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January 23, 2018

Cruz Contreras speaking at the 2018 Respect Awards in New York.

From a very young age, we are told to be ourselves and that it is okay to be “a little different.”  Although we start out learning to be kind to everyone, the way we exclude groups from the conversation enforces the idea that we don’t need to continue that as we get older.

As you grow a bit older, you are exposed to more of others’ views and opinions, mainstream media, and societal norms. Slowly, it is put into your mind that you should not be nice to specific groups of people, whether because of their race, class, sexual orientation, or other facets of their identity.

When it comes to gender specifically, we are taught that there are only two: boys and girls, closed boxes that many are afraid to open. You aren’t taught outside the binary; you learn that “he” and “she” are the only gender pronouns. You don’t learn about “they,” “them,” and “theirs” – the pronouns I identity with as an agender person, or someone who does not identify as any particular gender. We also aren’t taught about “zie,” “zir,” “zirs,” or “xie,” “xir,” or “xirs.” In other words, we’re taught that non-binary folks like me don’t even exist.

But what if schools taught differently?

What if we were taught not to assume identities right from the start? What if at school we learned all about the terms people use to describe their identities? Taught to build relationships so that we can learn each other’s differences and what people need for support? Children are more open to new ideas than anyone, and if students are taught to treat others with respect, students will be less likely to feel invalid or stuck.

The starting point? Taking action. I suggest you use resources at school like GLSEN’s new lesson plans on self-identification and gender stereotypes. Use GLSEN’s pronoun resource. Wear pronoun buttons.

Unlearning stereotypes and unboxing labels requires my allies to listen first instead of stepping in. When warranted, they can also help at events and rallies. If you have the privilege of comfort and safety, support others that might not. It’s great to hear that I have your support, but it’s time for everyone to show it.

Recently it was GLSEN’s No Name Calling Week, and the theme was #KindnessInAction. To me, that means no matter what your identities are, you have to take action to try to support one another. The next step is action.

Con mucho amor,

-mc

Cruz Contreras is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.

January 19, 2018

Headshot of GLSEN National Student Council member Sayer Kirk

Gay. Sapphic. Female. Queer. These are ways that I identify myself as a woman in high school. As an individual, you are the expert on how you identify. No one else can force you to identify as X or Y unless you say that you identify with identity X or Y.

Language and the way that people identify continues to change in the LGBTQ community. My great uncles are from the era of Stonewall. During their time, “queer” was used as a slur much like “faggot” and “dyke” are used today. In a school project a couple years ago, I used “queer” as an umbrella term for all non-heterosexual orientations, and my uncle’s response was, “I wish teens would stop using the word ‘queer.’ It implies that they are strange and weird, but they’re not! They’re perfectly normal!” While I understand his reasoning, I also understand that teens are in search of a term that they can use when still exploring their identity, or if they don’t want to identify with one specific label.

I asked a few of my peers how they identify and whether any of their identities are considered controversial to either older or younger generations. And I wasn’t surprised by the answers I received: All of them said that at least one part of their identity was considered controversial.

One friend identifies as gender non-conforming, non-binary, and sexually fluid, and she said that both her gender and her sexuality are considered controversial. She will usually say she is gay, because that’s a label that she identifies with, though her attractions may fluctuate. Because of this fluctuation, people tell her that she just can’t make up her mind. In terms of her gender identity, people often dismiss her gender non-conforming and non-binary identities because she uses she/her pronouns, causing her problems with her self-esteem.

Another friend identifies as female and is currently rethinking her previous label for her sexual orientation. She used to identify as a gay but after some consideration, she thinks that she may be bisexual. When she came out as gay, everyone was happy to stick her in a box as that identity. Since she has been considering identifying as a bi girl, she has noticed a larger stigma around bi girls than gay girls coming from younger generations.

The last person I spoke to identifies as a bisexual female. When asked if her identity was seen as controversial, she said that even some millennials say bisexual females are just “seeking attention,” and that older generations often say that “homosexuality is unnatural.” She told me that these types of comments don’t just show up online; she’s been told them to her face.

Needless to say, even if others say our identities are “controversial,” that isn’t going to change our identities. My friends feel empowered and validated by how they identify. Language is forever developing to fit how people identify within the queer community and we should make room for the changes. For me? I am a gay, sapphic, loving, compassionate femme. Those are my identities, end of story.

Sayer Kirk is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council. For more about discussing labels and identities in class or GSA, check out this lesson for GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week.

January 18, 2018

Picture of a student, the author of this blog piece Danny Charney, smiling

For many people, especially LGBTQ young people, the holidays are a tough time, when you often feel alone or neglected. This year was no different. My family and I did not do much to celebrate the holidays; we stayed home and basically watched movies most of time.

