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December 29, 2014
My name is Ximena. In less than six months I will graduate high school, and in the fall I will attend Columbia University as a Political Science major. I hope to use my education to continue protecting students from bullying and harassment. I feel that I am on the brink of something big – my future is full of possibility! But to be honest, I have not always felt this way.
While my high school was far from a cesspool of homophobia, the apathy of staff and students was palpable. As the only out lesbian in my school, I was often the brunt of jokes. During my freshman year, some classmates called me “Latina lesbian,” targeting both my ethnic identity and my sexual orientation. Worst of all, no one came to my defense. I felt really alone and marginalized.
This is when I found my local GLSEN chapter. I attended my first GLSEN event and was surprised by the accepting environment. It was the first time in my life that I felt comfortable talking openly about my sexual orientation and how it intersects with my Mexican culture. I was so inspired by the people I met, many of whom became my role models. Like me, they experienced challenges in schools and they overcame them. I realized that in order to achieve my dreams, I needed to take action to improve my school – for me and for everyone.
Shortly after that event, I started a Gay-Straight Alliance in my school using GLSEN’s resources. Pretty soon I started to see teachers participating in GLSEN days of action or using safe space materials in the classroom, and I started to feel more supported. I now know that any person that supports GLSEN will not turn a blind eye to homophobia or transphobia. My goals of higher education would not have been realized without the support and acceptance provided to me by teachers, friends, peers and especially GLSEN. By this time next year, I will be taking my first college mid-terms – an idea that scares me but also makes me feel grateful.
There is still much work to be done. Many students don’t have GSAs or supportive adults in their schools, and many still feel afraid to be themselves. Please donate to GLSEN so that we can expand our reach to new communities. Know that your donation will enable chapters across the country to continue creating safe spaces in schools, which allow students like me to thrive and to reach their full potential.
October 22, 2014
“Tis’ a Privilege to Live in the Ozarks” is a tagline that was included in the banner of Springfield’s local newspaper for many years. The paper continues to regularly feature an editorial piece, “Tis’ a Privilege,” because “good news is not hard to find in the Ozarks.” Recently, Springfield has experienced victories for its LGBTQ+ citizens: in early October of this year, a Missouri judge ruled that the State must recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions, and then 10 days later Springfield became the 15th municipality in Missouri to provide legal protections for LGBT individuals in housing, employment and public accommodations. Unfortunately, for the LGBT community in Springfield and the surrounding area, good news is not always easy to find—in particular for LGBT youth.
Just last year in the Springfield area, a southwest Missouri State Representative tweeted a picture of a young student volunteering at an elementary school book fair wearing a GSA shirt and captioned the photo “… [School] failure. HS students working book fair in gay t-shirts;” a teacher’s reading list was censored for a second time to exclude any material that casts LGBT individuals in a positive light; a transgender student was forced by his school principal to use the girls' bathroom as well as use his birth name instead of the name that he preferred. Two of the five public high schools in Springfield, Missouri’s third largest city, do not have GSAs. What's more, Missouri Statute continues to prohibit schools from enumerating anti-bullying policies, so populations who are disproportionately targeted for bullying and harassment are inadequately protected.
GLSEN Springfield eagerly anticipates working to address these inequalities for students in the region, and to create safe spaces in schools for ALL youth. We will educate and advocate in the hallways of our government buildings to bring about laws and policies that support LGBT youth; we will promote inclusive curricula in our schools that support the development of positive sense of self; we will support the creation and development of school GSAs to provide community and cohesion to LGBT youth and their allies; and we will forge and strengthen relationships to our community partners and allies who are committed to addressing the need for safe and inclusive schools…because until every child is able to attend a school that respects, supports, educates and protects them, the “privilege to live in the Ozarks” is not a promise extended to all. If you are interested in getting involved with GLSEN Springfield and creating safer spaces for youth from the Ozarks please email Springfield@chapters.glsen.org.
*This blog was written by Amanda Derham, Chair of GLSEN Springfield
October 14, 2014
GLSEN Greater Cincinnati
Invite your favorite educator to join us for Happy Hour after school on Tuesday 10/14. We'll talk about Ally Week, Youth Summit and GLSEN's other safe school programming. GLSEN Greater Cincinnati's Educator Appreciation happy hours honor teachers and administrators for their support of all students, especially lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.
