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April 27, 2018

GLSEN's Pronoun Buttons in four variations: he/him, she/her, they/them, and blank

As an English teacher, I know first hand that language can be sticky.  Grammatical correctness is important, but more important are the people the words are used to describe.

In a polarizing binary pronoun world, navigating gender-neutral pronouns can be daunting at first. Though most people use they/them/their in everyday conversation without a second thought, it can be a whole different issue when applying it to a single person. Even though the use of singular “they” has been added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and the APA style guide, it has sadly not yet made its way into English classrooms across the country.

I heard a story from a student that made me take a more conscious effort to have inclusive language. My student told me that when analyzing a poem, the teacher asked the students to discuss the voice of the poem in terms of gender. My student chose to use "they" as a gender-neutral singular pronoun. The teacher urged the student to pick "one or the other," insisting that there were only two choices. My student didn't feel this was fair and knew that many people use “they/them” pronouns when “he/him” or “she/her” don’t fit. The student tried to reason with their teacher, and the argument ended with the teacher telling the class that "they" is only for plural use. My student left that English class feeling discouraged and isolated.

This story inspired me to take a look at my own class, my own teaching, and the influence that language has for my students. Do I force students to pick from the limited options of “boy” and “girl”? How can I bring “they/them/theirs” in a singular, gender-neutral form into my lessons and conversations with students? Is my curriculum silencing people’s identities when I ignore these seemingly little words?

As a teacher, I can use my curriculum and conversations to bring visibility to LGBTQ people. I am sure to talk to my students about their use of language, and how that language impacts others.  Words can be a destructive force of terror or a haven of creative catharsis. Sometimes the erasure of words can mean the silencing of identity. When we, as educators, prioritize outdated grammatical rules above our students’ experiences, we’re allowing language to put a student in a box that limits their creative expression and can cut them off from having the language to describe themselves.

Today is GLSEN’s Day of Silence, when students and educators take a vow of silence to highlight the silencing and erasure of LGBTQ people at school. I strive to help my students to break this silence, and to find the words that help them express who they are, no matter who that is.

Ashley Bidinger is a teacher of English Language Arts and a GSA sponsor.

April 26, 2018

For this year’s GLSEN Day of Silence on April 27th, the 2017-2018 National Student Council shared on social media how they are breaking the silence. With this year’s focus on highlighting marginalized voices within the LGBTQ+ community, some council members are either educating others on intersectionality and the importance of allyship, emphasizing the voices of those unable to speak up, or letting their true self shine proudly. We encourage you to use this day to continue engaging in dialogue in your schools and community centered around the bullying of LGBTQ students. Be sure to take a picture of yourself or your GSA breaking the silence with our sign and share on social media, tagging @GLSENofficial.

1. JuliaStudent holding a "breaking the silence" sign.

 

2. Em 

Student Council Member Em

 

3. MariNational Student Council member Mari

 

4. JamesNational Student Council Member James

 

5. Imani

 National Student Council member Imani 

 

6. Marcus

National Student Council member Marcus

 

7. DannyNational Student Council Member Danny

 

8. Soli

 National Student Council member Soli

 

9. Marisa

National Student Council Member Marisa

How are you breaking the silence for LGBTQ youth? Let us know on Twitter or Instagram with your own sign and #DayOfSilence!

April 26, 2018

Students with their index fingers over their lips in a "Shhh" gesture.

This Friday, thousands of students across the country will participate in GLSEN's Day of Silence, a daylong vow of silence symbolizing the to highlight the silencing and erasure of LGBTQ people at school. After taking a vow of silence throughout the day, students often break the silence with an event hosted by a student group, community organization, or local GLSEN Chapter. Check out the list below to see whether a local GLSEN Chapter is hosting an event near you. 

Kansas

Wichita

GLSEN Greater Wichita
Night of Noise
West Heights United Methodist Church
Friday, April 27 at 3:30 PM - 6:30 PM CDT
MORE INFO

Kentucky

Bluegrass

GLSEN Bluegrass
Night of Noise
Third Street Stuff & Coffee
Friday, April 27 at 6 PM - 8 PM EDT
MORE INFO

New York

Hudson Valley

GLSEN Hudson Valley
2018 Breaking the Silence Teen Dance
Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center
Friday, April 27 at 7 PM - 10 PM EDT
MORE INFO

New York Capital Region

GLSEN NYCR
Breaking The Silence Rally
Egg Performing Arts Center
Friday, April 27th 4:30-9PM
MORE INFO

Missouri 

Kansas City

GLSEN Greater Kansas City
Break the Silence and After-Party
Friday, April 27 at 3:15 PM - 6:45 PM CDT
Mill Creek Park and KC Center for Inclusion 
MORE INFO

April 17, 2018

Student created art of several mouths with rainbow flags and X's crossing them out.

