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August 24, 2018
In 2012, the Netherlands mandated the inclusion of sexual diversity in the Dutch curriculum. This past January, I visited fourteen schools and interviewed over thirty Dutch educators and advocates to synthesize best practices from the last six years of implementation. After moving back to the US I wanted to share my findings and their implications for teachers here in the US. I’m glad to connect with GLSEN’s to share my findings:
Policies matter. Although the underpinnings of Dutch policy can be traced back to the Calvinist roots of the country, it was clear that the national call for inclusion made an impact. Teachers believed that speaking about LGBTQ topics was completely normal and part of their duty as Dutch teachers. What can US Educators do? If your school does not have policies in place to protect LGBTQ students check out this resource https://www.glsen.org/article/modelpolicies
We’re all in this together. New to the classroom? Nervous about backlash from parents? Lean on your community. Only 43% of educators in the Netherlands were employed full time, as a result, every school had multiple teachers for each content area. LGBTQ topics were frequently included in the sex education curriculum, and biology teachers had a community within their school to exchange lesson plans, stories, and troubleshoot instructional issues. Teachers shared that when they encountered a challenge, they just asked other educators! What can US Educators do? Tap into a network of teachers working towards the same goal by joining GLSEN’s Educator Network.
Meeting at the intersection. There is a common misconception that the Dutch are a homogenous population. With large numbers of both western and non-western immigrants, there is no single image of “looking Dutch”. There were remarkable examples of culturally responsive teaching, including a teacher who called up the mosque prior to starting the sex education unit. What can US Educators do? Consider how being LGBTQ can intersect with other identities.
Empower youth. At a school outside of Amsterdam, I had the opportunity to witness student officers of the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) facilitate a workshop with their peers during biology class covering the myriad of LGBTQ identities and answering questions. The school was intentional about making a place for inclusion during the day, and that students led the charge. As educators, we must make put the structures in place so that youth can organize and lead. What can US Educators do? Find resources for GSA support at www.glsen.org/gsa.
Change is possible. In 2010, the Netherlands’ main LGBTQ advocacy organization initiated a campaign in schools to recognize Purple Friday— a day that raises awareness about LGBTQ people and fights homophobia. Purple Friday now reaches over 90% of schools and almost every teacher and student proudly shared their Purple Friday story. What can US Educators do? Keep the momentum going. Bring Ally Week, Day of Silence, and No-Name Calling Week to your school this year.
Despite political and cultural idiosyncrasies, the Netherlands provides a vision of what is possible in the United States— a future with policies that require inclusive curriculum, and teachers working together to empower students and craft schools that value all identities.
Amber Moore is an educator and social justice researcher. You can read more about her work at: www.themooreyoulearn.com
August 08, 2018
Every day since Election Night 2016 it feels like there’s a new nightmare to face. Watching the results come in with my friends in my dorm room is a moment I will never forget. That night my friends and classmates, LGBTQ students, disabled students, students with a variety of immigration statuses, students of color, students with minority religious faiths, and students with other marginalized identities started to process what a Trump administration would mean for all of our futures.
Just as we knew in that moment, President Trump, his cabinet, and those allied with him in Congress have done immense damage, not only to policies and laws designed to make society slightly more equitable for the underrepresented among us, but to the news cycle and public discourse.
I admit, the Trump news cycle can be daunting, even for me as a member of the GLSEN Public Policy team. Despite the challenge of keeping up with every new issue, it’s important to be vigilant in recognizing the threats to our freedom and safety as they come. This is why I need you to understand how Brett Kavanaugh’s impending lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court is not just a political issue, but will have an impact on the rest of my life and the rest of GLSEN students’ lives as well. As a transgender young adult, looking to go out in the world after graduation, there’s so much at stake for me.
I’m concerned about Kavanaugh’s potential to overturn the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
I’m worried about how Kavanaugh could influence interpretations of Title VII, the law that impacts workplace non-discrimination.
I fear for the LGBTQ K-12 students who may be denied a safe education if taxpayer money is diverted from public schools to vouchers for schools that are not legally held to the same standards.
It’s scary that Kavanaugh could influence the Court to rule that businesses and places of public accommodation do not have to serve me because my very existence as being queer and trans is against their beliefs.
