próxima generación no sea un lugar donde los jóvenes se sientan seguros ni apoyados por los de la comunidad, sé que es nuestro trabajo cambiar eso, especialmente para los estudiantes LGBT silenciados y marginados.

Soy educador, y uno de mis responsabilidades es asegurar que mis estudiantes son seguros para que puedan aprender. Todos los educadores necesitan aprender a apoyar a nuestros estudiantes por crear ambientes libres de la discriminación, abuso emocional, y abuso físico porque tal vez la escuela o aún un salón de clase sea el único lugar seguro para el joven.

Según la encuesta de GLSEN más reciente National School Climate Survey, los estudiantes que identifican como LGBT no se sienten seguros en escuela todo el tiempo. Los datos muestran que todavía hay una falta de recursos y representaciones de las personas LGBT en el plan de estudios, y solo 50% de los encuestados reportan tener un club de GSA (Alianza Hetero-Gay) en las escuelas. Para los estudiantes LGBT o los que quizá tenga padres o madres que identifican como LGBT, es preciso que los educadores traten de ser aliados para hacer una diferencia para estos estudiantes y las comunidades enteras.

Teniendo todo en cuenta, me gustaría destacar el Kit Espacio Seguro,la versión en idioma español del Safe Space Kit de GLSEN para su uso en los EE. UU. y Puerto Rico.El Kit incluye una guía que tiene los detalles para educadores de cómo y por qué es importante ser un/a aliado/a de estudiantes LGBT. Este recurso les dará al educadores las ideas y preguntas para asegurar que sus escuelas son lugares donde los estudiantes LGBT pueden sentir seguros y orgullosos. 

La visibilidad de adultos aliados que pueden escucharles y ofrecerles a los jóvenes algún recurso puede cambiar la vida de un joven para siempre. Tengo que preguntarme: ¿Cuál es lo que les digo a mis estudiantes y cuál es lo que no les digo? En cada situación, tengo que reconocer que algo que digo pueda cambiar la vida de uno de mis estudiantes.

Me acuerdo de los buenos modelos que he tenido en mi vida y cómo ellos me escucharon y me apoyaron. Su presencia y apoyo eran lo que me ayudaron durante los tiempos difíciles en la escuela. Confié en ellos y debido a su sabiduría y consejos, soy quien soy hoy.  

Espero que te juntes conmigo en nuestro trabajo con GLSEN y que asegures que tus salones de clase o espacio es seguro para todos. 

Gary DiBianca es un educador de español y el Co-Chair de GLSEN Northeast Ohio.

 

 

A New Resource for a Safe Space 

Today the struggle continues. The struggle to ensure that all students feel free to be who they are without fear of harassment, violence, jokes, gossip, or bullying. When I think about the possibility that a school, where the next generation is educated, is not a place where young people feel safe and supported by the community, I know it's our job to change that, especially for the LGBT students who may be silenced and marginalized.

I am an educator, and one of my responsibilities is to ensure that my students are safe so that they can learn. All educators need to learn how to support our students by creating environments free of discrimination, emotional abuse, and physical abuse because it’s possible that school or a classroom is the only safe place that a student has.

According to GLSEN’s most recent National School Climate Survey, students who identify as LGBT do not feel safe in schools all of the time. It also shows that there is still a lack of resources and representation of LGBT people in school curriculum, and only 50 percent of those surveyed report having GSAs in schools. For LGBT students or those who have parents who identify as LGBT, educators must try to be allies in order to make a difference for these students and the community at large.

Taking everything into account, I would like to highlight Kit Espacio Seguro, the Spanish-language version of GLSEN’s Safe Space Kit for use in U.S. and Puerto Rico. The Kit includes a guide that has details for educators on how and why it’s important to be an ally to LGBT students. This resource will give educators ideas and questions to ensure that their schools are places where LGBT students can feel safe and proud. 

The visibility of adult allies who can listen and offer young people a resource can change the life of a young person forever. As a teacher, every day I remember the importance of the words I say. I must ask myself: What am I telling my students and what am I not? In every situation I have to recognize that something I say can change the life of one of my students.

I remember the good role models I've had in my life and how they listened and supported me. Their presence and support was what helped me during the difficult times in school. I trusted them and because of their wisdom and advice, I am who I am today.

