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February 12, 2016
A year and a half ago, I moved from the U.S.A. back to my hometown in Durango, Mexico, and my life changed dramatically.
Back when I was in New Jersey, I was my school's GSA president as well as a GLSEN Student Ambassador. While being queer was never easy for me, there was always someone who had my back; I was not alone. Back in Durango things changed rapidly: I went from being a senior in high school to a full-time ESL teacher at a very strict Christian school. Needless to say, things were very different: I wasn't out, I didn't have a GSA anymore, and there was no GLSEN Chapter I could go to. Suddenly, I was alone.
I struggled to find my place in my new environment. At work, teachers would openly shame students based on their gender expression or perceived sexual orientation. Students would use slurs and insult each other on a daily basis. As a teacher, I tried to offer my students a safe space, but there was only so much I could do. If my orientation ever came out, or even my status as an ally, my job was on the line.
Outside of school, things were not very different. Finding support was nearly impossible: many of my friends were openly biphobic or homophobic, and even my therapist told me that the first thing we needed to work on was my orientation, as people were always either gay or straight.
After a while, I realized that I couldn't just sit and do nothing. While I couldn't be very open about my identity, I turned to storytelling as a source of support. Whenever I saw my students hurt by the words of their peers, I would use stories to help the situation. Whenever I was feeling lonely or upset about the things that the people around me would say and do, I would be reminded that I wasn't the only one going through this. Through the Internet, I was able to find people in similar situations who had gotten through them and had been able to make a change.
Storytelling is important because our shared experiences make us stronger. Sharing your story can be very empowering, and knowing that we are not alone can give us the extra boost to keep going.
Sharing your story can help people see from your perspective and understand what you are going through. I have found that sharing stories is the most effective way to change people's attitudes about the LGBT community.
That’s why I’m sharing my story with IGLYO, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Intersex (LGBTQI) Youth and Student Organisation. For an upcoming international conference on anti-LGBT bullying, IGLYO is collecting stories from LGBTQI students around the world who have experienced homophobic and transphobic bullying in school. Ultimately, sharing experiences and learning about the experiences of others can help bring visibility to issues that are often ignored.
Being in Durango is still not easy, and I know we still have a long way to go before people fully accept the LGBT community. But I also know that I will always have a safe space online where I am loved and accepted.
Learn more about how to share your story with IGLYO here.
Paulina Aldaba is a former GLSEN Student Ambassador and current ESL teacher who will begin college in the fall.
February 03, 2016
Last week, the GLSEN Shop officially launched, with every purchase funding GLSEN’s work with students, educators, and policymakers to improve school climates for all students. One of the lines featured in the Shop is GLSEN Respect, which amplifies our core message of “respect for all.”
We recently spoke with TJ Mitchell, a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council (NSC) and the brand ambassador for the Respect line, about what respect means to him.
GLSEN: Hi TJ! First, can you tell me about your experience in GLSEN’s National Student Council?
TJ: It’s been remarkable! All of us on the NSC came from different places and backgrounds. We were all strangers to each other at the beginning, but in no time, we became a strong family. We have each other’s backs no matter what; we respect each other.
GLSEN: What does respect mean to you?
TJ: To me, respect means that people see me as a human, not a gay human. People who respect me put aside their prejudices and the insensitive comments they make. They learn who I am as a person.
To respect someone means to make them feel cared for, like they belong in this world – being respected makes you feel good inside.
GLSEN: And what does respect look like at school?
TJ: A respectful school is one where you can walk through the front doors and feel a sense of safety, peace, and affirmation. It’s a school you can actually enjoy.
GLSEN: What was it like to be at the GLSEN Respect Awards — Los Angeles?
TJ: Overall, it was a dream. It felt so good to see so many supporters who all believe in this cause. And meeting Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel was truly a blessing – down-to-earth celebrities who wanted to learn about my life and experiences, who respected me for me.
GLSEN: How does it feel to wear GLSEN’s Respect line?
TJ: Wearing the Respect line feels like, I am proud to be who I am, and what I’m standing for has power. Especially when I see other people wearing it too, I know we are all in this together.
January 26, 2016
Today, we are launching our updated Local School Climate Survey tool, which is now available in a friendly and easy-to-use online format.
Since 1999, when GLSEN first launched the National School Climate Survey (NSCS), a biennial survey to document the unique challenges facing LGBT students in school, we have heard from community advocates, educators, members of Gay-Straight Alliances and local GLSEN chapters that they want to conduct something similar in their local communities and schools.