Please join us for this event on Tuesday, October 14 (during GLSEN's Ally Week) and stay for as little or as long as your schedule permits. Learn about Ally Week, our Youth Summit on October 25 (this year with educator contact hours for workshop attendance), and Prom on April 11, 2015, as well as other ways GLSEN Greater Cincinnati can support safe schools and help create or maintain your diversity club or gay-straight-trans alliance.
GLSEN Greater Wichita
GLSEN Greater Wichita is celebrating Ally Week with its own social media campaign! No matter your sexual orientation or gender, help us show the LGBT youth of Wichita they HAVE ALLIES who care about and support them! Our goal is to trend "#ictALLY" throughout Wichita and surrounding areas on Twitter and Facebook. We need YOUR pledge selfies. Check it out!
GLSEN Hawai'i is accepting nominations for outstanding allies. Nominate a teacher, counselor, social worker, administrator, or other school official who makes students feel safe in school. We are looking for educators that ensure that schools are especially inclusive for all students regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Will will be honoring our outstanding allies during Ally Week. Submit your nominations here.
GLSEN Hudson Valley
Each year, GLSEN Hudson Valley honors Allies in the community who create positive change for LGBTQ youth. We your help to identify people, groups or organizations in our area that play a vital role in making schools safer for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. We invite you to submit a nomination(s) and tell us about the great work being done. Our 2014 Ally Awards will be presented during our annual Awards Dinner held October 15, 2014 at Stone Hedge Restaurant in West Park, NY. Purchase tickets to GLSEN Hudson Valley's Ally Awards Dinner here.
GLSEN Middle Tennessee
Check out this article in which Middle Tennessee Jump-Start student leader Zoe reflects on the importance of allies. Also, learn how you can participate in GLSEN Middle Tennessee’s Ally Week Photo Campaign
October 10, 2014
Our mission at GLSEN is to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Whether you are just beginning to explore your sexual orientation or gender for the first time, or you are an old pro, or you are “just” a beloved advocate, we know that you are likely to confront some unique issues for which there is limited help within the mainstream world. On October 11, 2014, GLSEN Washington State will hold the 11th Annual Puget Sound GSA Leadership Conference at the Miller Community Center.
GLSEN Washington State is excited to be able to offer a wealth of information for students and educators through a series of workshops led by GLSEN Washington State, Lifelong AIDS Alliance, Strategic Living, Seattle Parks and Recreation, Pride Foundation, Seattle Pride and many more. Workshops topics include Trans 101, Pride in Seattle, PFLAG Support and We Have a GSA…Now What.
The educator track of the conference will also feature a Safe Space training for educators that want to become better allies to LGBTQ youth. GLSEN Professional Development (PD) workshops help empower K-12 educators, school staff and pre-service teachers to improve school climate, support LGBT students, incorporate inclusive curriculum or implement a new anti-bullying or discrimination policy. All K-12 educators can benefit from attending GLSEN PD workshops regardless of their role, because all educators can be supportive allies and have positive impacts on school climate.
Focused on increasing the number of adult allies in our nation’s schools and rooted in research-based training methods and adult learning principles, GLSEN Professional Development (PD) workshops are integral to comprehensive approaches to ensuring safe and inclusive schools.
If you want to attend the conference there is still time to register. Thank you to our sponsors and community partners Three Dollar Bill Cinema, Seattle Public Library, Seatlle Parks and Recreation, Strategic Living, Pride Foundation, PFLAG, Ingersoll Gender Center, Camp Ten Trees, Lambert House, Seattle Pride and HEYO for helping to bring the conference to reality. A very special thanks to our GLSEN Washington State board members for their tireless dedication to creating safe schools for all in Washington State. Joe Bento, Amanda Klecan, Mike Travis, Oliver Heneghan, Holly Okot-Okidi, Eric Bennett, Kathryn Chociej and Jennifer Oryan – thank you for your unbelievable commitment.
October 08, 2014
BEAVERTON, OR. – The Oregon chapter of GLSEN, hosted the inaugural Youth Sports Summit on Wednesday, October 8, 2014, in partnership with Nike. This was the 11th consecutive year that the two organizations partner to create networking opportunities for LGBTQ-identified youth and their allies.
Heather Hargreaves (UC Berkley Rowing), Connor Mertens (Willamette University Football) and Chandler Whitney (Walla Walla Community College Baseball) joined GLSEN Oregon to teach local LGBTQ-identified high school athletes, GSA members, allies, coaches and athletic staff about coalition building between student groups and the importance of creating inclusive sports spaces in k-12 education.