This year felt especially lonely because I had no one to talk to or anyone to give great big hugs to. I was looking for someone to call me, for someone to stop by with a card, or at least a reminder that I was thought of, but nothing came.

When the holidays ended and school came back in session, I sat back at home to do my homework. My phone dinged, and a message popped up: “Someone who cares about you wants to send you an anonymous message of kindness.” I sat up in my chair, and I wondered what the message would be. The next thing I knew, the message came in, and it said, “You are loved!”

Two students pointing, with the text "Text KIND to 21333 to send an anonymous message of kindness" above them, and a phone that says "You are loved" on the screen between them

In that moment I sat there staring at my phone smiling, realizing that people did care. On most days, a message like this would have made me smile just for a moment, and then I would’ve just carried on. But not that day. Instead, the message stuck in my mind for the whole week, giving me a new sense of empowerment and love.

All people, especially marginalized folks, deserve someone to let them know that they matter. Your existence is enough, and you should keep on living and thriving. That’s what that text reaffirmed for me.

Messages like this are one step in showing someone that their existence matters to you. It’s an actionable way to give someone you care about an affirmation and put #KindnessInaction. This week is GLSEN’s No Name Calling Week, where thousands of students and educators will put #KindnessInAction further, to create a foundation where people are respected and called the things they would like to be called. Where people are affirmed in their identities constantly. Where we build up a support system around students in school so that they feel less alone.

At the end of the day, I passed on the text to a close friend of mine who I hadn’t reached out to in a while, because I knew in my head that it would make her smile and help her realize that people do care, even when it may not seem that way.

I encourage you to send an anonymous message of kindness to someone, or put #KindnessInAction in your own way this No Name-Calling Week and beyond.

Danny Charney is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council. Want to send your own anonymous message of kindness? Text KIND to 21333 or visit glsen.org/kindness.

January 18, 2018

A screenshot of a student performing their poetry during the queer and trans students of color GLSEN Open Mic

For No Name-Calling Week, queer and trans students of color shared their poetry and spoken word pieces about putting #KindnessInAction during GLSEN's first-ever open mic. In case you missed it, you can view a recording of the event and the poems transcribed below!

And don't forget to submit your poetry and art to GLSEN's Creative Expressions Exhibit!

Clara Horton (they/she)

My poem speaks to #KindnessInAction because it shows how hard it is to be queer and just a teen in a school environment and how just small actions can change this.

Untitled

Who am I?
I ask myself that at least once a day
Sometimes more than that
I don’t have a solid answer to that
It's rather funny
I’ve been here for my entire life
I don’t know who I am

To be honest, I’m a ball of contradictions wrapped in a facade of happiness and smiles
I’m black but not that black
I love musicals and rock and roll
I’m 16 going on 40 going on 5
I can speak confidently and come off as happy when inside I'm confused and suffocating

I know what some people think I am
I know what I think of myself, yet I don’t trust my own opinion since my self-worth has been shaped and warped by others
You know I’ve been told so many things about myself
It's hard to choose what's right and what's not

People tell me that everyone likes me yet I tell myself that I’m alone
People that I’m incredibly smart, but I often feel lost, confused, and stupid
People say that I’m okay looking, but I would be so beautiful if only I grew out my hair, but my hair is one of the few things I like about myself

What I do know is that I like everyone else struggle
I struggle every day
I strive to let myself out

To not just come out of the closet but to also share who I am
To honestly be who I am and not be scared
Sometimes it's easier to hide than to be hurt
Sometimes the idea that someone would turn away from you because you showed your true colors keeps me up at night

I often hide behind smiles and treats
I’ll make jokes that are just a bit to true about me
Or make everyone cupcakes instead of crying
I’ll send people memes and retweet puppy photos instead of wondering if everyone secretly hates me but talks to me out of pity
I’ll bake treats and buy everyone doughnuts because all I want is for them to like me

Sometimes it even feels like I’m invisible
People make jokes, and my flinches are invisible
I try to stand up and say something, but I’m invisible

I see my friends at parties but to them in invisible
I hold back tears as people talk over me, through me because they can’t hear me I’m invisible

It doesn't help that I blend into the background
People like me when I'm here
But forget about me when I'm not
People never invite me to parties
No one has ever asked me on a date

While a voice in my head tells me that it shouldn't matter... It does

I'm slowly finding a voice, my voice
I've joined speech and GSA
I’ve learned so much about who I am
I’m genderfluid
I like sourdough doughnuts
I enjoy science and space
I can be brash and loud
I can be calm and logical
I understand the pain of others because I’ve been through it myself
I know that sometimes all you need is one person, one teacher to just catch a glance at who you are, one person who tries to break down your walls and push you to be the best that you can be and you’ll start to change
And I'm beginning to be noticed
But that's almost as scary
I don't know who I am
I don't know who I want to be
I have to share who I am with the world
What if I get it wrong
What if someone doesn't like me
What if no one likes me

