October 21, 2015
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the results of the 2014 School Health Policies and Practices Study (SHPPS). The SHPPS provides nationally representative data about schools’ efforts to address the health of K-12 students, including lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) students.
Unfortunately, the results are not uplifting. Although the SHPPS finds that the portion of schools providing specific health services for LGB students has significantly increased since 2000, even now only about a third (35%) of U.S. high schools provided these LGB-specific services.
The study also found that only 17% of high school health service coordinators received professional development (PD) about LGB student health, and that only 38% of high schools had Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs). Through our research, GLSEN has found that professional development works and that both supportive educators and GSAs are critical to creating a positive school climate for all students, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth.
Luckily, GLSEN has resources to provide professional development and to help GSAs get started. Educators and students can use these resources to make change in their schools. Especially when implemented alongside LGBT-inclusive policies and curricula, professional development and GSAs have a positive impact on school climate.
The SHPPS findings on school’s efforts are not surprising given what we learned from LGBT students themselves. Most LGBT students are not provided with a health education that addresses their needs – less than 5% report being taught any positive information about LGBT people or topics in their health classes.
In 1999, with our initial National School Climate Survey, GLSEN gathered the first set of national data on the school experiences of LGBT youth. Over 15 years later, there is still little information on schools’ efforts to address the educational and health disparities for these youth. That’s why we applaud the CDC for their 2014 inclusion of LGB student health and GSAs in the SHPSS. It is the first time they included questions about GSAs, which is monumental.
Unfortunately, the 2014 SHPSS failed to include questions about health services for transgender youth, who are disproportionately victimized by harassment and are at especially high risk for substance use and other mental health issues. The inclusion of LGB students and GSAs in the SHPSS is a great start, but we need data on how schools are (or are not) addressing the health of transgender youth, too.
GLSEN recently worked with the U.S. Department of Education to add more specific questions about anti-transgender bias in schools to their School Survey on Crime and Safety. We hope that the CDC will follow suit by including questions about health services for transgender students in future installments of the SHPSS.
Truly LGBT-inclusive data is needed to understand school climate for LGBT youth and identify areas for improvement. But until then, this new SHPSS data does demonstrate the need for policies, training, and resources on LGB-inclusive health services and continued support of GSAs. Students, educators, policymakers, and community members can use these findings to advocate for change in their local schools and make schools healthy environments for all students.
Emily Greytak, PhD is the Director of Research at GLSEN.
October 19, 2015
October 14, 2015
This morning—like every other school day—parents across the country started their day by packing lunches, tying shoe laces, and walking their children to bus stops. As they send their children off to learn and grow each day, their minds often race with worries. Will my child make friends? Will she pay attention in class? Will he encounter bullies?
Parents have enough to worry about for their kids. The fear of bullying shouldn’t add to their concerns.
Unfortunately, for parents of LGBT youth—and for LGBT youth themselves—bullying is not just a concern. It’s often an everyday reality. According to GLSEN’s latest National School Climate Survey, 74 percent of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 55 percent because of their gender expression.
And it doesn’t stop there. LGBT students who routinely face bullying and discrimination are more likely to get lower grades, skip school, and drop out. They are also less likely to attend college. The result of bullying is clear: children lose hope and their opportunities diminish.
Hope and opportunity are values at the very heart of the communities that Wells Fargo serves. That’s why we are committed to standing firm against bullying, especially during Bullying Prevention Month. It’s also why, over the last several years, Wells Fargo has supported GLSEN’s goal of placing a GLSEN Safe Space Kit in every middle school and high school in the U.S.
Working together, we achieved that goal. Each Kit contains GLSEN’s Safe Space stickers, Safe Space posters, and GLSEN’s Guide to Being an Ally to LGBT Students. We hope that these simple tools help educators become allies to LGBT youth and show students they have the support they need—and provide the hope and opportunity to help them thrive.
The results are uplifting. A recent evaluation of GLSEN’s Safe Space Kit, which Wells Fargo was proud to support, shows educators who received the Kit are making a difference. Nine out of 10 taught their students about the importance of respecting all people. Three-quarters intervened when they witnessed anti-LGBT behavior, such as bullying and biased remarks.
For all of us at Wells Fargo, the success of this program shows that we can truly make a difference in the fight to end bullying. That's why Wells Fargo supports organizations such as GLSEN in their commitment to stopping the bullying of LGBT youth.