“The students and educators attending the Youth Sports Summit took the first of a series of steps in creating and fostering an athletic and physical education climate that is based on the core principles of respect, safety and equal access for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression” said GLSEN Oregon Chair Danni/y Rosen.
“Feeling a sense of belonging to a school is critical to educational achievement. Sports create ways for both athletes and fans to connect to the school.”
After the event, students will begin a year-long initiative to have local high school sports teams take GLSEN’s Team Respect Challenge: a strong public team commitment to live the values of respect and inclusion for all team members, across differences such as race, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression or religion.
Through a miriad of projects, attendees will work with their school's sports teams, GSAs and athletic instructors to create safer sports spaces. GLSEN Oregon Board Members will provide additional support to ensure attendees of the summit have the tools they need to be successful.
ABOUT GLSEN Oregon
GLSEN Oregon works to create and sustain dynamic programming that supports Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) within the state of Oregon. They do this through GSA networking events like the GLSEN Oregon GSA Summit and Nike Youth Sports Summit. The chapter also develops opportunities for school educators and administrators to obtain Professional Development that helps them support LGBTQ-identified students in schools. www.glsen.org/oregon
September 17, 2014
Last August I officially "came out" as an LGBT ally. Yes, allies have a coming out process too... especially in conservative states like Kansas. The thing is, I've always been an LGBT ally. I didn't realize that it wasn't obvious until someone engaged me in a bias-filled conversation. The dialogue of that exchange forced me to make the decision to be an outspoken, visible ally to LGBT-identified people instead of remaining a passive supporter that was only vocal in private conversations. I let go of fear, decided to lean into the discomfort of opposing views and began speaking up whenever I could.
I knew things in Kansas needed to change but didn't know how, or what I could possibly do. The task in front of me seemed too daunting for my one small voice, but I used it anyway. It all started with a phone call to the GLSEN office. The angel on the other end of the phone (Ricardo M.) heard the passion behind my frustrated tears and he encouraged me to pour out that passion in a blog post to share with friends and to find allies in my community. He assured me that I wasn’t alone and that my passion for keeping all students safe in school could be harnessed into progressive advocacy. I knew that I could not make lasting change in my community without help from others so I wrote that blog in hopes of identifying other like-minded people, and so the adventure to bring GLSEN to Wichita, Ks, began.
As a then stay-at-home mom and a volunteer ministry leader for the moms' group at my church, my new endeavor created several waves in my social circles. (Thankfully now, a year later, I only see hundreds of positive ripples.) Using my voice to declare to the world that I planned to do something about the injustices I saw around me by bringing GLSEN to Wichita was not just empowering for me, but also began planting seeds of education, empathy, understanding and empowerment all around.
Less than a year later and dozens of divine connections after finding my voice, GLSEN Greater Wichita became a reality. People from both the Wichita faith-based communities and activist communities came together to bring change to our little piece of the world and we are now working together with students, teachers, parents and community members to create safe schools and safe spaces for all youth in Wichita.
GLSEN Greater Wichita created the space for other allies to come out and support change. The Chapter provided a platform/foundation for individuals to stand in solidarity with LGBTQ-identified youth without fear. It has also given students visible support. Earlier this year, I received an email from someone who felt our presence. They said, “I just wanted you to know that because of you she (my mom) shared her support for me. I've always known she loved and supports me. But it was a long time coming that she supported me as a gay person and not in spite of it. Thank you for sharing your voice."
If you are thinking of starting a GLSEN Chapter, here are some of the keys to our rapid success:
- Our Chapter leaders have an abundance of passion for the GLSEN mission.
- We stay focused on creating safe schools. There are many other local groups with noble causes, but our mission is to make sure students in our area feel safe and respected in our schools, and we do everything with that in mind.
- We're not afraid to engage people in the tough, sometimes uncomfortable conversations that need to happen here in order to bring education and break down taboos, and we do so with respect and kindness. We don't want to tell schools what they need to do; we want to work with them. We want to be a source of information and education for them, and we look to partner with them to begin the conversations that need to happen in our area schools.
- We set reasonable goals and map them out so we know the steps we need to take to achieve them. We know some of our goals are going to take a couple of years, and that's OK!