It terrifies me that Kavanaugh has the capacity to erase my dreams of having a family.
I’m also facing the reality that Kavanaugh is a real threat to my ability to access reproductive health care.
This is the reality for me, others like me, and even scarier, others less advantaged than me. Even with all this worry, I recognize that my privilege will shield me from a lot of the threats that Kavanaugh poses to marginalized folks. While these things will hit hard for people like me, they will hit harder for people who aren’t white, able-bodied, not religiously affiliated, and citizens by birth.
I’m terrified to see what Kavanaugh, working for the Trump administration, means for public education, LGBTQ people, civil rights, immigration, affirmative action, voting rights, organized labor, environmental protections, common-sense gun regulations, and the outsized influence of money in politics. What’s even scarier is that once Kavanaugh is on the bench, he’s been appointed for life. Clarence Thomas, the longest serving justice has been influencing the Supreme Court for 26 years and counting, and its possible for Kavanaugh to follow in his footsteps.
We all need to make our opposition to this nomination heard. The vote looks close and we have a real chance to make change. There is so much at stake; we all need to be taking action to make sure our decision makers know not only that Kavanaugh is a disaster for the Court, but that each and every one of us opposes his nomination. Here are a few things you can do to help:
Take a second to text THREAT to 21333 and follow the text-to-call instructions to let your Senator know that you oppose the Kavanaugh nomination. Even if you think your Senator is a confirmed “yes” or “no,” hearing from constituents can impact their decision.
Share this post and any other materials on why to oppose Kavanaugh with your friends, family, and networks. The more people we mobilize, the more change we can make.
Show up for a “Unite for Justice” in opposition to Kavanaugh’s appointment on August 26th. In cities across the country, advocates in support of civil rights, public education, and other progressive causes are rallying in opposition to Kavanaugh’s nomination. Find a rally near you at uniteforjustice2018.com.
Take these actions now and often, and together we can work to stop this nomination in its tracks. There’s far too much at stake to let Kavanaugh be seated on the Court without a fight.
Sarah Everett is part of GLSEN's Public Policy Team.
June 21, 2018
"when i think of pride, i think of all the black kids that are searching for a space to call theirs." - Imani
GLSEN's National Student Council shared what #PrideMeans to them on the GLSEN Instagram to start a conversation about what really matters to LGBTQ youth this month. Read their stories below and tag @glsen on Instagram or Twitter to tell us what #PrideMeans to you with your proudest selfie!
For more ways to support LGBTQ youth during Pride, visit glsen.org/pride!
This month, we asked GLSEN students speak out on what #Pride means to them. Here's what GLSEN Student Advocate of the Year @oarheghan said: "pride means being able to bring all of my identities into a space without suppression." Let us know what Pride means to you in the comments below, or with #PrideMeans with your fav selfie! #InclusiveSchools #SafeSchools #LGBTQ #trans #queer #lesbian #nonbinary #gay
This month, we asked our National Student Council members what #PrideMeans to them. Here's what James (he/him) had to say: "pride is the tool i use to overcome the messages i have heard all my life about my identities. pride is where i get to celebrate myself without shame!" What does #PrideMonth do for you? Let us know below! @james.vank #InclusiveSchools #Pride #SafeSchools #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary
We asked our GLSEN National Student Council what #PrideMeans to them. Imani (they/them) told us: "pride, to me, means everything. as a young black queer kid, i am constantly looking for spaces to include me. when i look around, i see everything but. lgbtqa spaces often center white queer folks while looking over black and brown communities. when i think of pride, i think of all the black kids that are searching for a space to call theirs." Why is #Pride important to you? Let us know in the comments below or using #PrideMeans with your own selfie!: @rosetampon #PrideMonth #InclusiveSchools #SafeSchools #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary
This month, we asked our National Student Council members what #PrideMeans to them. Here's what Kian (he/him or they/them) had to say: "Pride is the believe that I get to be 110% myself. Pride let's me own my experiences. So many people have spent so long telling me I'm not allowed to love myself -- I use pride to prove these people wrong and show how much I love myself.!" How does #Pride allow you to express yourself? Let us know below! @ki_does_activism #InclusiveSchools #Pride #SafeSchools #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary
For #Pride, we asked GLSEN's National Student Council what #PrideMeans for them. Em told us this: "for me, pride is reclaiming the history of the person I am today with joy. it’s fighting for what I know is right, and it’s loving the whole me, without letting go of the parts that are deemed lesser." What do you reclaim during #Pride? Let us know with #PrideMeans and your own selfie, or in the comments below! #InclusiveSchools #SafeSchools #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer
To address what really matters during #Pride, we asked members of GLSEN's National Student Council what #PrideMeans to them. Here's what Soli (she/her) shared: "Pride for me is when I feel at home and safe for the first time in a while. Recently I was able to find a home for 3 hours with one of my best friends Zane and got to dance and sing without judgement in a queer centered space. I was high on the happiness of others. That is pride finding family and a community even if it is only a few hours. My favorite thing about being queer is going to events with other people like myself. Specifically the beautiful of the individual of being in an accepting place, feeling safe and joyous because of others happiness. That is pride." @musical_random_mess Want to share your Pride joy? Use #PrideMeans and your favorite selfie, or share your story in the comments! #InclusiveSchools #SafeSchools #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary
Sarah (she/her) from GLSEN's National Student Council shared what #PrideMeans to her: "Pride to me means being able to take all the different aspects of my identity and openly share them with others, both LGBTQ and allies, in a comfortable space. my identities as a queer person, as an Asian person, as a young person, do not outshine each other but rather come together and allow me to express myself as much as I wish to. it is an opportunity to not only celebrate how far the LGBTQ community has come, but also continue to advocate against the oppression we still face." @sarah.bunn Why is #Pride important to you? Tell your story with #PrideMeans or in the comments! #InclusiveSchools #SafeSchools #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary
Throughout this month, GLSEN's National Student Council is sharing what #PrideMeans to them. Ezra (Ey/Em/Eirs and He/Him/His) shared: "to me, pride gives me a chance to reminds allies to educate themselves when it comes to LGBTQ+ history and remind them to ask their LGBTQ+ peers what they need not only during pride month but throughout the entire year." @ezraxrose How do you address #LGBTQ youth needs not only during pride, but throughout the year? #InclusiveSchools #SafeSchools #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary
We asked the GLSEN National Student Council what really matters to them during #Pride. Here's what @cruzycontreras said #PrideMeans to him: "with identities, orientations, and much more about myself, pride calls out to me that i am just as human as anyone else. pride allows me to advocate in a much more open environment with people who i do not get to see throughout the year. it brings a community often divided together while educating other communities too." Share what #PrideMeans to you and your community in the comments or with your own selfie! #InclusiveSchools #SafeSchools #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary
For #PrideMonth, we asked GLSEN's National Student Council what #PrideMeans to them. Here's what Marisa (they/them) said: "#Pride means being able to stand where those who once fought for us envisioned, then taking it to a level to which we envision, creating a cycle of everlasting change!" @marisavalladolid What does #PrideMean to you? How are you looking to build on the history of the queer movement? #InclusiveSchools #SafeSchools #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary
Find out how you can RISE UP for LGBTQ Youth during Pride and all year long at glsen.org/pride.
June 21, 2018
This Pride we are encouraging folks to rise up, speak out, and take action to protect LGBTQ youth across the intersections of multiple marginalized identities. GLSEN's National Student Council shared action steps that people do to put allyship in action and rise up for queer students. Read their tips below and see glsen.org/pride for more ways you can get involved!
1. Educate Yourself
Ose Arheghan: "allies can start to educate themselves on not only what queerness means now, but where that comes from. The importance of learning LGBTQ history cannot be overstated in my opinion."
Cruz Contreras: "allies need to stop taking the easy route of learning 'basic' terminology for the community. learn and educate about the “Q+” in LGBTQ+, learn how intersectionality plays a big role in many of our communities advocates fighting stances, learn that pride marches are not just about a colorful rainbow parade, and finally learn that just saying you're an ally does not mean you are taking action to improve the lives of us in the community."
2. Be Conscious of Who You Are Supporting Financially
James VK: "allies can help by refraining from rainbow capitalism and using financial resources to literally fund things that go directly to LGBTQ students work."