But I'm trying to figure things out
Figure me out
I'm breaking down my walls and trying to speak the truth
My truth and it's a little less scary knowing that GSA is behind me
Knowing that every second and third tuesday I’ll have a group of people who understand
Knowing that as I walk through the hallways there's someone there who has my back
Someone who knows that I’m a rocker and a nerd
Someone who knows that I struggle everyday to get out of bed
Someone who will text me over a holiday to make sure that I’m ok
Knowing that I have a few teachers who know my struggles and try to help as much as they can
Knowing that I have a teacher who will convince me to write and perform for a GLSEN competition

Just having someone send me a smile in the hallway helps me take the day one step at time
Just a quick hello as we pass lets me know i'm not totally invisible
Just a invite to sit with someone at lunch makes me feel less alone

One small action can make someone's day
You might not know it
They may never tell you
But one small smile can save a life

Soli Guzman (any pronouns)

My poem speaks to #KindnessInAction because kindness and compliments can be interpreted in many ways. Sometimes those remarks can hurt more than they are supposed to make one feel good. Sometimes the best form of kindness can be knowing how someone feels.

Untitled

First day of sophomore year I hear a voice I did not know,

She says “I love your skin, I wish I had your tan”,

A complement that can be perceived completely different if she was in my shoes.

As a young queer brown person, I see it as compliment but maybe a joke too,

You see she didn’t know what my skin means to me,

How I see my beautiful golden brown in the summer to the Light brown I face to in winter.

She didn’t know how much pain and beauty I see in my skin,

She doesn’t see the power it holds,

My painfully beautiful brown skin.

She tells me she wants my skin, my “tan”,

But she doesn’t know what comes with my skin,

The overarching history it has.

My skin comes from my grandfather side,

My skin came from Torreón, Mexico,

Where my grandpa was born.

My skin came from a hard working man who worked the fields,

Before him my skin came from native Americans,

And that skin was passed onto my mother.

My skin has such beautiful rich history that can be rolled by so much pain,

Little did she know that my skin caused years of torment to my family,

How my mother got called at by white men in a pick up “go home rosarita beaner”,

To my grandfather who got held behind class by the principle for speaking Spanish because he should speak the language of the country,

And to my great grandfather who got murdered by the hand of a white man and He never got justice.

Yet through this pain my skin has so much beauty,

How it changes shades through the seasons like the sunsets,

how after a day in the sun, my skin has tanned red,

How I wear orange and red and I shine.

My skin shows has the power my mom has when she went to law school,

The same fight that my grandfather had in the marines and when he created his own company,

And the same dream my great grandfather had when he came to America to change the life of his children and wife.

 

To the girl who complimented me,

your act of kindness can be interpreted in many ways,

for me I wish you could have see the inner me.

I wish you could have complimented me on how I am instead of who I am,

Complemented my love for stem and my knowledge,

Instead of what’s on the surface such as my skin or wavy hair

because those have special history as to who I am and who I will become

Mari Contreras (They/Them)

My poems speak to #KindnessInAction because it’s important to show the background of what the names you give someone are, and to acknowledge that. Giving names that we don’t give consent to being called takes away the things we want to be called. Before taking away my identity, take away building a bond with me. Before you do that, know me and know not to assume.

pale;

pale;
it’s a four-letter word that i get a lot,
my clothes mostly dark against my tone
my hair only a bit lighter than my shoe soles
this dark purplish color indented to my face
under my eyes a light reflection of its color
my face low
hands, cracked and bruised 
and the rest of me too
so why am i “pale”?
it is the result of a Latinx student, worker, and peer
the sole of my shoes and sleeve for covering tattoos matches with a work uniform
black shoes, black work pants, black work jacket, black collared-shirt
a strict uniform
under eyes became so indented and dark due to the time of rising
met with the late night with no sleep
seasonal weather jumps around
still have to be marked for attendance, no matter if tired or late
must skip sleep
writing on paper, sketching with a pen, fixing something that’s broken
hands burnt
my hands no longer heal fully
the rest exactly the same
a different color very long ago
drained and faded,
staying up writing essays or assisting a friend
for me to continue my education, late night essays for grants and scholarships
assignments and instructional i take and complete
meetings i attend consistently
the call-in shift i get on the phone during a day off or after school
when is there sleep
a stereotype that someone should look a way to be who they are
listening to a question, one we all hear.
white-passing and that is a privilege, that doesn’t stop the other stereotypes consistently called upon for being Latinx. To take away identity by saying you do not look Latinx is only being put into a stereotype, already faced with many.
working to a point of drained discoloration and dropped looks, 
because a minority, because of the environment around, because of low-income, because of the stereotypes pushed upon us
the future wanted is less likely to have.
for that, i am pale because i am Latinx.

