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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.
— Connor Franta (@ConnorFranta) April 15, 2016
We all have a right to learn in safety. I’m proud to stand with LGBTQ2 youth on the #DayofSilence to fight bullying in schools.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) April 15, 2016
— Jazz Jennings (@JazzJennings__) April 15, 2016
— jeffrey marsh (@thejeffreymarsh) April 15, 2016
— Charlie Carver (@Charlie_Carver) April 12, 2016
April 14, 2016
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.
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.
“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.
Breaking the Silence Masquerade Dance
7-10 p.m. on April 15
Email Sean at email@example.com for more info.
GLSEN Tampa Bay
Breaking the Silence Rally
6-8 p.m. on April 15
Sacred Grounds Coffee House
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
Breaking the Silence 2016
5 p.m. on April 15
GLSEN Greater Kansas City
Break the Silence Rally
4-6 p.m. on April 15
Mill Creek Park and LIKEME Lighthouse
Breaking the Silence
5-7 p.m. on April 14
Big Momma's Coffee and Espresso Bar
Night of Noise
5:30-7:30 p.m. on April 15
72nd and Dodge
GLSEN New York Capital Region
Breaking the Silence Rally
4-10 p.m. on April 15
Empire State Plaza
GLSEN Hudson Valley
Breaking the Silence Dance
7-10 p.m. on April 15
Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center
Day of Silence Film Fundraiser
5:30 p.m. on April 15
Gateway Film Center
GLSEN Northeast Ohio
Night of Noise
7-10 p.m. on April 15
UU Church of Akron
GLSEN Middle Tennessee
Sparkle & Shine Stomp H8 Queer Youth Prom
5-8 p.m. on April 16
Belmont United Methodist Church
GLSEN Washington State
Ellensburg Night of Noise
7-10 p.m. on April 15
Central Washington University
GLSEN Washington State
Ti-Cities Night of Noise
4:30-6:30 p.m. on April 15
GLSEN Washington State
Seattle Night of Noise
6 p.m. on April 15
Cal Anderson Park
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
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.