- One of the most important lessons I learned when I was a teacher was to NOT reinvent the wheel. We have spent a great deal of time connecting with, collaborating with, and seeking out resources and education from already existing local groups.
- We're not afraid to ask for help. At the beginning, I called or emailed Ricardo at the National Office frequently. I also frequently reach out to other Chapter leaders or experts in the area who always graciously offer advice, support or feedback! I love feeling like part of this big team all working toward the same purpose! Talk about strength in numbers!
- We plan for opposition. When you're in a conservative state like Kansas, it's just going to happen, so planning ways to handle opposition in constructive ways that build bridges of understanding and a foundation of respect is an imperative step.
*this blog was written by GLSEN Greater Wichita Chair, Liz H. Check out her blog here.
September 15, 2014
GLSEN Albuquerque is excited to celebrate one full year of service in our community!
After becoming an accredited chapter in September 2013 we embraced our journey by engaging in dialogues, workshops and strategic planning with the community to assess our local needs, create partnerships, advocate and educate. We have a vision of transforming the current culture of silence in classrooms into a thriving culture of competence and accountability that creates a safe educational experience for all members of school communities.
A few highlights of our first year include:
- Monthly Community Workshop Program: In collaboration with community partners each month we offer open workshops with varying topics such as GSA Advisor Support, Creating LGBTQ Inclusive Curriculum, How to be an Ally and more
- VOICES Conference: A full day event that offered community centered panels, Keynote Speaker Addresses by Eliza Byard, PhD., E.D. of GLSEN and Jody Huckaby, E.D. of PFLAG and community strategic planning sessions focused on Advocacy
- Bards & Bakers Fundraiser: A back to school evening of poetry, a bake-off competition and community building that successfully raised funds to support our work and enhanced our community dialogue of safer schools for all
- Professional Development Offerings: Three of our board members attended an intensive 4-day training to become GLSEN Certified Trainers. We have successfully offered training to the staff and community at Cien Aguas Charter School as well as co-facilitated training at a state Foster Care Family Conference.
We feel honored to serve in our community and attribute our first year’s success to our focus on building and strengthening partnerships with local community organizations as well as our focus on team building and in-depth strategic action planning based on community feedback and needs. We look forward to year two of this amazing journey together! To get involved or to learn more about GLSEN Albuquerque, email Albuquerque@chapters.glsen.org.
**This blog entry was written by Erin Northern, Co-Chair, GLSEN Albuquerque.
September 11, 2014
GLSEN Chapters are community-based groups of people who work to bring GLSEN’s programs and visions to their communities. They are supported in their work by the GLSEN national offices in New York City and Washington, DC. There are currently almost 40 GLSEN Chapters serving communities large and small around the country.
Chapter leaders are a diverse range of people from students to parents, teachers to administrators, and any other local community members who have an interest in ensuring safe schools for all. All Chapters work within GLSEN’s mission, vision, and policy platform but no two Chapters have exactly the same list of projects. Local programs include professional development for educators, GSA support and networking, student leadership development, community outreach and local, state and federal safe schools legislative advocacy. GLSEN Chapters are the backbone of our organization and all board members dedicate an exorbitant amount of energy to help us realize our mission to ensure all students in every school are respected and affirmed regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. We are grateful for their leadership, devotion, passion and commitment to our organization. Below are some highlights of the accomplishments of GLSEN's Chapter network during FY14 (July '13 - June '14).
Last year, Chapters:
- On average, supported over 600 high school Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) and 3,800 high school students each quarter of FY14
- On average, supported 25 middle school GSAs and 420 middle school students each quarter of FY14
- Sent 15,000 school and GSA representatives e-mail packages alerting them of GLSEN's Ally Week activities and resources
- Sent 16,000 school and GSA representatives e-mail packages alerting them of GLSEN's Day of Silence activities and resources
- Distributed GLSEN's Day of SIlence resources to 3,750 students and 656 educators in support of their Day of Silence activities. 701 Student attended Chapter Day of Silence Events.
- Conducted 273 trainings on LGBT issues in education. These trainings reached 4,242 school personnel, 3,951 students and 905 community members
For a complete list of existing GLSEN Chapters please visit www.glsen.org/chapters.
July 28, 2014
Hi, GLSEN community. My name is Lucy, and I’ll be working behind the scenes as a Communications Intern. As a self-identified feminist, and a queer woman with a girlfriend (and two cats) I love dearly, I look forward to bringing my pun-loving, nerd-grrrl feminism to GLSEN!