To help meet this need, GLSEN’s Research Department developed the Local School Climate Survey (LSCS). The LSCS, while similar to the NSCS, is designed not just to survey LGBT students’ on their school experiences, but to survey all students.
The LSCS is available foranyone who is interested in gaining insight into the experiences of students, grades 7-12, in their own community. Here’s why you should take advantage of our updated LSCS tool:
1. The survey is easily customizable to measure different types of bullying, harassment and bias. The LSCS provides a set of questions to select from to help you create your own survey to examine students’ experiences with bullying, harassment, assault and many types of bias, such as sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia and transphobia.
2. It automatically generates useful reports. After administering the survey to students in your local community, the LSCS automatically tabulates results, providing you with charts and tables that summarize the data collected. This information can help in the creation of data-driven advocacy efforts.
3. Survey results can help make schools safer and more affirming. The results generated by this tool can help to identify issues facing students in your school, community or district. Whether you use the data to implement more inclusive school curriculum, to advocate for more comprehensive policies, or simply to better understand what students are experiencing, GLSEN’s Local School Climate Survey can be a starting point in your path towards making schools safe and affirming environments for all students.
Getting started with GLSEN’s Local School Climate Survey is simple. Just create an account at localsurvey.glsen.org and begin improving school climates for all students. What are you waiting for?
Noreen Giga is the Research Associate at GLSEN.
January 22, 2016
As a high school student looking back on middle school, I can’t remember much other than sitting down and trying not to be seen. I wish I had known then that the times I was called awful names would make me appreciate loving myself so much more in the future.
Looking back on it, I don’t feel so bad that other kids were being hurtful to me, more so that I had to struggle with it all on my own. In my middle school, teachers would often scoff at our state’s new bullying laws. They’d go on and on about how ”kids are kids”--they’re ”too sensitive”--and it was then that I knew that I couldn’t tell any of them about what I was feeling.
Supportive teachers and LGBTQ-inclusive school climates are essential to the well-being of middle schoolers. That’s why I wish someone had talked to us seriously about bullying, teasing, and name calling: what it looked like, how to deal with it, and the serious outcomes of it. I wish we had been made to feel like part of a loving school community where respect and kindness were valued just as highly as our education.
As a middle school student, I wish I knew that name-calling wasn’t my fault. That if I told an adult, the person hurting me would be held accountable, and that I wouldn’t be made to feel at fault. I wish I knew what I know now, that I did and do have the power to speak out and make change. Most importantly, I wish I knew that I wasn’t alone. And I wish I knew about GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week.
GLSEN has so many resources to combat name-calling in school; they revolve around the central message of celebrating kindness. But, it is important to remember that this message is essential not just this week, but every day. Students should constantly be checking in, supporting, and sharing kindness with one another. Teachers should take action against disrespect they see and work toward a safer and more affirming school environment.
School should be a place of learning, safety, and growth. Let’s achieve that one step at a time, starting with a commitment this week. This is our moment to truly make a difference in the lives of young people in schools everywhere. Celebrate kindness and let students everywhere know that they aren’t and will never be alone.
Olly Kelly is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.
January 20, 2016
1. Stick up for middle schoolers being bullied. It’s older students’ job to watch out for that stuff.
2. Work with teachers and students in your old middle school to start a GSA or general safe space!
3. Help your local middle school register for GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week and together, show the world that you’re dedicated to celebrating kindness.
4. Be a visible ally! Tell all the middle schoolers you know that if anything ever comes up in school or if they have any questions about their experiences, you’re a supportive person they can talk to.
5. Get your GSA to work with a local middle school and organize a Celebrate Kindness workshop. Print out these awesome posters and talk to middle schoolers about what kindness means to them.
6. Ask for and offer your pronouns to younger peers. Let middle schoolers know it’s OK to choose for themselves which, if any, pronouns they want to be referred to by.
7. Be your awesome self!
8. Younger students need community, too! Host LGBT-inclusive events that cater to middle or elementary school students.
9. Check out the books listed on GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week page and offer to read one to an elementary or middle school class.
10. Educate younger peers on why certain words shouldn’t be used as slurs. So what if someone’s gay? That shouldn’t be considered a bad word and shouldn’t be used to hurt anyone.
