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December 16, 2011

A message from GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard.

Last week I had the remarkable privilege of attending the first-ever United Nations (UN) consultation on anti-LGBT bias and violence in schools worldwide. Organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the convening was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from December 5-9, 2011.

The historic gathering brought together LGBT advocates, education ministry officials and UN agency representatives from all seven continents.

It was astounding to see the incredible work being done, sometimes in extremely difficult and hostile climates. You can find a complete list of participants here.

I was proud to note the number of advocates overseas who were using and adapting GLSEN resources, or who had come to GLSEN for advice while designing their own strategies and programs. I was moved to have the opportunity to support the efforts of brave individuals in countries like Cameroon, China, Peru, Namibia, Jamaica, Samoa and Vietnam.

I was also struck by how work on LGBT issues in education abroad employs such a fundamentally different authorizing framework than the legal, constitutional and philosophical underpinnings of safe schools work here in the United States. In the US, we recognize that anti-LGBT behavior and bias directed at youth can sometimes rise to the level of a civil rights violation, and can lead to criminal acts of violence.  In other parts of the world, however, this behavior is framed as a violation of internationally accepted human rights standards.

Photo credit: UNESCO

I was honored join my colleagues at the UN convening in issuing the “Rio Statement on Homophobic Bullying and Education for All,” which articulates this international framework. In the spirit of this statement, and on behalf of GLSEN and our colleagues in the Safe Schools Movement in the United States and around the world, I call upon the President and Congress to act now and address current violations in the United States in this context.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged the need for action in her historic speech on human rights in Geneva last week, making specific reference to anti-LGBT bullying and violence in the United States:

I speak …knowing that my own country's record on human rights for gay people is far from perfect. Many LGBT Americans have endured violence and harassment in their own lives, and for some, including many young people, bullying and exclusion are daily experiences.

Secretary Clinton’s speech (you can read the full transcript here) had a galvanizing effect on the UN convening and on me personally.

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The bullying and exclusion Clinton cites are violations of international human rights standards not only because of the violence and pain they inflict, but also because they undercut fundamental rights of access to the benefits of an education. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified by the United States, states that:

Everyone has the right to education …. and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

Further, the declaration sets a standard for the quality and nature of the education received:

Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups…

Schools where students go in fear of violence and ostracism cannot fulfill this mandate. Communities where students cannot walk to school without fear of being shot cannot fulfill this mandate. Schools where the only response to bullying and harassment is to segregate the target or jail the perpetrator cannot fulfill this mandate. And schools where the very existence of LGBT people is strenuously ignored or actively denigrated cannot fulfill this mandate.

We know that LGBT students attending school in the United States are at risk of bullying, harassment and discrimination. GLSEN has been documenting these experiences for years.

As a critical initial step towards fulfilling the governmental responsibility to provide universal access to high-quality education, Congress must pass and the President must sign into law the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) and the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) to establish baseline standards for school safety and non-discrimination in schools throughout the United States.

We know the work here to create safe learning environments that promote respect is a long-term process that sometimes carries obstacles along the way. But as shown at this historic meeting in Rio, GLSEN is not alone in this work. We're a part of a global movement to ensure the wellbeing of every student in school regardless of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. And with our partners here and abroad, we will affect change throughout the world.

December 01, 2011

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.

November 20, 2011

Student Media Ambassador Chase S. talks about Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR)

To me, TDOR means a lot of things. First and foremost, it puts the spotlight on a community that is often neglected. As a person who identifies as gender non-conforming/genderqueer, I find that oftentimes transgender and gender non conforming people are marginalized by the media and ocasionally even the LGB community. It also serves as a tribute to all those who were victimized simply because of their identities. TDOR is a solemn day, for me, but also an important one, because it serves as a reminder that the fight for equality is far from over.

November 18, 2011

The 13th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance is tomorrow, November 20, and is a day to memorialize those whose lives were lost due to anti-transgender fear, bigotry and hatred. Around the world communities plan vigils to remember those who have died in the previous year. As TDOR approaches, two of our Student Media Ambassadors reflect about how to make schools safe for students right now so that all students are safe from violence and bullying, regardless of gender identity/expression or sexual orientation.

Chase S. identifies as gender nonconforming and shares,

Supportive teachers have had an huge impact on helping me to feel safe in school. I frequently hear teachers speak out against homophobic language, and many school faculty/staff are starting to actively avoid the genderism that can negatively affect transgender/gender non-conforming students. Many teachers have openly supported the work of my GSA and have expressed positive interest in GLSEN and the work that we do. The affirming and supportive atmosphere created by my teachers has really helped me in feeling safe to express myself and my identity at school.