GLSEN's Day of Silence is on April27th! Here are 8 ways students can participate leading up to and during the largest, student-led action against anti-LGBTQ bullying and erasure in schools.

  1. Prepare by sharing to your teachers, friends, and coworkers over the course of the day why you’re being silent. Share with your teachers and administration the Day of Silence Educator Guide. You can find all of the materials at glsen.org/dayofsilence.

  2. Plan something to Break the Silence, such as using the Breaking the Silence Letter Generator to administration. Host a teach-in, a rally, a dance, a picnic, a little after-school meeting to make some joyous noise. Check to see if your local GLSEN Chapter is hosting an event to attend.

  3. Promote why you’re participating in the Day of Silence by distributing flyers, setting up a table at lunch, or even making an announcement over the PA system to get others involved!

  4. Don’t use duct tape to cover your mouth. Use GLSEN stickers, buttons, and shirts. Alternatively, design your own swag that visibly shows your support without hurting yourself!

  5. Remember you have a right to free speech. If you feel your rights are being violated, submit a form to request help at the bottom of glsen.org/dayofsilence.

  6. Use the momentum from Day of Silence to stay involved in making schools safer and more inclusive for LGBTQ youth. Sign up for advocacy alerts at glsen.org/glsenup.

  7. Register your school’s GSA to get helpful resources all year long!

  8. Don’t forget to be creative, make it your own, and find new ways to end the silence and erasure of LGBTQ students in school. The Day of Silence was created by students, and definitely needs your brilliance to breathe life into it in your schools! 

 This piece was written by Danny Charney, a member of GLSEN's National Student Council. Find more Day of Silence tips, poems, playlists, and more in the Day of Silence zine!

April 02, 2018

A photo of two students, each with a finger against their lips in a "Shh" gesture

GLSEN’s Day of Silence is April 27th! Here are 10 ways educators can get involved in the largest, student-led action against anti-LGBTQ bullying and erasure in schools.

1. 

Use the Educator Guide for the Day of Silence for lesson ideas before, during, and after the Day of Silence.

2. 

Pause your teaching to join GLSEN for the national moment of silence and solidarity for 3 minutes at 3 pm ET/2 pm CT/1 pm PT.

3. 

Structure your lessons with silent writing: ask students to reflect on their identities and experiences in terms of race, ability, sexuality, and relationships both in and out of school.

4.

Make sure that any students facing pushback for organizing a Day of Silence in your school know they can contact Lambda Legal directly for support.

5.

Set up a Day of Silence table in your school lobby or hallway, and invite students to give away Day of Silence stickers, buttons, and info cards.

6. 

Organize a Breaking the Silence assembly, rally, or open mic. Breaking the Silence is an important action on the Day of Silence. Prepare with your students beforehand how they want to take action and advocate for LGBTQ people at their school.

7.

Encourage your students to download the unselfie sign, share and tweet their answers about how they are ending the silence to @GLSEN on Twitter and @glsenofficial on Instagram.

8.

Use our Letter Writing Generator to create a custom letter for administrators, superintendents, or other school leaders urging them to implement institutional supports for LGBTQ students.

9.

Preview and then host a screening of one of the films from the Youth and Gender Media Project, which is offering free streaming to Day of Silence registrants for the last two weeks in April.

10.

See our Ways to Participate in the Day of Silence resource for more ideas!

Thanks for being a supportive educator and helping to make your school more LGBTQ visible and affirming!

March 12, 2018

Photo of National Student Council Member Imani Sims

The closet door. While to some it is just a piece of furniture, the closet door is very symbolic to closeted folks in the LGBTQ community. Coming out (of the closet) can be a special moment. In Love, Simon, which comes out March 16, we follow Simon’s coming-out journey. We see Simon through his highs and lows, and just like me, Simon “came outfine!

