Have you ever wondered what a T-Rex dressed as Lady Gaga would look like? Participants in GLSEN
Pittsburgh Unified 4 Youth Conference can tell you. From October 23rd-24 the Pittsburgh Art Institute,
with Gaga Rex as welcome wagon, hosted the conference for a second year. Boasting over 70
participants, Unified 4 Youth is the only conference of its kind in Pittsburgh, bringing together youth,
adult allies and educators for two days of safe schools training in LGBT issues.
Each constituency participated in its own unique track - educators were able to attend "That's so gay: Bullying" led by GLSEN Pittsburgh trainer, Lee Marcuzzi, along with sessions on creating LGBT-inclusive lesson plans
and issues facing transgender youth. Adult allies participated in sessions about what it means to be an
ally to LGBT youth, political advocacy, self-expression as empowerment and an open Q & A. Youth
participated in sessions around self-expression, political advocacy, knowing your rights, LGBT history
and how to support each other.
The days were full and inspiring and Saturday night's youth performance and keynote address by Mara
Kiesling, Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality were no less so. About eight of the youth
participants belong to a theater ensemble which performed a powerful piece about the damage
labeling others can do and the freedom that comes with defining oneself for oneself.
They also performed a series of monologues drawn from real stories of experiences of LGBT youth in and
around Pittsburgh, including one young man telling his own story of coming out to his mother, who
was in the audience as an adult ally, just a few months earlier. Mara Kiesling spoke about the five kinds
of violence transgender people face - physical, social, economic, spiritual and healthcare. She ended
her talk with these words: "In order to be amazing, you must be amazed."
Indeed GLSEN Pittsburgh is amazing because they are amazed by and motivated to improve the
experiences of LGBT students in schools, to make schools safer for all. During the rest of the year, their
work continues with the high number of trainings they do in schools. This year they will also be
organizing the Unified 4 Youth Extension project which will give students the tools to be peer trainers
in their communities.