From a young age, my teacher mother instilled a deep appreciation of education, and its critical role in advocating for social change. Though she likely never would’ve placed her twenty-something-year-old daughter as a zinester or a feminist calendar art coordinator, I do know that she accepted my awkwardly rehearsed coming out monologue with a knowing eye roll and a: Well, yeah. I still expect grandchildren, you know. And for that, I count myself lucky.
But I haven’t always been that lucky, and neither have been my closest loved ones. When you factor in that 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted, and another 1 in 3 women are currently restricting their caloric intake on a diet (regardless of body type or BMI), it becomes exceedingly clear women are bombarded by various levels of demeaning emotional and physical attacks that suggest ‘we aren’t good enough.’ My interest in combating these messages, particularly aimed at young girls, prompted me to join a Peer Health Advocacy Program in college (where I specialized in lesbian health) and, upon seeing there was no such resource, to start my own feminist group. And you know who my greatest allies were? The LGBTQ community. From our very first meeting over coffee to our more trying campaigns to stage the first student-run burlesque show the campus had ever seen (which was a huge success, in case you were curious), the preexisting LGBT student group supported my feminist vision no matter how blurry or far-sighted it seemed at times. I am proud that both of my communities were able to harmonize effectively, but unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
I’d like to keep pushing for intersectionality, not just among LGBTQ activists and feminist activists, but amongst overlapping boundaries of ethnicity and race, and amongst class lines and differently abled bodies. I come from a background of political protest for gendered and sexual equality, but nowhere was intersectionality better expressed than in the international zine community. At around sixteen, a beautiful girl gave me a mixtape. It was on my bed, bent over a handwritten love note that I first heard Bikini Kill, and a world of teen grrrl angst, heart-and-soul-felt punk music, and cut n’ paste zines opened itself up to me. It was through writing zines and trading them across the world—oftentimes receiving in turn a stapled publication scrawled in a language I could barely identify without the aid of an online translator—that my suburban experience was livened up by a chorus of uniquely different voices. Intersectionality means questioning and embracing the intersecting lines of our shared and unique oppressions, and addressing one another with a respectful awareness of such differences. A white man may appear to hold a great degree of social privilege, but if he is also transgender, differently-abled, and working-class, it is just as important to consider his intersectional lines of oppression as it is his dominance. In short: nothing is that easy. The feminist and LGBTQ rights movement have become unlikely bedfellows, but here I am! Just as the lesbian and the gay, and the bisexual and the transgender communities have had their own intersectional conflicts of identity, feminists and LGBTQ activists have plenty to be gained from working alongside one another and cohesion.
I look forward to working together, both as a GLSEN intern, and down the long road ahead of my personal brand of queer sexual health activism, peppered by my feminist upbringing. The feminist in me is excited to meet the lesbian and queer activist in me, and the other way around. GLSEN perfectly marries my own passion for youth activism and education, and it’s a happy marriage. I’d love to see more happy marriages now, too. But before we can do anything, we need to support and advocate for our most vulnerable and most potentially powerful population: our marginalized youth.
July 09, 2014
On Sunday, June 29, GLSEN staff, chapter leaders, volunteers, donors and students marched in the NYC Pride Parade to celebrate our work on behalf of LGBT students everywhere. GLSEN's contingent made its way from midtown Manhattan down to Christopher Street. We paused there, for a few minutes, in front of The Stonewall Inn before making our way to the end of the parade route. Forty-five years ago, the riots there marked the beginning of what many consider the modern movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in the United States. That moment served as a chance to reflect on the huge progress made so far in rights for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and on the progress we have made together as GLSEN since 1990.
In that moment, that feeling of gratitude extended to every individual that participated in GLSEN pride marches across the country. Through the distribution and promotion of materials during tabling or marching efforts we informed constituents of our programs. Those #GLSENproud signs we waved in the air helped educators, students, parents and advocates know that they have allies working on their behalf.
It was our honor to culminate an amazing year of GLSEN work with those who share a deep passion for safe schools. Our chanting voices helped spread the message that we need more supportive educators, more GSAs in schools and more inclusive policies and curriculum in schools now! Thank you to all who participated for your efforts to continue to raise awareness of the importance of creating safe schools for all students.