 

not your average gay

We’re not all muscular

We’re not all slim

We’re not all tall

We’re not all short

We’re not all feminine

We’re not all masculine

We’re not all one same hair color

We’re not all one same eye color

We’re not all one same age

We’re not all one same race

We’re not all from once same place

We’re not all a certain gender

We’re not all friendly and are not all nice

We’re not all accepting of our own community, which is definitely not alright

We’re not all quiet

We’re not all loud

We’re not all always excited

We’re not all dramatic

We’re not all one profession

We’re not all open to suggestions, and sure as hell not all into one same fetish

 

We’re not all your average typical gay, whatever that may mean

Whether you expected a gay guy best friend wearing khakis and a turtleneck, or a gay girl best friend who wants to always be more than friends

 

We’re sometimes blunt and will tell you what we think

I know i do and will tell you how it is

 

None of us are your stereotypes, we’re simply not the same

 

But we all do share one thing in common, and it’s probably something you wouldn’t expect

That we are definitely all gay, and that’s point blank

Sarah Bunn (She/Her) 

My poem speaks to #KindnessInAction because growing up, I found that in Asian spaces, I was silenced because of my LGBTQ identity and because I wasn’t considered “Asian enough.” But in LGBTQ spaces, I would be silenced because of my Asian identity. These poems focus on my frustrations about being silenced and perceived by others in a manner that disrespects these two aspects of my identity. It’s so important that we respect every part of others’ identities, and understand that people are so much more than their identity.

variation [fake asian]

the name i carry on my hands is not my own
rather a third variation of a name i will never know
it is merely the creation of my father who wanted his name
to roll right in the mouths of those who didn’t understand
rather than clumsily spill from their mouths and drip to the ground
forgotten and disregarded

my mother’s fear that it wasn’t enough
because her devotion to her last name
made her the sun, searing the pure white clouds among her
they wanted to drown the fire that raged within her
until the last spark from her would die out
and make her cold and complacent like them

so my parents, with love, bleached my name
until the dirt washed out and the water ran clear
was this ambiguity worth the cost?
when my skin and eyes still betray my name
when the words that tumble from between my lips
smell like lemongrass and stain like turmeric and prahok

when a white man sneers at you and asks if you can understand
but his language is the only you understand
and your relatives hiss in a tongue that you’ll never taste
because your parents didn’t want its spice tainting your words
did the love of my parents do any good?
was this false sense of security worth the blood under my skin?

did my parents make me like those around them?
scornful and bitter because i have nothing to claim
but i am lost and I cannot be sure anymore
whether my mother’s fire continues to burn within me
when the one thing that should have been mine
was taken away by the people who love me

 

heirloom

they ask me why this red buddhist string winds around my wrist
and pretend to care about what it means to me
as their silver scissors snip it to tie around their own
the red striking their pure white skin in a way
that i almost envy while my yellow-tinted skin is an envy for them

those like me spit in disgust at me, their pale skin a testament
to my inferiority for allowing the sun to brown my skin
i am pale now, not because i wish to be but because it's how i must be,
but they still pinch my skin and tell me to bleach out the rays of sun

i remember when i first hated this heirloom of mine
when a boy made a joke, making fun of the asian accent
Slurring his r’s into l’s, shrilly mangling words into slices
the very one inflected in my parents’ tone, in my tone
his gaze happened to catch onto mine, but i said nothing
he was wrong and nothing happened to him

The heirloom, a burden i bear on my back and breath
My teeth rubbed yellow from asian tea leaves
And bits of sand underneath my nails because
When the devil sees a pile of sand he must sit and count
Every grain of sand until dawn rises and he disintegrates
And to them i am the antichrist, dirty and wary of their light

I am the force that reckons their way of life
With my slit eyes and split tongue that balances
Mispronounced English and mumbled Khmer in the same second

My mother with her goddamn 3rd grade education
Who was determined to graduate with a degree
And have a home because hers was stolen away
My father, who brought every one of his sisters and their children
To America and into his home so they could have the chance
This is the story carved into the lines of my skin and the swirls of hair on my head

And you dare to tell me that the soil of America
Has rinsed my skin into whiteness
That i am consumed by a culture that isn’t mine
Which i fetishize and perpetuate because i am ashamed
This shame isn’t mine but the one you wish for me to feel

So you can steal it away like they stole my blood and history
So you can twist it like they twisted my words
So you can hide your wrongdoings in the decencies of mine

Because to you, my heirloom is merely a mask
But for me, it’s the very color of my flesh
Yellow and browned
Just how i choose

Larissa Izaguirre (She/Her) 

My poem touches upon the detrimental effect of negative language on others. This speaks to #KindnessInAction because it illustrates how impactful language can be and especially how harmful.