11. Use the hashtag #NNCW16 to share insights and resources for middle schoolers on social media.
This post was written by GLSEN’s National Student Council.
January 20, 2016
I know what it feels like to have people call you names. Coming out as queer in the seventh grade and being an activist since the sixth, I have always had a barrage of derogatory terms targeted at me. I didn’t feel safe anywhere at my school, and attending class each day was an anxiety-inducing and terrifying process.
Now, I’m 15 years old and in my sophomore year of high school, and name-calling isn’t as big of an issue in my life. I wish I could go back in time to give advice to my middle-school self, because there are so many things I’ve learned that would have helped me so much back then. It’s important to know that there isn’t a “quick fix” guide to ending name-calling altogether, but there are certainly things that can make the situation easier.
1. Practice self-care.
Being bullied and called names can really drain you and stress you out. When there’s so much negativity targeted at you, it’s important to fight back with positivity towards yourself. When I was having a rough time with people at school, I took an afternoon to focus on my own mental and emotional needs. For me, that usually involved brewing tea and writing in a journal, but self-care comes in all different forms. Remember, you deserve to have something that feeds positivity into your life.
2. Ask for help.
A lot of the time, when we’re being bullied and called names, we think that asking for help will either a) make things worse, or b) mean that we’re weak. When I was dealing with name-calling in middle school, I didn’t want to ask for help because I thought it would mean I wasn’t strong. In reality, asking for help is one of the bravest things you can do for yourself. Absolutely no one in this world should feel unsafe going to school, and if you do feel unsafe, it’s so important to speak up and tell someone about it.
One way to do this is through joining your school’s GSA. If your school doesn’t have a GSA or something like it, GLSEN has some great resources for starting one! Another way to speak up is by reaching out to a counselor. I did this after seeing a GLSEN Safe Space sticker; educators with Safe Space stickers are great people to confide in when you’re dealing with name-calling. If there aren’t any Safe Space stickers at your school, talk to a teacher or counselor about getting a Safe Space Kit, which helps educators be allies to LGBT students. (You can purchase one here!)
3. Know this won’t last forever.
When you’re being called names every day in school, it’s really easy to feel like it will never end, but I promise that it does. As you grow older, you’ll start to gain more independence and control in your life, and as that happens, you can begin to choose the people you’re surrounded by.
And with movements like GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week, your school, community, and peers will get the skills they need to combat name calling at all levels. Suddenly, you won’t be forced to be around immature bullies, and your life will improve exponentially. Although things might be really hard right now, better days are coming and you deserve to see them.
4. Remember that you are a valuable person.
When I was in middle school, I was called a “freak.” But I think the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is that someone else’s words don’t have to dictate the way I think about myself, and they don’t define who I am. When other people are trying to make you feel small, the best thing you can do is continue to grow. You’re so much more than the hateful words that other people call you. Above all else, you are worthy, loved and valuable, and nothing that anyone says can take that away from you.
GLSEN’s No Name Calling Week is this week. How will you join the movement?
Katie Regittko is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.
January 14, 2016
After returning from winter break with a renewed commitment to my students, my school, and my community, I’m back and ready for GLSEN’s No Name Calling Week, which this year is January 18-22! The week is meant to encourage dialogue in school communities about ways to eliminate bullying and name-calling. Here are four tips for educators to make the most of the week:
1. Let the students take the wheel
GSA sponsors can assign club leadership to draft a proposal for how to celebrate GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week. Students can get together to plan a few school-wide events, building their leadership and organizational skills.
At McKinley High, our GSA student leadership team will be meeting to plan local activities for No Name-Calling Week. I give the students a list of suggested events from the GLSEN website, and they pick and choose what they want to do and place it on a weekly calendar. I have a special student position, publicity coordinator, who makes fliers, which saves me time while building a student’s skills!
2. Choose quality over quantity
For a small class or GSA, or with a difficult administration, it may be best to focus on hosting one or two meaningful events for students rather than trying to coordinate an activity every day. Using GLSEN’s comprehensive document on planning for No Name-Calling Week is a great way for educators to pick quality events.
At our school, students write creative poetry and short stories about their experiences with bullying and name-calling. The event, which started out a few years ago as a low-key meeting, has now evolved into a coffee-shop style production and is the signature event of our week.