Sarah Bunn: "Action steps that people can take in allyship are understanding the history and importance of pride month. It is key to know that supporting rainbow capitalism/businesses that exploit the LGBTQ community for profit is NOT allyship. People must remember that pride month is made to elevate voices that are usually ignored, especially those that are marginalized within the community, such as those who are POC or disabled.
3. Ask & Listen
Emily Gentry: "the biggest action step I would propose is instead of making the acquisition that pride harms society, ask questions to further your understanding. if you don’t get why the lgbtq community celebrates pride, ask. if the sexuality or gender spectrum confuses you, ask. pride is a month of celebration, and well as a month of showcasing and educating our lives."
Kian Tortorello-Allen: "Action steps people can take are showing up, listening and educating yourself. Teach yourself and others what it means to love yourself and others and show up for those who might not have all the love yet."
4. Center Marginalized Queer Identities
Imani Sims: "in order to have pride, you need to be inclusive. you need to center the queer folks of color, the queer folks with disabilities, the poor queer folks. to have pride is to make sure everyone has a seat at the gay table (gayble if you will), and amplifying voices that are often silenced."
Soli Guzman: "During pride, people have to remember that pride is made for queer people to find each other and themselves. Specifically, to celebrate ourselves for our beauty and culture. This right here is what those who are allies must remember: Pride is not made for people to take photos and post them on Instagram with rainbow face paint. Pride is not time to kiss your best friend on the cheek for Snapchat. It’s a time of remembrance and celebration for those who are queer and a time to highlight marginalized voices who are not seen in the community."
Marisa Matias: "Learn about intersectionality! That’s the first step to becoming self-aware and the best ally one can be. Learning where identities fall in the scope of American society is crucial when understanding the struggles of marginalized people!"
6. Don't Censor Queer Expression
Ezra Morales: "wanna be a better ally to LGBTQ+ & other minority students? allow them to wear items that represent what pride means to them. saying a student can’t wear a rainbow item within school dress code is a form of censorship!"
For more ways you can take action in allyship with LGBTQ youth, visit glsen.org/pride!
May 31, 2018
Students thrive when they see positive reflections of themselves in their curriculum. For Asian LGBTQ students, this means learning about and honoring history, people, and events related to their intersectional identity as both Asian/Pacific Islander and LGBTQ.
Throughout Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, GLSEN’s National Student Council members Sarah Bunn and Marcus Breed used GLSEN's Instagram to share the queer API icons who’ve made an impact on their lives. See their posts below and add your own icon to the conversation with #APIqueericons on Twitter or Instagram. Don't forget to tag GLSEN!
Although May is officially API heritage Month, Asian and Pacific Islander LGBTQ identities should be part of an inclusive school curriculum all year round. Visit glsen.org/aapi for more info and resources about supporting Asian LGBTQ students.
Margaret Cho is a #bi comedian, actress, and author who centers her activism around #LGBTQ rights and Asian Americans. Cho’s material cover topics such as her past with substance abuse and eating disorders, her bisexuality, and Asian American stereotypes. In 2004, Cho created Love is Love is Love, a website that promoted the legalization of gay marriage in the United States. After same-sex marriage became legal in California in 2008, Cho was deputized by the City of San Francisco to perform marriages. This #AsianPacificHeritage Month, the GLSEN National Student Council is sharing their #APIqueericons! Share you own and see how you can support #LGBTQ #API students at glsen.org/aapi
Manvendra Singh Gohil is the first openly #gay Indian prince. He runs a charity for HIV/AIDS prevention called The Lakshya Trust, which provides counseling services, clinics for treating STIs, libraries, and condom-use promotion for MSMs (men who have sex with men). Mavendra is on the Interim Governing Board of the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health. In 2018, Mavendra opened his 15-acre palace to house vulnerable #LGBT people. This #AsianPacificHeritage Month, the GLSEN National Student Council is sharing their #APIqueericons! Share your icon and see how you can support #LGBTQ #API students at glsen.org/aapi
Kim Coco Iwamoto has been recoginized as an activist, editorialist, policymaker, advocate, and philanthropist. She was born on the island of Kauai, and identifies as trans and Japanese. She currently holds the title of commissioner of Hawaiian Civil Rights. She was also recognized as a Champion of Change by Barack Obama. This #AsianPacificHeritage Month, the GLSEN National Student Council is sharing their #APIqueericons! Share your icon and see how you can support #LGBTQ #API students at glsen.org/aapi