As a fellow queer youth, I am very excited to see a movie about some of the same experiences I went through! Love, Simon provides a clear representation of a high-school student coming out, which is rare in mainstream media. It’s important that we continue to have representation and our stories shared widely so that LGBTQ students feel affirmed about our identities.

I want to share a few thoughts around my coming-out process in hopes of supporting other students’ coming-out process and the conversation that Love, Simon helps start. While coming out can be nerve-racking, it’s very nice to keep in mind a few things:

1. Come out when you want to.

You don’t have to rush this process. Don’t feel pressured to come out on LGBTQ “holidays” such as National Coming Out Day or National LGBTQ Pride Month in June. You can come out whenever you feel it is right for YOU!

2. You don’t have to come out to everyone if you don’t want to!

This is very important, especially if you don't particularly feel safe. It’s perfectly okay if you want to come out to certain family members or friends, because coming out is about your personal wellbeing and safety. I came out slowly, starting with the people closest to me. As time progressed, I told portions of my extended family and even some of my friends. There are still people I haven't come out to, but I believe these things take time.

3. Have a coming-out party! (if you want)

The best part about coming out is you can be as extra as you want. Throw a pride parade for yourself. Come out to your family at Sunday dinner as you pass the potatoes. Invite all your friends to a coming-out party! Remember: This is about you. Whether it’s low-key or extra, it is yours! My coming-out experience involved me, my mother, and two maroon couches that we both sat on. While there were no party balloons present, I really appreciated the intimacy of the conversation because it made me feel more comfortable!

4. You don’t have to come out for anyone.

When you’re extremely close to someone, you get used to sharing everything with each other. Your friends and family might even encourage you to share things, or share things a little faster than you might like. REMEMBER: you come out for you, not for anyone else. I always felt like I was lying to my family about my sexuality. To me, every day I was “acting straight,” until I came out. As time went on, this mindset became very toxic, and I started to realize that being “honest” should not come at the price of my wellbeing.

5. You can come out as many times as you like.

Maybe you came out the first time as a certain gender or sexuality. Then throughout the course of your life, you have changed and now you identify as another gender or sexuality. Or, maybe you came out the first time as a certain gender and sexuality. Then throughout the course of your life, you have changed and now you identify as a different gender with the same sexuality you came out previously with. Both of these are okay! Coming out isn’t always a one-time thing.

I identify with the first scenario. I first came out to my family as bisexual, but I soon realized that I felt attracted exclusively to girls instead. After coming out as a lesbian, I used to beat myself up about my change, but sexuality is FLUID, and sometimes it changes and sometimes it doesn’t.

I hope whoever is reading this feels calmer about the coming-out process even when it can make one feel the opposite. I would like to end these considerations with one last important point.

6. You don’t HAVE to come out.

You don’t hear this one very often, so many don’t think that it counts as an option. But you truly do not have to come out. Coming out is not something everyone can do for safety, emotional, and mental reasons. If you feel it is not your time to come out, know that you have that right. You have the option to say no. You are not a coward; you are strong because you know what's best for you. And that’s all that matters.

I hope that you get to watch Love, Simon, to see a high-school coming out story on the big screen. Also that you feel like LGBTQ visibility and representation allows a piece of your story to be shown on the big screen, too. To bring Love, Simon into the classroom, GLSEN partnered with 20th Century Fox to develop a discussion guide and lesson plan to foster conversation on themes from the movie, such as coming out, identity, and safe spaces.

Representation is so important. I want to continue to see more stories, and complex stories, and diverse stories that highlight our different narratives of coming out in the LGBTQ community.

Imani Sims is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.

Love, Simon is coming out to theaters March 16! 

This post is sponsored by 20th Century Fox.

March 12, 2018

An image of the four main leads of the film Love, Simon next to this text: "Love, Simon everyone deserves a great love story. Coming out March 2018"

As educators, we have a unique opportunity to help our students to learn about the world around them. As any educator will tell you, we teach our students not just with our lesson plans, but with everything we say -- and everything we leave out.

There are so many high schools today comfortably teaching Romeo and Juliet as one of the greatest love stories of all time. As educators, we show our students over and over again that heterosexual love and romance is “common” and “acceptable” -- even more, that it’s “romantic” and “desirable.”