3. Organize a social media campaign
Students love social media. This week, students can make something meaningful out of it. A class or club can develop a Twitter or Instagram account, where they can post photos throughout the week. Here at McKinley, I have the students meet after school, take photos with their anti-bullying fliers and signs, and then post them on social media using the hashtags #celebratekindness and #nncw16.
Organizing a social media campaign is one of the best ways to gain visibility and take a stand against bullying. Last year, our GSA even partnered with the mass media department to create their own Public Service Announcement.
4. Connect to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is the first day of GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week, and the lesson plan We’re All Different But We’re All Alike is easily aligned to discussions on how we treat people of different races, religions, languages, sexual orientations, and gender expressions.
I personally developed a lesson focusing on the work of Bayard Rustin, a gay man who served as Dr. King’s advisor. Unfortunately, most students are not taught about who he was or what he accomplished. As an educator of a diverse student body, I find great importance in celebrating and teaching about these historical figures.
However you plan to celebrate GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week this year, remember that all students will benefit from the message of acceptance. Whether you’re a teacher, student, guidance counselor, coach, librarian or bus driver, show you care by organizing a week of activities at your school aimed at ending name-calling once and for all.
Desiree Raught was GLSEN’s 2015 Educator of the Year and is an educator at McKinley Tech High School in Washington, D.C.
January 12, 2016
In 2008, I joined GLSEN Phoenix and had no idea about the incredible journey I was about to take. I was able to finally be a part of an organization that truly aligned with my passions and really valued me as an individual. Little did I know that during my time with GLSEN Phoenix, I would have such incredible opportunities to ensure safe, affirming environments for all students in the K-12 education system.
In 2014, I moved from sunny Arizona to Los Angeles. I was sad to leave my GLSEN Phoenix family, but I was very excited to see where my journey would take me in L.A. Los Angeles brings to mind images of glitz, glamour and a laid-back mentality, but behind all those images is a sad truth. The truth is that schools in California are not safe for most lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) secondary-school students.
After learning about these statistics, I realized how it important it was to found GLSEN Los Angeles and be there as a source of support and a resource for students who do not feel safe and affirmed at school. GLSEN Los Angeles is committed to ensuring that all students feel safe, welcomed and affirmed in their schools regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. We accomplish this by reaching out to educators and GSA leaders and providing that support wherever it is needed.
Now, in the beginning of 2016, we at GLSEN Los Angeles have some resolutions in mind. We resolve to offer support to all students, educators, and community organizations that seek our help. We resolve to do our best to ensure that schools implement the policies that are already in place to ensure an improved school climate. Lastly, we resolve to continue educating ourselves as members of this organization, in order to fully understand students’ needs and how we can best meet them.
As Chair of GLSEN Los Angeles, I resolve to become a better leader to my team, and I resolve that Los Angeles will glisten as a beacon of hope and light for all students. What’s your resolution?
Anthony Eftimeo is Chair of GLSEN Los Angeles.
December 14, 2015
December 11, 2015
Yesterday marked the end of the #PurpleMySchool campaign, an effort by UNESCO, UNDP, and Being LGBTI in Asia to end bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools across Asia-Pacific. Supporters took part in the campaign by taking a stand against bullying through public displays of purple.
Recently, GLSEN went purple and joined in on the campaign. Here are three reasons why:
1. Because education is a human right.
The #PurpleMySchool campaign ended on International Human Rights Day, recognized every year on December 10 since 1948, when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that set out fundamental rights to be universally protected. Among those rights is the right to an education, and bullying infringes upon that right. GLSEN went purple to reassert that youth in Asia-Pacific have the right to an education free of harassment.
2. Because school climates need to change—not just in the U.S.
GLSEN’s most recent National School Climate Survey shows that for many LGBT youth in the United States, school remains a hostile place. Similarly, UNESCO Bangkok released From Insult to Inclusion, a report that shows that school climate in the Asia-Pacific region is hostile for many LGBTI youth. In some countries in the region, as many as four out of five LGBTI students are affected by some form of violence or bullying. GLSEN went purple to amplify the voices of these youth.
3. Because there is power in unity.
By going purple, GLSEN stood in solidarity with our LGBTI friends in Asia-Pacific. We can best effect change when we work together as allies.
Although the campaign is over, the issues persist. School climates remain overwhelmingly hostile for many youth, but students, educators, and allies in any nation can learn more about school climate for LGBTI youth in Asia-Pacific and demand that change be made.