B.D Wong is a well known actor, staring in numerous awarded projects such as M. Butterfly, Shanghai Moon, and Mr. Robot. He is Chinese and identifies as gay. He continues to work with organizations that support #LGBTQ youth and the arts. This #AsianPacificHeritage Month, the GLSEN National Student Council is sharing their #APIqueericons! Share your icon and see how you can support #LGBTQ #API students at glsen.org/aapi
Cecilia Chung is a #trans Chinese woman nationally recognized as an advocate for human rights, social justice, health equity, and #LGBTQ equality. Cecilia has been working tirelessly on the local, national and international levels to improve access to treatment for transgender people and people living with HIV, and to erase stigma and discrimination through education, policy, advocacy, and visibility. This #AsianPacificHeritage Month, the GLSEN National Student Council is sharing their #APIqueericons! Share your icon and see how you can support #LGBTQ #API students at glsen.org/aapi
Vikram Seth is an Indian novelist and poet. He has written several novels and poetry books including "A Suitable Boy" that have recieved numerous awards. He identifies as #bisexual and has spoken on behalf of the community, including writing a poem called "Through Love's Great Power" in reaction to the criminalization of gay sex. This #AsianPacificHeritage Month, the GLSEN National Student Council is sharing their #APIqueericons! Share your icon and see how you can support #LGBTQ #API students at glsen.org/aapi
Hayley Kiyoko is a singer, songwriter, actress, dancer and director. She identifies as a multiracial white and Japanese #lesbian. She works towards inspiring confidence in young people that struggle with being #queer and normalizing lesbian relationships in a society that she sees as being very heteronormative. This #AsianPacificHeritage Month, the GLSEN National Student Council is sharing their #APIqueericons! Share your icon and see how you can support #LGBTQ #API students at glsen.org/aapi
@chellaman identifies as being a Queer transgender, deaf Chinese, and Jewish artist who works towards advocating for community and self love. He displays his artwork on his instagram page, including documenting his transition. He has also written articles opening up about mental health, body positivity, and his disability. This #AsianPacificHeritage Month, the GLSEN National Student Council is sharing their #APIqueericons! Share your icon and see how you can support #LGBTQ #API students at the link in bio!
For more icons, resources, and a timeline of AAPI queer historical events, visit glsen.org/aapi!
May 30, 2018
Dear Stacy Bailey,
I want to thank you and all the openly queer teachers across the country.
These last few weeks I have been hearing your story: you shared your authentic self and were suspended just because you showed your class a picture of your future wife. I applaud you for filing a federal lawsuit against the school district and not bowing to pressure and resigning. You have every right to stay in your job.
I want to thank you for being a role model and showing LGBTQ youth like me that our presence matters. I am nearly at the end of my high school journey, and as I look back at my years in school, I am reminded of my few openly LGBTQ teachers. They showed me what it means to be out, proud, and passionate. When my middle school teacher, Mrs. Kramer, showed us a picture of her wife and her adorable dog it made me daydream of what my life would look like with a husband and my own kids.
I came out at the beginning of freshman year. If it wasn’t for openly queer teachers who showed me that being a part of the LGBTQ community was perfectly normal, I would have never had the courage or taken the risk to reveal my authentic self.
Stacy, your story is one of the many that we hear year after year about teachers who are authentically being themselves. Thank you for being an openly queer teacher who has no agenda but to teach students the power of kindness and respect.
The fact that there are so many places across the country where openly LGBTQ teachers cannot show their students a picture of their family is frustrating. Every teacher has the right to be their true selves; students and the community should rally behind teachers who are facing discrimination.
I encourage you, Mrs. Bailey, and all other queer teachers to stand tall and keep fighting. By fighting, you are showing me, and millions of other students and teachers across the country, that the right to be ourselves is undeniable. As I progress through college, I will work to make sure each and every person feels like they matter. I envision a day where difference, whether it be sexual orientation or gender, is accepted. Thank you, openly queer teachers, for being everyday heroes. I wouldn't be the proud and out person I am without your strength and determination to be yourself.