What many high schools are missing is the integration of queer romance and the opportunity to learn, read, and discuss characters and relationships that aren’t framed in heteronormativity. GLSEN research shows that nearly 4 in 5 LGBTQ students don’t see positive LGBTQ representation in their curriculum. We are missing stories like Love, Simon, a story about seventeen-year old Simon Spier. He's yet to tell his family or friends he's gay and he doesn't actually know the identity of the anonymous classmate he's fallen for online.

That’s why GLSEN has partnered with 20th Century Fox to bring this film and its important themes and characters to your students. We have developed a discussion guide and lesson plan to help foster conversation about the movie’s themes, especially around coming out and invisible identities in your classrooms.

At GLSEN, we know the benefits that LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum can have for all students. This movie, and the book it’s based on, can help you ensure that your students don’t leave high school thinking that stories like Romeo and Juliet are the only love stories worth remembering.

Becca Mui is the Education Manager at GLSEN.

Love, Simon is coming out to theaters March 16!

This post is sponsored by 20th Century Fox.

March 08, 2018

Photo of National Student Council Member Katie Kegittko

I was in sixth grade when I started to realize and explore my identity as a queer person. And, like many other students, I also started to hear negative comments and derogatory slurs about LGBTQ people in my school. It was by no coincidence that I began engaging in eating-disorder behaviors shortly thereafter.

Historically, eating disorders have been depicted in mass media (television shows, magazines, and works of fiction) as illnesses associated with white, straight, cisgender female adolescents. However, they affect people of all demographics and backgrounds. In fact, there have been multiple studies that show that LGBTQ youth are disproportionately susceptible to developing eating disorders.

Research shows that as early as twelve years old, lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are at a much higher risk of binge-eating and purging, including laxative abuse and/or vomiting, than their heterosexual peers. Additionally, a survey of nearly 300,000 college students found that transgender students had over four times greater risk of being diagnosed with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, and two times greater risk of eating disorder symptoms such as purging.

Essentially, LGBTQ students are more likely to experience eating disorders and their symptoms at a higher rate than their straight and cisgender peers. And this may not be a coincidence: There are several unique experiences that queer youth go through that may be related to developing an eating disorder. These include, but are not limited to, stress surrounding coming out, internalized negative beliefs about oneself, and discrimination and bullying. LGBTQ people may also face challenges that prevent them from seeking out or obtaining treatment and support.

There are many factors that can contribute to developing an eating disorder; a need for control, experiences of trauma, underlying mental illness, and societal pressures that glorify a “perfect body” are just a few. For me, one of the earliest reasons that I began to engage in disordered eating was an identity impairment caused by being a closeted queer person afraid to come out.

As a young person struggling to figure out my sexuality, I felt like there were no resources or people to help me during that time, and walking in the hallway to hear slurs like “that’s so gay” only made me feel even more ostracized. Similarly, I felt like my identity was being discredited when I came out as gender non-binary, because my peers and teachers alike refused to call me by my correct pronouns. So without a community to turn to as an outlet to help me navigate and grow confident in my identity, I turned to creating an identity in another community.

In my experience, dieting websites and programs were a direct gateway into darker pathways online that promoted and advocated for eating-disorder behaviors. While dieting programs and calorie-tracking websites taught me how to restrict my intake, pro-eating disorder websites taught me how to take that obsession further and how to hide it from others. Although I finally got what I wanted – a seemingly “supportive” community – I paid the price of years of suffering physically, socially, and emotionally.  This is why it was important for me to find a community that actually affirmed and supported all of my identities and my recovery process as an LGTBQ student.

In high school, I finally found a consistent and supportive LGBTQ community in my hometown as well as through GLSEN advocacy online. Community that affirms my identity helped me feel empowered, supporting my mental health and wellbeing. However, the “stickiness” of the eating-disorder label followed me for a while. It is important to note that recovery is a process, not perfection. Now, I am proud to say that I am confident in my identity as a bisexual, non-binary, femme, powerhouse in recovery from an eating disorder rather than someone whose only sense of self is connected to food and weight.  

There must be a change in the way we discuss and prevent eating disorders, as we are leaving entire populations behind. Popular culture has a responsibility to increase awareness of LGBTQ identities in general, and reflect the accurate nature of our lives to include mental health and eating disorders.