Sticks and Stones

Words have power.
As the phonetics of a phrase slide through your teeth
Stop and think
About what you are about to release into the universe.
Your words dance amongst the stars and rain down upon those around you,
For better or for worse.
The first time a boy hurt me with his words I was five years old.
In the midst of a trivial disagreement he suddenly turned his attention towards me and very calmly said:
“Why don’t you go back and cry to your mom in the fields.”
I now understand what he was trying to say, but at the time I had no clue.
That night I asked my sister what the boy meant by what he said.
She then explained to me what prejudice was and how it affected me.
I was five years old.
I could barely read, yet I had to carry the struggles of my ancestors on my tiny shoulders.
I doubt that the boy understood what he was saying or even how hurtful it was but
that’s the beauty of words.
It is so easy,
easy to open your mouth and change someone’s life.
I hear it daily;
Derogatory terms flying about the hallways like grenades on a battlefield.
Their words pierce my eardrum like the booming of a bomb.
A boy is messing around with his friend and
The R word explodes through the classroom.
A girl gets her hair cut a little shorter and
“Dyke” flies under a desk.
Someone’s accent peaks through while reading aloud in class and
“Spic” splatters across the ceiling.
They may be “just words” but their letters are strung together by hate.
These words have a lengthy history of tearing down people for reasons out of their control.
These words were created to hurt,
to sting when they are spit in your face.
When people say to “Go back home!”
Do they realize that they are the one invading my home with the butt of their voice?
When they shout “terrorist” at the young Muslim girl do they realize that they are the one terrorizing her?
When you say “I don’t see color” do you realize that you are invalidating the issues facing black and brown people and whiting out our struggle?
And please; if you are not black you can not say the n-word.
I do not care how urban you think you are.
That is not your history.
That is not your struggle.
That is not your liberty.
So watch your damn mouth.
l.j.i.

January 10, 2018

A student’s opportunity for camaraderie and community in school shouldn’t depend on where they live. Yet, that seems to be the case for many LGBTQ students across the country.

GSAs – also known as Gay-Straight Alliances or Gender-Sexuality Alliances – are student-led clubs whose members explicitly address LGBTQ topics. In doing so, these clubs raise awareness of diverse sexual and gender identities at school, and can have an impact on overall school climate through education and advocacy efforts. They also help LGBTQ students to meet, support, and affirm one another.

Unfortunately, according to the most recent School Health Profiles (SHP) report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many LGBTQ students are left without access to this critical support. In fact, the SHP data, as reported by school principals, indicate that the distribution of GSAs across the country is far from uniform.

GSAs and similar clubs are least common in the South and Midwest. For example, you’ll find them in fewer than 1 in 10 secondary schools (9.3%) in South Dakota, and only 1 in 7 (13.9%) secondary schools in Arkansas. You’re far more likely to find an LGBTQ student club in the Northeast or West. In Massachusetts, these groups are in 6 in 10 secondary schools (60.5%). And, when looking across the U.S. as a whole, CDC data indicate that schools commonly lack a GSA. In fact, besides Massachusetts, there are only 2 other states (Connecticut and New York) in which a majority of secondary schools have any GSA or similar club.

These results corroborate some of GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey (NSCS) findings, in which we found similar patterns of GSA availability, as reported by LGBTQ students. For example, we also found GSAs to be less common in the South and the Midwest. Our data also indicated that LGBTQ students in the South and Midwest were less likely to have LGBTQ-supportive staff and administration in school. These lower levels of institutional support could contribute to the scarcity of GSAs in these areas. It may be tough for students to start an LGBTQ student club if a school’s staff and administration have given no indication that they will be receptive to the idea.

This is troubling, because NSCS data link GSAs to fewer instances of anti-LGBT remarks and a stronger sense of school community for LGBTQ students. Our From Teasing to Torment report on school climate also noted a connection between GSAs and greater feelings of school safety for both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ students alike.

For those working at a school that does not yet have a GSA, it can be crucial to demonstrate to students that they will have your support if they want to form a club. For school staff, this may mean advertising your classroom or office as a Safe Space or offering to be a GSA advisor. For school administration specifically, this may mean introducing supportive policies to your school or district.

Ultimately, however, GSAs are created and led by students. For those ready to take on that task? GLSEN has your back!