Danny Charney is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.
May 16, 2018
In the current divisive and challenging climate in the United States, many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) people struggle to find their safe spaces, especially in schools. Historically and presently, LGBTQ educators specifically have faced challenges being their authentic selves. My colleagues and I have been studying the experiences of LGBTQ educators for over a decade. Our findings from the first two national surveys (conducted in 2007 and 2011, reported in A Safer Place? LGBTQ Educators, School Climate and Implications for Administrators) have shown that too many LGBTQ teachers feel unsafe in their workplace climates. In fact, one third of these educators felt that their jobs were at risk if they were out to administrators and over half felt their jobs were at risk if they were out to students. Approximately one quarter also reported being harassed at the schools where they work.
Slowly, the support for LGBTQ educators has been increasing since our first two surveys were conducted; however, even today, there are still times when LGBTQ educators do not feel very safe. A colleague of mine and I are currently examining responses from the third and most recent installment of our LGBTQ educators’ survey, conducted in 2017. As we found in our past surveys, we see that LGBTQ educators’ experiences differ depending on where, what, and who they teach. For example, elementary teachers are more worried about being “out” to their students than high school teachers. Elementary teachers also report less LGBTQ inclusion in their schools’ curriculum and fewer LGBTQ-related resources in their schools’ libraries than their high school counterparts. Similar to findings from the general population of teachers reported by GLSEN, we found regional differences in LGBTQ educators’ reports of their school’s policies. LGBTQ educators in the Northwest were more likely than those in the Midwest to have school policies addressing the use of homophobic and transphobic language. Regional differences extended to LGBTQ teachers’ experiences of harassment – with those in the Midwest reporting more harassment than those in the Northeast.
And it’s not only LGBTQ educators who suffer when their school is not LGBTQ-inclusive. We know that inclusive schools are critical for LGBTQ youths’ educational success and personal well-being. Yet, despite the fact that LGBTQ students who are exposed to positive representations of LGBTQ people and history report more positive school experiences and better educational outcomes, GLSEN’s most recent National School Climate Survey found that less than one-fifth of LGBTQ students attend schools with an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum.
In order to provide the best education and support to students, including teaching an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, teachers need to be the best teachers they can be, and they can only do that when they feel safe to be exactly who they are. Clearly, our findings indicate that this is not always the case. So, what can be done? One avenue for change is within the school leadership. School administrators can have a major impact on the overall school climate and workplace climate. In a 2015 Ed Week interview, Kevin Jennings, GLSEN founder and former U.S. Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education, stated the following about educational leaders, “I think if there was one thing that I would like to see happen is it's greater leadership on the part of superintendents and principals.” With greater leadership will come more consistent support and guidance for LGBTQ educators, which will translate to better outcomes of all measures for LGBTQ students. By taking steps to ensure the right policies, resources, and practices are in place, school administrators promote a more positive and inclusive environment for LGBTQ educators and LGBTQ students alike.
In their work with policies, curricula, and hiring, school principals can have a huge impact on LGBTQ student experience by promoting a safe, welcoming, and fair environment for LGBTQ educators in their schools, enabling these LGBTQ educators to be the critical and positive representations LGBTQ students need, in addition to being fantastic educators too!
Dr. Tiffany Wright, Associate Professor
Co-Director, Joint EdD Program in Educational Leadership
Program Coordinator, Leadership for Teaching and Learning
Millersville University of Pennsylvania
May 15, 2018
At the GLSEN Respect Awards, we recognize exemplary role models—students, educators, individuals and corporations—that have made a significant impact on the lives of LGBTQ youth. At the event in New York later this month, one of the role models we're recognizing is Stephanie Byers, an Instrumental Music Educator from Wichita High School North as Educator of the Year!
Some of Stephanie's accomplishments include advocating for the needs of transgender students at the State Capitol, participating on panels for the “National Day of Coming Out,” chaperoning the GLSEN Greater Wichita’s “Day of Advocacy,” and training future physicians around transgender health care. We asked this exceptional educator about what motivates her to teach and what suggestions she has for for creating an inclusive curriculum, leading a new GSA and using GLSEN resources.