By investing in community outreach through efforts like the distribution of GLSEN’s Safe Space Kits, we hope to address the issue of bullying head-on and create an educational environment where all students can thrive and reach their maximum potential.
Hope Hardison is the Chief Administrative Officer and HR Director of Wells Fargo.
October 11, 2015
Everyone should learn these things in school because these things matter. But teaching them also matters. GLSEN’s most recent National School Climate Survey found that LGBT students in schools with an LGBT-inclusive curriculum felt more connected to their school community and were less likely to hear homophobic remarks often or frequently.
Unfortunately, only 19% of LGBT students were taught positive representations about LGBT history, people, or events in school. In fact, a number of states have laws that limit educators' ability to discuss LGBT issues in the classroom. But as this LGBT History Month comes to a close, you have the power to make change right now. Students, educators, and community members can go to school officials to advocate for LGBT inclusion in school curriculum.
These few things only scratch the surface of LGBT inclusion in school curriculum, and they only represent a snippet of LGBT history. In fact, LGBT history is made every day, by simple acts of respect and award-winning acts of bravery.
Photo Credit: (1) By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons (2) By NickGorton (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons (3) By Jon Callas from San Jose, USA (Alan Turing) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons (4) By New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
October 05, 2015
October 02, 2015
I cannot stress enough how important you are.
From leading policy change, to speaking out against bullying, to providing help to friends and loved ones—you make a difference. And GLSEN’s Ally Week is here to help you become a better ally to LGBT students.
Here are a few suggestions:
1. You can never stop learning and growing. I know speaking about gender and sexuality can be difficult, so always gauge how your questions will be received, and if they're necessary.
2. Be an ally to all people, all the time.
3. Learning to speak your truths and actively listen to others’ truths is the best way to progress toward understanding and change.
I hope you take this week to appreciate those in your life you're positively affecting, and maybe even your own allies. You can learn more about being an ally to LGBT youth on GLSEN’s Ally Week webpage.
Olly Kelly is a member of GLSEN's National Student Council.
October 01, 2015
No one should ever feel isolated.
I say this after years of constant isolation from my peers. Growing up in the middle of the Bible Belt, I am no stranger to watching prejudice unfold before my very eyes. There are so many expectations placed upon the youth here. For example, if you are not rich, white, straight, and of the Christian faith, you are an outsider.
I am not rich.
I am not straight.
I am not Christian.
It was not until I got into high school that I ever felt remotely comfortable in my skin. Why did things suddenly change for me? I found my allies.
An ally to me is someone that I feel comfortable around. An ally is an extension of my voice. There will certainly be times in life when I am not there to stand up for myself, and allies will shamelessly speak up in my place. An ally does not just accept who I am; an ally stands with me proudly.
A common misconception is that the only people who can be allies are people from “outside” of the LGBTQ+ community. This mindset casually overlooks the potential of people within this wonderful community to be allies to one another. As a Caucasian, pansexual woman (which means that my sexual attraction is not limited to any gender), I can offer my support and allegiance to transgender men and women of color. My support can go to gay men, to lesbian women, to gender-nonconforming individuals, to asexual people, and to everyone else in the spectrums of gender and sexuality.
If I were to only focus on supporting people just like myself, nothing would ever get accomplished. It is incredibly important that the LGBTQ+ community has internal support instead of internal isolation.
Allies are essential to progress. Like so many others, I have relied on allies for support when my life has felt turned upside down. By being an ally, no matter who you are or where you are, you have the opportunity to touch so many lives, some that you may never even know about.
Thank you to all of the wonderful allies. Together, let’s create change. Here are a few tips to consider:
1. Speak from your own experiences. Use your voice to tell your story. Where have you seen conflicts arise? What have you done to stop them? Tell that story.
2. Never assume what someone is comfortable with. Not everyone has the same past experiences. Not everyone has the same comfort zone either. Certain jokes or terms could seem lighthearted to you yet gut-wrenching to others.
3. Always speak up. If you see something wrong, say it. By calling out injustice rather than remaining silent, you can draw attention to issues and focus on resolving them. Be the change.
4. Provide support. Join a Gay-Straight Alliance, GLSEN Chapter, and/or any other club or organization dedicated to promoting respect for all. Get connected with others in your community that believe in the same things that you do. Many of them may face similar struggles. Support each other!