For students seeking institutional support for their GSA, check out our guide to meeting with decision makers. For step-by-step help in forming your GSA, check out our Jump Start guide, then browse our growing library of GSA resources to help to keep your club a success. Finally, be sure to stay in the loop, and always have the latest resources on hand, by registering your GSA with us.

So, where does your state stack up? Look up how common GSAs are in your state with the map below, or check out the full SHP 2016 report to read more about GSAs as well as other LGBTQ school resources.

 In the following states, 50% to 75% of secondary schools have a GSA or similar club: Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York.   In the following states, 25% to 49% of secondary schools have a GSA or similar club: Alaska, California, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.   In the following states, 0% to 24% of secondary schools have a GSA or similar club: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming.   There is no data on the percentage of secondary schools with a GSA or similar club in Colorado, Iowa, or the District of Columbia.

 

Though they are relatively scarce, our own research has uncovered a promising trend regarding GSAs: their numbers are growing. And, with some help from the resources listed above, you can foster that growth by taking action in your local community, regardless of where you live.

Adrian Zongrone, MPH is a Research Associate at GLSEN.

January 10, 2018

A teacher in front of her classroom. She is wearing a pronoun button and her computer has a Safe Space Sticker on it.

Educators across the country are reporting pushback for displaying LGBTQ-supportive materials, such as GLSEN’s Safe Space Sticker, in their classrooms. It is important that this be addressed, and that everyone involved in the school community--from administrators to family members--understand the importance of these seemingly small symbols of support.

GLSEN’s Safe Space Kit materials have been curated to equip educators with the information and resources they need in order to best support and understand LGBTQ students in their schools. The posters and stickers within the kit specifically aim to increase educators’ capacity to be a visible ally and support to LGBTQ students on an interpersonal level. In the Safe Space Kit guide, educators are reminded, “One of the most important parts of being an ally to LGBTQ students is making yourself known as an ally. In order to come to you for help, students need to be able to recognize you as an ally.”

According to GLSEN’s latest National School Climate Survey, which reports on the experiences of LGBTQ young people in schools, nearly 9 in 10 LGBTQ students were harassed or assaulted at school. Allies can play a critical role in identifying the bullying and exclusion of LGBTQ students, and some of the most important allies are educators. Holding the dual position of controlling classroom environments, and often having a voice to advocate on LGBTQ students’ behalf to school administration, educators maintain an invaluable role in creating positive learning environments. They are also the direct actors in implementing LGBTQ content in class curricula or serving as a faculty advisor for students to formally organize supportive groups on campus.

One of the most integral parts of educators acting as allies is making themselves known as allies. GLSEN’s research shows that, even if students do not approach publicly allied teachers, just knowing that they have them as a support system in the school can have positive educational outcomes for LGBTQ students.  When educators display LGBTQ-affirming stickers or posters in their classrooms, there are a variety of positive effects for LGBTQ students. Our research shows that students who had seen a Safe Space sticker or poster in their school were more likely to identify school staff who were supportive of LGBTQ students and more likely to feel comfortable talking with school staff about LGBTQ issues.  Having supportive staff is a tremendous support for LGBTQ youth.

Looking at students with 11 or more supportive staff members, versus those without any supportive staff members, students with this level of support were less likely to feel unsafe (40.6% vs. 78.7%), less likely to miss school because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable (16.9% vs. 47.2%), had higher GPAs (3.3 vs. 2.8), and were less likely to say they might not graduate high school (1.7% vs. 9.5%). Overall, students who had supportive staff by their side reported higher perceptions of safety and overall academic performance, creating a better school environment for all.

In order for these students to feel safer in our schools and reach their full potential, they need to know that we see and support them in their entirety. Allowing educators to be visible in their allyship towards LGBTQ students is an imperative support to ensure that all students have an affirming learning environment. Bringing GLSEN’s Safe Space Stickers to schools is just the first step in establishing trust with students, letting them know that educators are there for them, and that they belong.

Becca Mui is GLSEN’s Education Manager.

January 08, 2018

A student holding a sign that says "I am strong, trans, and proud!"

In preparation for GLSEN's No Name-Calling Week, we asked students to tell us the labels and identities that they hold and want to be called. Self-identification can be empowering, and it can be hurtful when people use labels that don't match the ones we choose ourselves. These students are making a statement against name-calling and bullying by encouraging people not to use slurs or stereotypes, but to call their peers by the names that they identify with and give others permission to use.

You can put #KindnessInAction by calling people the names they WANT to be called. Want to share how you identify? Join the conversation by posting your own sign with the names you WANT to be called. Make sure to use #KindnessInAction and tag @glsenoffical on Twitter and Instagram! 

To get involved with No Name-Calling Week, and to get free streaming of LGBTQ-inclusive classroom documentaries, register here!