I hope you join me in GLSEN’s work and you make sure that your classroom or space is safe for everyone.

Gary DiBianca is a Spanish teacher and Co-Chair of GLSEN Northeast Ohio.

 

   

April 27, 2016

April is National Poetry Month! This month marks the 20th anniversary of the celebration led by the American Academy of Poets, and GLSEN takes part by recognizing the remarkable contributions of LGBT poets to our literary culture. Read on about how four LGBT poets have made their mark.

 

Saeed Jones, who graduated from Rutgers University-Newark with an MFA in Creative Writing, is the author of Prelude to Bruise, his debut poetry collection that explores themes like gender, sexuality, race and power. A queer person of color originally from the South, Jones runs the blog For Southern Boys Who Consider Poetry to inspire other queer poets of color. Click here to listen to him read some of his poetry.

 

Originally from Jamaica, Staceyann Chin is a lesbian spoken-word poet and LGBT political activist. Co-writer of Tony-nominated Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, Chin has published works such as Stories Surrounding My Coming and The Other Side of Paradise: A Memoir. Last year, Equality Forum named her one of the 31 icons of LGBT History Month.

 

Trace Peterson is the author of the poetry collection Since I Moved In; editor/publisher of EOAGH, a literary journal focused on queer poetry; and co-editor of Troubling the Line: Trans and Gendequeer Poetry and Poetics. A Lambda Literary Award Nominee, Trace is pushing for more transgender representation in poetry; she taught the first-ever Transgender Poetry course at Hunter College.

 

In the 1970s, Tim Dlugos participated in the Mass Transit poetry readings in Washington, D.C. and later was active in the Lower East Side literary scene in New York, serving as contributing editor to Christopher Street magazine. His numerous works include High There, Je Suis Ein Americano, and Strong Place. He is particularly known for his depictions of the AIDS epidemic in his work.

Despite the contributions of these poets and countless others, only 8.4 percent of LGBT students reported that they were taught positive representations of LGBT-related topics in their English classes, according to GLSEN’s most recent National School Climate Survey. Did you learn about LGBT poets in school, or do you teach them in your classes? Whether you’re a student or an educator, think about how to include LGBT poets in your next GSA meeting or as part of an LGBT-inclusive curriculum.

 

 

April 18, 2016

Last Friday was GLSEN's Day of Silence, when thousands of students across the country pledged to remain silent for the day to symbolize the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. Alongside these students, supporters took to social media to champion the cause.

Although some state legislatures across the country are working to limit the rights of LGBT students, especially transgender students, there are countless people who care about improving school climates, and we want to make sure all LGBT youth know that so many people have their back. Here are just five of these people.

 

 

April 14, 2016

Silence. 

That’s what I heard from my mother as I painted a cardboard sign that I would hang around my chest at school that day. She said nothing during my early-morning scramble to finish the sign, which had in bold red letters statistics about the plight of LGBTQ youth. She didn’t even really look at me.

It was 2010 and I was a 12-year-old outcast. I was queer, nestled uncomfortably within a tight-knit conservative Michigan town. My first GLSEN Day of Silence really shouldn’t have been much different than every other day — I was used to the anxiety of a mouth clenched shut. I spent most of my time hiding in the bathroom.    

But that day was different. It was at two o’clock that morning that I came out to my mother. She hadn’t reacted well; I wanted to scream. I didn’t.

As I handed out speaking cards to whoever harassed me about not volunteering in class, word began to spread through the school of what I was doing. A boy named Trent followed me to my band class screaming that he hated gay people and wanted to kill them all, all while laughing.

(The next day I mentioned this to my history teacher. She laughed and said she was surprised I let him get to me.)

But other people began to engage with me for a different reason — they wanted to take the oath of silence, too. After an impressive pantomime campaign, we made copies of my speaking cards, and by the end of the day, six or seven people had joined in, to varying degrees of success. Sometimes they spoke because they had to, or snickered about something at lunch. But, quickly, they would shut up again. They were devoted.

When I saw them purse their lips in silence, I saw myself. They were telling the world about me, without even saying a word.

When the ending bell rang that day and I took a breath and spoke, finally, it was the first time that I felt that my small voice was a sacred one.