5. Stop giving excuses. There is always a way that you can contribute to your community. So instead of looking at the limitations, look at the possibilities!
If you want to know more about how you can be a better ally to LGBT youth, check out glsen.org/allyweek!
Lindsay D. is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.
September 30, 2015
I came out in eighth grade, accidentally. My friends caught wind that I was going out with someone, but they didn’t know who. Because of this, they poked and prodded until I gave a name that sounded a lot like my girlfriend’s name at the time. One of them caught on really quickly, talked to me privately about it, and she left it alone.
After she found out, she didn’t tell anyone. I let my girlfriend know that my friend knew, and that was the end of it.
Later that year, I came out to my parents as bisexual. I was in a relationship with a girl, and they were okay with it. They knew who she was, thought she was a good person, and left it at that.
This past January, I came out as demisexual (which means that sexual attraction requires an emotional connection). I told certain members of family and most of my friends, and I wasn’t outed to anyone I didn’t tell. In May, I came out as non-binary (which means to identify outside the male-female gender binary) to certain friends, and in June I started writing a blog about it.
Someone close to me found my blog and told me that he supported me and that I could talk to him if I wanted to. I did and I still do. I thought he would at least tell my mother, but he never outed me to anyone.
On September 6, 2015, I finally came out to all of my friends and family as non-binary. I wrote a long post on Facebook and offered resources on learning more about gender identities. I had been trying to think of the perfect time and way to come out for months, and it ended up being slightly randomly on a night when I realized that I was tired of not saying anything. I came out on my own terms to those who I didn’t already tell.
What is the point of this story, you ask? I came out on my own. Every time I came out, it was on my own.
My friends and allies knew that it was something that I needed to say, not something that they should tell to anyone. They knew that I was concerned about bullies, that I was concerned about how teachers would treat me if they knew, and that there had to be a level of comfort I had with a person to tell them. They knew that I had to come out on my own terms.
I came out multiple times, and I am still coming out as I make new friends. I am also a lot more comfortable and confident in coming out, and I find that I’m getting better about it. While I am in a place where I can come out more easily, my allies still don’t out me. They use my pronouns when talking about me to someone else, but they won’t specifically say that I’m non-binary. They let me explain how I identify, but still encourage the use of my preferred pronouns to those I haven’t come out to yet.
As an ally, you should understand that outing your friend really isn’t something you should do. Unless they explicitly say that you can tell others, don’t. If you don’t know if you can, ask your friend! That is always the best way to find out if they are okay with others knowing. There are many reasons why your friend could be uncomfortable with people knowing their sexuality/gender identity, and it is always best to respect their wishes.
Thanks for being an ally. To learn more about being a better ally to LGBT youth, check out GLSEN’s Ally Week webpage.
Therynn Ibert is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.
September 29, 2015
What does being an ally mean to you?
Is it a title that you can show off to your friends to exclaim how liberal and open-minded you are? Is it a way to rebel against society and be different? Or maybe it’s something you call yourself just because other people do it and you want to fit in.
To many people, being an ally is nothing more than a title. Some people think that this four-letter word only conveys whether or not someone is a good person. But what people often forget is what being a good ally actually entails. Sometimes, “allies” can get so caught up in the label that they forget what it actually means. So I pose to you this question: What does being an ally really mean?
It isn’t just something for straight people, which is a common misconception. Allyship relates to privilege, whether that be straight, cisgender, white, male, neuro-typical, able-bodied, or any other kind of privilege. Being an ally involves a constant awareness of our privileges, and a constant awareness of others’ oppressions. It requires knowing when to speak up and say something as an ally, and knowing when to step down and make sure you’re not speaking for anyone in an oppressed group. Mostly, being an ally is practicing tolerance, acceptance, and the willingness to fight with (not for) a marginalized group for equality and justice.
You don’t get to decide you’re an ally one day, write it on your social media bio, and rest there. Being an ally is not a resting place; that’s not how it works. It is a constant, working relationship. It’s something that requires flexibility, patience, and most importantly, action. Being an ally is not inert; it’s active. Ally is not a noun. It’s a verb. It’s not a crutch or an excuse for bad behavior. It’s not a “get out of jail free” card.