 

#KindnessInAction I am a very strong, very brown, very gay flower boi 

A post shared by Kian Elijah They/He (@flamboyant._.flautist) on Dec 11, 2017 at 4:34pm PST

Don't forget to register for No Name-Calling Week for free streaming of LGBTQ-inclusive classroom documentaries!

January 08, 2018

Students in a GSA working together

As you undoubtedly already know, Puerto Rico was struck by a powerful Category 5 hurricane on September 20, and people remain struggling, many without running water, food, and power. The last few months have left the community in destruction, as it works towards rebuilding. Puerto Rican students are left struggling, both here on the mainland and those still living in Puerto Rico.

There continues to be many needs to fill on the island. Besides the most basic needs caused by the hurricane, there are cries from the community for those in positions of power to recognize the history of Puerto Rico, the colonization of the land, and the “othering” of Puerto Ricans—that is, some of the root causes that have influenced the lack of response by the U.S. government. There is need to address both current and historical trauma.

To our Puerto Rican family, those here on the mainland, those worrying about family, and those who have just moved here because of the hurricane: we see you. We see the need for continuous action, to be angry, to listen to your needs and respond to them, and to fight alongside you.

To those wanting to act in allyship, members of GLSEN’s National Student Council have come up with a list of steps you can take right now, either as an individual or part of a GSA.

Act 

  • With your fellow students, write letters and make calls to your Congressperson to ask them to fund relief efforts for Puerto Rico and the repeal of the Jones Act.
  • Create a fundraiser, and donate your collections to one of the organizations below. A fundraiser could include crafting safety pins with beads in the colors of the Puerto Rican flag, holding coin drop offs at your school, creating school-supply care packages, or hosting a sliding-scale queer movie night. Here are some organizations and causes GSAs have donated to:
    • Trans & Queer Boricuas, which “provides direct cash assistance to trans and queer Boricuas whose lives, homes and/or property have been impacted by Hurricane Maria.”
    • Proyecto Matria, a local community organization focused on helping victims of gender violence and poverty. They have established an emergency fund to provide basic supplies and food for their participants and community.
    • Centro Comunitario LGBTT de Puerto Rico, which is accepting supplies, such as “batteries, flashlights, a generator for the Center, non-perishable food, other hard-to-come-by essentials for community members, and school supplies.”

Centro Comunitario LGBTT de Puerto Rico
Attn: Cecilia La Luz
P.O. Box 9501
San Juan, PR 00908

  • Organize a school assembly and/or a presentation for family members to act in solidarity with students, families, and educators in Puerto Rico and to call attention to your fundraiser.
  • Share Princess Nokia’s fundraising video, Pancho Guillermo Cordova’s exclusive tote and T-shirt, and Rodríguez Besosa’s sustainable food proposal. Amplify other Puerto Rican artists and activists who are using their power to raise awareness and support.
  • Check in with Puerto Rican members of your school/community to see if they or their families may need support directly.
  • Work with other affinity groups (Diversity Club, Hispanic Students Association, etc) to organize an event or to raise funds.

Learn

  • Talk about Teaching Tolerance’s How to Talk about Puerto Rico in your GSA.
  • Follow Puerto Rico’s LGBT Center, which is providing updates on how to best assist queer people in need. The group is active on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Organize with other students to learn about the history of Puerto Rico and to recognize the colonization of the land.
  • Talk about Puerto Rico in class (heritage, geography, culture) and the natural disaster.

We must support any and all communities that face hardships like this. There are so many ideas on how to help after disasters such as Hurricane Maria, but many are not followed through, often because folks doubt that they have the ability to make change. The first step is to listen to what is needed, and then move from there.

Our hearts are with you as you’re organizing in your schools and communities. You can always reach out to students@glsen.org for more support.

Marisa Matias, Sarah Bunn, and Mari Contreras are members of GLSEN’s National Student Council. Tate Benson is GLSEN’s Youth Programs Associate. 

January 08, 2018

A teacher teaching in front of her students

As you undoubtedly already know, Puerto Rico was struck by a powerful Category 5 hurricane on September 20, 2017. Students came to class talking about Hurricane Maria, worried about all the people without power and drinkable water. Since Hurricane Maria, about 139,000 Puerto Ricans have arrived to Florida, while the island struggles with a lack of basic necessities. Now, it’s as important as ever that we center the experiences of Puerto Rican Americans in our classrooms. 