1. Why did you decide to become an educator?
Wow! Making me put on the “way-back” thinking cap. My first teaching job began in January of 1987 so I’ve been at this for awhile. My decision to become an educator happened when I was 12. In 1975 I started in my first band class - sixth grade band with Mr. Chuck Pappan. I grew up in a suburban, college community, but like most communities there were areas of town where people who were blue collar tended to live. I grew up in one of those neighborhoods. My neighborhood middle school was full of students from working class parents. Mr. Pappan took this ragtag bunch of kids who decided to play in band and began to instill in us the ideas of each person having value, that the quality of your character was more important than whether your clothes were new or hand-me-downs. That everyone deserved to be treated with dignity. He did all of this with the most gentle heart, incredible spirit, and so much humor that our sides would hurt nearly every day after class. He made a huge impression and difference in all of our lives. It was during that time that I decided I wanted to be a band director - a music educator if you will. So from 12 years old I knew this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to teach people to feel good to be with each other, to work for a common goal, to know that even if they’re the only player of their instrument, they are not alone. That it’s okay to laugh at your own mistakes - just work a little harder to not make them next time. And that music feeds our souls and surrounds us in all of our lives.
2. What do you love most about being an educator?
What I love most about being an educator is seeing the difference that takes place in people’s lives. As I write this, Teacher Appreciation Week is happening. My Facebook page has been filled with former students writing to tell me that their fondest memories in high school came from my classes. Some met their future spouse in my class, some fell so in love with music that they became professional musicians and/or professional music educators themselves. One wrote to tell me that I taught them to see music in another light - as a tool of emotion and that music could be far more than ink on a page and sound in the air if you let it tell its story. Some told me of how they clung to music as their homelife unravelled through divorce and homelessness. They spoke of how everyone was treated equally in my class. Some said my classroom was the only place they felt safe to be themselves while in High School. How can you not love the difference in someone’s life that they attribute to you and your class?
3. How do you incorporate lessons of respect in your curriculum?
You’d think that a music teacher would focus on playing the right notes with the right fingerings, the correct rhythms, proper tone and volume. In fact that is a part of my class. But what I see as the main function of music is communication. Communication is a fundamental of life. Respect is integral to good communication. Listening to what others say. Realizing that everyone is giving their best for today and that’s what counts. Our job is to lift each other up and not put each other down.
The building I teach in just held it’s 89th graduation Tuesday evening. In one of our halls there are the senior pictures of nearly every person who graduated from Wichita High School North during those 89 years. As you look through those photographs you begin to notice that at times when our Nation was so separated by race and ethnicity, there are photos of people of color, side by side with white students. Going far back you see photos of students of all socio-economic levels hanging side by side - their commonality? - Wichita High School North. North has always been a building of inclusivity. Acceptance is rooted in its very foundations. It matters less to the teachers of North High where your family is from, what language is spoken at home, how much money your family has, than what you want to do with your life and how can we help you find your best. The quality of your character is valued above all else. Many years ago there was the “Choose Another Word” campaign, an attempt to change the culture of derogatory terms based on sexual preference, ethnicity, learning disabilities, etc… Even though that campaign ended some time ago, our staff and students still practice it.
In my classroom I take it to the next level. Often I point out that there are aspects of our existence that were made by our choice, but most things that make us us came about without our control - our ethnicities, our parentage, our gender identity, our sexual preferences, etc. These are things that contribute to who we are but they don’t completely identify us. Often it’s these very differences that make us interesting people! Since high school music can be competitive we also focus on learning to be respectful of others. We must demonstrate the respect we want others to show us. The idea of “I’ll respect you if you respect me!” is slightly askew. It really should be: “I’ve shown you respect, will you please give me the courtesy of doing the same.” I also try to teach that “those who can” have an obligation to reach out to those who can’t and try to lift them up to reach their best.
4. What is the number one lesson you hope students take away from your classes?
That music is life. In order for things to go well we must all work in harmony. Each of us have our own purpose, but our purpose don’t exist in isolation. Looking out for each other is more important than building divisions between us. Strive to understand each other. That doesn’t mean you have to agree, just try to see life from outside your own perspective.
5. As state legislatures across the country are trying to limit the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming students, how do you make sure your classes are inclusive of these students?