So, what can you do to become a better ally? Act. A huge part of being an ally is self-education and making sure that you are up-to-date on the relevant issues. Making sure you use the correct language when speaking about marginalized groups—and learning about the correct history of oppression—is also important. These are both good self-reflective actions you can take to become a better ally, and they will aid you in engaging in knowledgeable conversations in schools, being a part of the movements without being a dominant voice, and persistently challenging structures that hold up the cycles of oppression.
Being an ally is about finding the bravery in yourself to stand up against oppression whenever you see it instead of just choosing to walk away. Because while allies may have the luxury of walking away, individuals in marginalized groups don’t have that luxury. Allies might be able to check out of a conversation, but those in marginalized groups can’t check out of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or other identifying factors.
Sometimes, standing up against oppression will make you feel uncomfortable. But allyship is not about being comfortable. It’s about fighting oppressive powers, and supporting those who don’t have those powers.
Allies can never stop learning and striving to be better. There will always be places for growth in tolerance, education, and vocalization. Being an ally is a constant battle towards a lasting change, and it is supporters like you who can make that change a reality. As a minority group, the LGBTQ community alone may not be able to do all we want to, but with allies on our side, we are stronger.
Thank you for your endless support. Learn more about being a better ally to LGBT youth on GLSEN’s Ally Week webpage.
Katie Regittko is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.
September 28, 2015
By choosing to be a part of GLSEN’s Ally Week, you help your school community become more LGBT-inclusive and ensure that everyone in your school community is comfortable.
But first off, what does it mean to be an ally? You may not even be aware of it, but you might already be an ally! What it all boils down to is ensuring that communities—whether between friends, in a classroom, or even across an entire school—feel safe and comfortable. Allies can make this easier in a bunch of ways, both big and small.
Identifying as an ally to LGBT youth means supporting them, validating them, and listening to them. Being an ally means more than simply declaring it; it is the responsibility of an ally to always continue growing and learning. Here are some tips to help you be the best ally you can be!
1. Be open-minded. Sounds simple, right? But realize that as unique human beings, people have different experiences and different perspectives to bring to a conversation. A topic unfamiliar to you might come up; make sure you’re listening! Be willing to hear about new identities, new experiences, and new topics. The people you’re supporting will appreciate it.
2. Speak up, not over. In any kind of safe space, everyone should be willing to listen (see Tip #1). However, for there to be a listener, there must also be a speaker! This could be an instructor, a student, or even a special guest. It could also be you! Sharing your experiences might help someone relate to you, or even open up new avenues for discussion.
However, in many safe spaces, people in marginalized groups (LGBT youth, for example, or people of color) finally get the chance to speak, both to find support and to help fix problems. When you are speaking, be sure you are speaking from your own viewpoint, acknowledging that you might not fully understand what it means to identify a certain way. In safe spaces like Gay-Straight Alliances, while allies might know about queer identity, no one can speak for queer youth like queer youth can.
3. Acknowledge your privilege. As mentioned in Tip #2, we might not be able to completely understand the experiences of others. This extends past safe spaces, and relates to something called privilege. Privilege is a part of someone’s identity that grants them benefits in social, cultural, economic, and political settings. Those without certain privileges are treated unfairly in these settings.
For example, a man who is cisgender (which means to identify as/be comfortable with the gender assigned to you at birth) has “male privilege” over a cisgender woman. But privilege goes beyond gender. A cisgender white woman has white privilege over a cisgender black man, who has male privilege over the woman. This complexity of privilege is important to recognize.
4. Learn from every moment. The world is always changing; words change, society changes, and sometimes people change. We are always finding new words that we use to identify ourselves! Don’t assume you know everything there is to know. The best allies are the ones that evolve and become more accommodating as things change.
5. Respect the privacy of others. Agood ally keeps in mind that sometimes it is hard for a person to share their identity. When someone comes out to you, it is often a vulnerable moment for that person. Respect their privacy, and don’t ask invasive questions. Let them come out at their own pace, if they choose to come out at all.
6. Understand that no one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t worry! This doesn’t make you a bad ally! You might accidentally use the wrong pronouns for someone, or use a term that might make someone uncomfortable. It’s okay! Apologize, resolve to try harder, and move on! At the end of the day, we’re all human. Just be the best ally you can be.
So, now you’ve gotten a few tips on being a better ally! Want to learn some more, or inspire others to take steps towards being allies to LGBT youth? Take part in GLSEN’s Ally Week, and make this week count!
Ben Espejo is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.