For educators whose hearts are with Puerto Rico right now, and who are unsure of what next steps you can take, here are some ideas from GLSEN’s National Student Council:

Learn 

  • Read articles such as How to Help Puerto Rico Right Now and After Hurricane Maria, Mental Health Specialist see toll among U.S. Puerto Ricans to learn more about how you can help and the continuing effects of the disaster.
  • Follow Puerto Rico’s LGBT Center, which is providing updates on how to best assist queer people in need. The group is active on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Check in with Puerto Rican members of your school/community to see if they or their families may need support directly. Listen with empathy as they share what they are going through, find out what they need, and if you are able to, support them in getting their needs met. 

Teach

  • Talk about Puerto Rico with your students (heritage, geography, culture) and the natural disaster.
  • Share with your students Princess Nokia’s fundraising video, Pancho Guillermo Cordova’s exclusive tote and T-shirt, and Rodríguez Besosa’s sustainable food proposal. See if your students can find other Puerto Rican artists and activists who are using their power to raise awareness and support.
  • Incorporate into your curriculum this lesson by Teaching Tolerance: How to Talk about Puerto Rico.
  • Teach your students about the history of Puerto Rico and to recognize the colonization of the land, which has influenced the lack of U.S. governmental response to the disaster. Try these lessons from Share My Lesson: American’s Involvement in Puerto Rico and Puerto Rico: What is the role of the federal government after a disaster? 
  • Connect to your school’s affinity groups (Diversity Club, Hispanic Students Association, GSA, etc.) to organize an event that unifies your school’s efforts and gives more support for this cause.

Act

  • Have your students write a letter to and call your Congress person to ask them to donate to relief efforts for Puerto Rico.
  • Organize a school assembly and/or a presentation for family members to show solidarity with students, families, and educators in Puerto Rico and to call attention to your fundraiser.

Donate

  • Create a fundraiser or donate directly to one of the organizations below. A fundraiser could include crafting safety pins with beads in the colors of the Puerto Rican flag, holding coin drop offs at your school, creating school-supply care packages, or hosting a sliding-scale queer movie night. Here are some organizations and causes to donate to:
    • The Teachers Federation of Puerto Rico (FMPR), which is accepting donations “in order to provide people in need the poor communities, including our colleagues and the families of our students that have lost everything.”
    • Trans & Queer Boricuas, which “provides direct cash assistance to trans and queer Boricuas whose lives, homes and/or property have been impacted by Hurricane Maria.”
    • Centro Comunitario LGBTT de Puerto Rico, which is accepting supplies, such as “batteries, flashlights, a generator for the Center, non-perishable food, other hard-to-come-by essentials for community members, and school supplies.”

Centro Comunitario LGBTT de Puerto Rico
Attn: Cecilia La Luz
P.O. Box 9501
San Juan, PR 00908

For those of you who are Puerto Rican and have family on the island or in neighboring islands impacted by this natural disaster, know that you are doing all that you can in getting by each day, and lean on your allies and advocates right now. Educators have always mastered putting their students first, and responding to their needs, especially in times of crisis. Thank you for all that you continue to do!

Marisa Matias, Sarah Bunn, and Mari Contreras are members of GLSEN’s National Student Council. Becca Mui is GLSEN’s Education Manager.

November 30, 2017

During Native Heritage Month, GLSEN recognizes and celebrates the cultures, histories, contributions, issues, and heritage of Native/Indigenous peoples.

‘Indigenous’ and ‘Native’ are identity markers used interchangeably across Turtle Island and are most often capitalized as nouns. ‘Native American’ is more and more rejected in protest against the settler states of the U.S. and Canada who presume their project of settlement and colonization of this land is finished. This is still Turtle Island.

From We’wha to Candi Brings Plenty, queer and Two-Spirit Indigenous folks have been at the forefront of LGBTQ organizing and resistance movements for centuries. They have currently and throughout history been fighting against cultural genocide by the U.S. government, the breaking of treaties, and white supremacy. It is imperative that we continue to acknowledge this work, while also remaining vigilant of the intersecting levels of marginalization and oppression that queer and Two-Spirit Indigenous peoples experience. Keeping in mind the activists who continue to put their bodies and well-being on the line to fight for the care of their sacred land—most recently at Standing Rock—is a critical element of inclusive education and LGBTQ work.

Below is a compilation of these icons, composed by GLSEN’s National Student Council to share their impact, and as an encouragement for folks to look into their work. Each of these icons belong in classroom curriculum. Including them is a way for students to feel reflected, honored, and valued within both their school community and society at large. In addition to making students feel valued it is a way of keeping Native culture alive. For more ways to support LGBTQ Native students at school, see these GLSEN resources

 And, most importantly, feel free to refer to this decolonial map in order to remain accountable to whose land you are on across Turtle Island.

Did we miss your icon? Post your favorite Native LGBTQ icon on Instagram with a bio using #NativeHeritageMonth. Then, see more Native icons and a timeline that you can use in your classroom all year long!

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