Once we begin these difficult conversations, we must start implementing supports for LGBTQ students. In health class, this may mean sharing statistics about how eating disorders affect LGBTQ youth. More generally, this means we must change the way we often discuss what makes a “normal body,” and move away from the gender roles and expectations that may be communicated through curriculum. There is no “normal” way to have a body, be a certain gender, or to love someone. What may be an offhand comment can irreparably harm a student’s self-image.

Right now, you can support LGBTQ youth, especially those with eating disorders, by learning more about and implementing supports in school for LGBTQ students. These supports can come in the form of supportive educators, inclusive and affirming policies, inclusive curriculum, and student clubs that support LGBTQ visibility. Implementing these supports can result in students feeling empowered, so that their sense of self-worth can grow.

Katie Regittko is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council. James Van Kuilenburg, another member, also contributed to this piece.

March 05, 2018

A photo of a group of students on the floor of a classroom in a discussion circle

Students have been fighting to end violence in schools so that they can feel safer in an environment that is meant for knowledge and growth.

From Black students in the Children's March in the 1960s, Day of Silence being created in the 90s, Dream Defenders, Black Lives Matter, and Black Youth Project 100, now to Parkland, students have been advocating for the safety of LGBTQ students for years.

As the March for Our Lives demands safety in schools through nonviolent protest surrounding gun violence, we hope that you continue to engage in conversations and actions that create change in whatever capacity you can.

There are ways you can take the lessons you learn and turn them into action to make change in your school.

Learn:

Discuss then Act:

  • Use the resources above to start a conversation around demanding safety in schools.
  • Look up laws in your area, make a plan to bring this up with administration, school boards, and politicians. Read through GLSEN’s Quick Guide to Meeting with Decision Makers
  • Discuss the importance of voting, and how to have conversations with others around electing officials that are willing to implement and take action around school safety.
  • Have a teach in about Knowing Your Rights Around Free Speech In Public Schools
  • Discuss safety tips for those of you who might be going to non-violent protests:
    • Have a conversations around safety of folks with marginalized identities before any protests. Know that the risk of attending a protest is different for everyone depending on the identities that they hold.
    • Discuss: What To Do If Your Rights Are Violated At A Demonstration Or Protest
    • Tell a supportive educator.
    • Tell a parent or guardian.
    • Game plan to go with friends. There is safety in numbers and people who know what you need while attending the event.
    • Having an emergency number written down or memorized.
    • Have an emergency plan and a meeting spot in case you get split up from your party or if things go south.

Breathe:

We know that with everything happening, what is of utmost importance is your safety. That at the moment it feels like students have to do the work when adults are the ones in power and have the ability to make changes that have direct impact on your ability to be in school safely.

Some of you have been long demanding this before this particular shooting. You have been doing the work showing us that we can't wait for the next shooting or murder. You are making your voices heard and rising up to demand action to create the schools and communities our world needs and deserves.

Please make sure to take care of yourselves. Be in community with those that give you joy. Recharge, and know that you are valued and loved. Here are some resources for you to use.

Tate Benson is the Youth Programs Associate at GLSEN.

March 05, 2018

A photo of a teacher in front of a classroom of students

Students have been endlessly fighting for violence to be addressed in their schools so that they can feel safer in an environment that is meant for knowledge and growth. As the March for Our Lives demands safety in schools through nonviolent protest surrounding gun violence, it is critical for educators to continue to engage in conversations and actions that can create change in whatever capacity you can.

Learn:

Reading about the history of nonviolent protest can help you be better prepared to facilitate conversations with your students, and to have context for the March for Our Lives.

Teach:

When possible, structuring lesson time around these topics will help your students to better understand and process the protests and activism they’re seeing in the media.

Act:

You’re in our networks because you’re committed to your students’ safety and well-being. Here are some actions you can take to serve them during this time. If you are near a local GLSEN Chapter, especially GLSEN Northern Virginia or GLSEN Maryland, reach out to them if you’re interested in supporting the March in person.

Breathe:

The world has been asking too much of educators for too long. For many of us, some of the suggestions and responses have exacerbated that point beyond imagination. Remember that while you are supporting your students, someone should also be supporting you. Take time to decompress and find joy each night; your students are depending on you and your energy each morning.

As the students are showing us, we can't wait for the next shooting. We must make our voices heard and rise up to demand action to create the schools and communities our world needs and deserves.

Becca Mui is GLSEN's Education Manager.

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