Silence itself is not power. In fact, it is the very lack of power in having no voice that makes GLSEN’s Day of Silence significant.

When we gather together and sanctify a day in the name of vulnerable silence, we bless the voice with a significance beyond measure. Yes, LGBTQ youth often don’t have a choice of whether or not to be silent, but on GLSEN’s Day of Silence, we recognize this. We hold a memorial for all the words unsaid. We mourn the suppression of LGBTQ voices. Silence is ours — and when we show that silence is a tool of oppression, we reject the idea that it is normal, it is acceptable, for us to be shut up by our environments. We claim our voices, and we reclaim our silence.

This year will mark my sixth Day of Silence. In some ways I am still that nervous queer kid I was in 2010 — every year, I still struggle to maintain composure throughout the day. I still need lots of support.

But in recognizing the importance of my voice on that day in April so many years ago, I forever altered my future. I unapologetically broke the silence again and again — no matter how far away I was pushed from the general public, I would not be quiet.

I was queer, and I would not be crushed by my own shame anymore. I would not apologize for my honesty. I would fight with every teacher who told me not to write about queerness in class. I would argue with every substitute teacher who dead-named me. I would become an activist. I would speak to teachers and students about the necessity of supporting LGBTQ kids. I would become the president of my GSA. I would talk. I would talk, and talk, and talk, until the sensation of a cotton-ball dry mouth felt like success.

Silence.

That’s what I heard from my mother recently as I detailed my action plan for the next few weeks. I had to give public comment to the Michigan school board about transgender student policies (pictured left). I had to organize the sign-up for the GLSEN Day of Silence at my school and get together the Day of Silence “Survival Pack” goody bags I had promised. I had an interview with a radio station coming up soon. She was looking at me with her eyebrows knitted together. 

She spoke.

“I am… so proud of you, you know that?”

It hits me that this time, when I am speechless, someone will take notice.

 

Aiden Ramirez-Tatum is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.

Photo Credit Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

 

April 11, 2016

This Friday, thousands of students across the country will participate in GLSEN's Day of Silence, a daylong vow of silence symbolizing the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. After taking a vow of silence throughout the day, students often break the silence with an event hosted by a student group, community organization, or local GLSEN Chapter. Check out the list below to see whether a local GLSEN Chapter is hosting an event near you. 

 

Arizona

Phoenix

GLSEN Phoenix
Breaking the Silence Masquerade Dance
7-10 p.m. on April 15
Email Sean at seanno@glsenphoenix.org for more info.

Florida

Tampa

GLSEN Tampa Bay
Breaking the Silence Rally
6-8 p.m. on April 15
Sacred Grounds Coffee House
MORE INFO

Kansas

Wichita

GLSEN Greater Wichita
2nd Annual National Day of Silence/Breaking the Silence Event
3:30-6:30 p.m. on April 14
A Price Woodard Park
MORE INFO

Maryland

Baltimore

GLSEN Baltimore
Breaking the Silence 2016
5 p.m. on April 15
Washington Monument
MORE INFO

Missouri 

Kansas City

GLSEN Greater Kansas City
Break the Silence Rally
4-6 p.m. on April 15
Mill Creek Park and LIKEME Lighthouse
MORE INFO

Springfield

GLSEN Springfield
Breaking the Silence
5-7 p.m. on April 14
Big Momma's Coffee and Espresso Bar
MORE INFO

Nebraska

Omaha

GLSEN Omaha
Night of Noise
5:30-7:30 p.m. on April 15
72nd and Dodge
MORE INFO

New York

Albany

GLSEN New York Capital Region
Breaking the Silence Rally
4-10 p.m. on April 15
Empire State Plaza
MORE INFO

Kingston

GLSEN Hudson Valley
Breaking the Silence Dance
7-10 p.m. on April 15
Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center
MORE INFO

Ohio

Columbus

GLSEN Columbus
Day of Silence Film Fundraiser
5:30 p.m. on April 15
Gateway Film Center
MORE INFO

Fairlawn

GLSEN Northeast Ohio
Night of Noise
7-10 p.m. on April 15
UU Church of Akron
MORE INFO