Loan T. also identifies as gender nonconforming and writes,

When I co-founded my school’s first gay-straight alliance with a close friend of mine, I felt a tremendous amount of relief weeks before we even had our first meeting. I had finally found a space that would take me as I am, regardless of who I am. A huge part of my social transition and taking control of my gender expression has been marked by the style of my hair. Though my hair in the past has elicited hurtful and harmful remarks from strangers and peers, never once have my GSA advisors and teacher allies discourage me or condone the intolerance of others. I know that a lot of that has been made possible by the countless efforts of my fellow GSA members and adult allies to circulate LGBT educational resources around every department in our school: raising awareness and calling for action one classroom at a time. Starting my sophomore year, our GSA began circulating two copies of GLSEN’s Safe Space Kit around the school; since then, more teachers have offered their alliance to our club, more students have attended our meetings, and our administration has become more willing to discuss the unique experiences that LGBT students face in school. While there are still the occasional rough patches for me, being able to witness the changes in my school and in my school’s dialogue around bullying, I feel much safer and much freer to express myself just knowing that issue of anti-LGBT bullying is being taken seriously.

To learn more about Transgender Day of Remembrance and how to be a part of it, visit our resource page which has information about this year's TDOR and also important information for making your school safe for trans* and gender nonconforming students.
November 18, 2011

GLSEN Student Media Ambassador Loan T. shares why Transgender Day of Remembrance is important.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is really all about remembering to never forget the history and presence of trans* people in our world. And with that, Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) stands as an even larger motivator to embrace the identities we ourselves have and the identities of others. It’s a day for action, for mobilization, for story-telling, and for revitalization. But most importantly, TDOR is an opportunity to celebrate the diverse lives of trans* people everywhere. It’s crucial to recognize that trans* people have made great, beautiful strides to transform and challenge society… and what’s even more awesome and admirable is that we keep doing so every single day. We continue to come out, to speak out, to shout out loud that we have hurt and we have lost but that will never prevent us from shouting even louder that we are here and we will continue to exist in the most influential ways—that’s what matters most to me: having a community that I can stand with no matter what.

October 25, 2011


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.

Donations raised from this 55-hour dance-a-thon will be donated to GLSEN, along with other LGBT organizations.
To learn more, visit omusicawards.com
October 05, 2011

>The Ventura County District Attorney's Office has decided to retry Brandon McInerney for the murder of 15-year-old Lawrence "Larry" King at E.O. Green Junior High in 2008. McInterney was 14 when he killed his classmate because of Larry's sexual orientation and gender expression.

The first trial against McInerney ended in a mistrial when the jury couldn't agree on whether to convict Brandon of manslaughter, second-degree murder or first-degree murder. The defense does not dispute that Brandon pulled the trigger.

The Los Angeles Times quoted GLSEN Executive Director this morning in a story written before the retrial decision was announced.

GLSEN had hoped to the two sides could agree on a plea deal to avoid another painful trial.

July 29, 2011

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Nearly 100 supporters attended an event last weekend on Fire Island to support Changing the Game: The GLSEN Sports Project, a new GLSEN initiative to make K-12 sports and physical education safe and inclusive for all regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Luckily, the pool kept most of those in attendance cool amid 100-degree temperatures.

Changing the Game: The GLSEN Sports Project is an education and advocacy initiative focused on addressing LGBT issues in K-12 school-based athletic and physical education programs. The GLSEN Sport Project’s mission is to assist K-12 schools in creating and maintaining an athletic and physical education climate that is based on the core principles of respect, safety and equal access for all students, teachers and coaches regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression and integrating these efforts into overall school plans to ensure a safe, respectful school climate and culture. With your help, we are making team sports and locker rooms safer places for students.

We are extremely grateful to Changing the Game Advisory Group members Hudson Taylor and Wade Davis for sharing their personal stories at the event. We would also like to thank Cliff Richner for opening his beautiful home to all of us, and to all of the GLSEN volunteer leadership who lent their insight and time to pulling off this amazing event.

July 21, 2011

>CALLING ALL GENDER NONCONFORMING YOUTH AND THEIR FAMILIES!

Our friends at Gender Spectrum have an upcoming event we think you should know about. This year's Gender Spectrum Family Conference for transgender and gender nonconforming children and teens, will be held in Berkeley, California, from July 29th - August 1st. The conference brings together youth, families and professionals for a weekend of support, learning and celebration of transgender and gender creative young people. There will be more than 30 workshops for adults, along with a variety of programming for different youth age groups, ranging from "Kids Camp" for the younger children, to the "Tween" program for kids ages 9 - 12 and the teen programs. To find out more information about the conference or to register, visit these sites: The 2011 Family Conference or The 2011 Professionals' Workshop.

July 20, 2011

>This week marks the kick-off of the 23rd Annual NYC LGBT Film Festival, NewFest. GLSEN is proud to announce its involvement in this year's festival by co-sponsoring the screening of the film "I'm From Driftwood." This documentary shows New York's Nathan Manske as he crosses the country in search of what the 21st century queer experience truly is. He hears the diverse stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and ally individuals along his journey.

"I'm From Driftwood" will be screened on Friday, July 22nd, at 3 PM at the Cinema Village Theater. To purchase tickets for this film, or any of the other films being screened at NewFest, visit their website at http://newfest.org/wordpress/. A limited number of FREE youth (ages 25 and under) tickets for this screening are also available. They can be reserved in advance at the theater, or at the LGBT Community Center Box Office, by July 21st.

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