GLSEN is With You During the COVID-19 Crisis

By Eliza Byard (she/her/hers)

Dear Friends and Supporters:

The COVID-19 epidemic is causing uncertainty in every aspect of our lives, but there is one thing I am still certain about from nearly two decades of leading GLSEN: During times of crisis, our sense of community is what will help us prevail.

As we respond to this unprecedented disruption, I wanted to reach out personally to ensure you that we are committed to taking care of our community –the LGBTQ students at the core of our mission, our local chapter leaders, and our staff – in ways that prioritize health and safety, and create shared strength from our sense of community. This week, the GLSEN team will be moving our work on-line, both to protect ourselves from COVID-19, and to adapt our programs for virtual delivery as schools around the country begin to close for unknown periods of time. We will not be holding in-person GLSEN events until further notice, and will adapt our school-based programming to add virtual options should local schools be closed.

It is crucial that we do all we can to ensure that for LGBTQ students, social distancing does not result in social isolation, and that the need for digital connection does not leave students vulnerable to cyberbullying. For those parents in our community about to be at home with your children – as I am – here are two current resources that  provide guidance for discussing the pandemic with your children and watching for signs of cyberbullying as your child connects with their peers online.

Beginning next week, the GLSEN team will be supporting remote engagement of GSAs and students to sustain their sense of community and connection.  

We are adapting signature initiatives such as GLSEN’s Day of Silence and educator training programs for virtual or in-person engagement, depending on local school conditions. And we are exploring ways to have our New York Respect Awards event celebrate our inspiring honorees in an alternative way, to sustain its power even if we cannot be together in person. And I’m excited that our Research Institute will continue its series of webinars on Youth of Color next week.

Our LGBTQ community and its allies have prevailed in the face of crisis countless times before. At a moment like this, connection to community is crucial for our collective resilience. Now more than ever, we are focused on our mission.

We’d love to hear from you to know how you are doing and how your networks are responding. We have plenty of uncertainty ahead, but there is no doubt that the collective power of the GLSEN family is a precious resource for just this moment.

With gratitude for your commitment at this time of challenge,

Eliza Byard
Executive Director, GLSEN