Tennessee

Nashville

GLSEN Middle Tennessee
Sparkle & Shine Stomp H8 Queer Youth Prom
5-8 p.m. on April 16
Belmont United Methodist Church
MORE INFO

Washington

Ellensburg

GLSEN Washington State
Ellensburg Night of Noise
7-10 p.m. on April 15
Central Washington University
MORE INFO

Richland

GLSEN Washington State
Ti-Cities Night of Noise
4:30-6:30 p.m. on April 15
Rollarena
MORE INFO

Seattle

GLSEN Washington State
Seattle Night of Noise
6 p.m. on April 15
Cal Anderson Park
MORE INFO

 

April 08, 2016

Each year, thousands of students across the country participate in GLSEN’s Day of Silence, a daylong vow of silence symbolizing the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. This year’s Day of Silence takes place next Friday, April 15, and students from all 50 states and many different countries will participate.

Planning a Day of Silence event at your school or in your community may seem daunting, but GLSEN’s Day of Silence team is here to help. Here are 11 things you can do to prepare.

1. Register your participation. Visit dayofsilence.org/register to let GLSEN know that you’ll be participating in the Day of Silence. Your registration helps us to stay in touch with you and allows us to know just how many people are committed to GLSEN’s Day of Silence each year. 

2. Inform your school’s administration of your plan to participate. It’s a courtesy to let your school know that students will be observing GLSEN’s Day of Silence. Request a meeting with your principal, student affairs official, or other administrator to tell them about your plans. Be prepared to share approximately how many students will be participating, and answer any questions respectfully. Check out this letter to schools from the ACLU for help with discussing GLSEN’s Day of Silence with school officials.

3. Hold a Day of Silence meeting. Whether you hold an open GSA meeting or a meeting specifically dedicated to GLSEN’s Day of Silence, choose a time and place where students can gather to discuss the Day of Silence and pledge to participate.

4. Hang up posters and flyers. Print out GLSEN’s Day of Silence posters or create your own, and hang them around your school or LGBT community center to spread the word about the Day of Silence. Include contact information for yourself or your GSA advisor in case potential participants have questions.

5. Make an announcement to the student body. Does your school have morning or afternoon announcements over the PA system? Ask if you can make an announcement about the Day of Silence in the days leading up to April 15.

6. Talk to your teachers. You have the right to be silent at school during non-instructional time, but you do not have the right to remain silent during class time if a teacher asks you to speak as part of class participation. To prevent any conflict, talk to your teachers before the Day of Silence and ask if there is a way for you to participate in class while remaining silent. For example, some teachers hold a silent lesson or allow students to communicate only in writing.

7. Gear up. Today is the last day to order official Day of Silence gear from the GLSEN Shop to get it in time for April 15. Stock up on t-shirts, stickers, buttons, and temporary tattoos, and make sure to use discount code SILENCE to get 30% off your order. You can also show your support by wearing other GLSEN gear, rainbow attire, or the color red.

8. Have a plan in case of pushback. Some schools may try to prevent you from participating in GLSEN’s Day of Silence. If this happens, reach out to Lambda Legal for guidance and to determine whether legal action is appropriate. It may be helpful to review GLSEN’s Addressing Resistance to the Day of Silence resource in advance.

9. Pass out speaking cards. In the days leading up to the Day of Silence, print out and distribute GLSEN’s Day of Silence speaking cards, which explain why participants are being silent. Encourage students to carry the card around on the Day of Silence as a way of silently answering questions about their participation. Don’t want to print out cards? You can also set the speaking card text as your cell phone background to show anyone who asks about the Day of Silence.

10. Be silent. On April 15, participate in GLSEN’s Day of Silence in whatever way feels right and safe to you. Some students don’t speak all day, while others take a vow of silence on social media. Don’t forget your speaking card and your Day of Silence gear!

11. Break the silence together. Plan a time and place where Day of Silence participants can gather at the end of GLSEN’s Day of Silence, such as the GSA advisor’s classroom or a space outside. This is where participants will speak for the first time all day and reflect on their experiences. Review GLSEN’s Breaking the Silence resource for guidance.

If you have any questions about how to organize a Day of Silence event, GLSEN’s Day of Silence team is available to support you at info@dayofsilence.org. Have a great Day of Silence!

 

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.

 

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