I ask students what their preferred name is to start with. Whatever name is in the records is just a starting point, what I want to know is: what do you go by? I use the pronouns that the student prefers. If I don’t know the pronoun, then I just use their name.
Bands and Orchestras wear “uniforms”. For concerts we wear dress clothes, black on bottom and either white or black on top. Gender doesn’t matter in what you choose to wear, just remember that if you choose to wear a black skirt or a black dress to make sure it is long enough when you sit down.
I’ve begun working with my district to change some of the names of our vocal music ensembles - so instead of “Women’s Choir” - we could use “Treble Choir” etc.
6. What advice do you have for educators trying to build their schools’ GSAs?
Have a ready explanation of what “GSA” means for the school. Advertise. Make it have more substance than just a social group. Work to get students who are “allies” involved. Work with your local GLSEN chapter. You may not know what all the area GLSEN is doing, but your students will - especially via social media.
7. What tips do you have for educators trying to create an inclusive curriculum?
Let what unites us be a bigger thing than what divides us. Teach that being gay, lesbian, bi, straight or transgender aren’t “choices” people make - it’s just who we are. Give space for kids to find themselves.
8. What GLSEN resources have you used, and how have you used them?
Our school is covered in GLSEN safe and inclusive stickers. Teachers and other staff choose to put them up and it’s amazing at how frequently you see one in a classroom window. Being in a large, urban, district, people often come to me to tell me about something happening in another building. I will then call our GLSEN chair person and ask her if she knows about it and who she can talk with to help? I also take GLSEN surveys and share them with our faculty during staff inservices. I would like to find ways to get our GSA more involved with the Greater Wichita GLSEN.
May 14, 2018
Each year at the GLSEN Respect Awards we recognize an outstanding GSA or similar LGBTQ student club that is dedicated to creating a safe, diverse, and inclusive school community for all. At the event later this month we are recognizing E.O. Green Junior High School GSA, PRISM as GSA of the Year.
By learning from the lessons of the school's past and opening lines of communication with current students, this student club has worked to create a welcoming place where students of all genders and sexualities can feel safe and learn.
We spoke with the President of the GSA of the year, Taylor Perez, about maintaining a GSA, communication, campus outreach, creating safe spaces, and using GLSEN resources. Read below to see what advice he has for jumpstarting your school's GSA!
1. Why did you want to become GSA president?
I wanted to become President of PRISM to support my local queer community and begin pushing toward a world of equality. It has been an honor to be President and meet so many diverse people. I have had such a wonderful experience helping students throughout their self-discovery and encouraging them to help others.
2. How did you get your GSA started and recruit members? How do you keep members interested in being a part of the club?
PRISM was started when a trans student came out to our principal Mrs. Haines and asked why we didn’t have a GSA at our school. She and the student worked together using GLSEN resources online and formed our GSA a month later. A small group of LGBTQ+ students worked hard that year to support each other and teach others in our community about who we are. This year our club grew to 30-40 students, from our original 12-13 members. We have continued to normalize queer people in our school, community and society through our activities and participation. Many of our events came from the GLSEN website.
We are there for any student who comes to the meetings and we make sure that they are surrounded by people who care about them. The meetings have never and will never be mandatory, but our door will always be open to those who are willing to lend an ear. It is my firm belief that communication and willingness to provide a helping hand are the best ways to help people in need.
3. What is a typical meeting like for your club?
We work hard and we play hard! Our members and advisers are energetic and enthusiastic, and we enjoy being together to better our school community. A typical meeting opens with making sure members are accounted for and cared for. Next we share any news, whether it be someone sharing that they have come out or discussing and planning an upcoming event. Then we discuss future plans for school events such as the Day of Silence, Red for Ed (a day of activism to support public schools, sponsored by the California Teachers Association), or our respectful anniversary of the school tragedy, Rainbow Hornets Day. Trinkets such as ribbons are made for the events and posters are placed around the school.
4. What do you love most about being the president of your GSA?
The human experience is such an important thing and I have been so powerfully touched by each of our members. Having conversations and hearing peoples' stories has been so inspiring. I have helped people open up to who they are, love who they are, and be willing to lend an ear to others as I have to them. Everyone has a story and everyone’s story should be heard. If you take anything from this, let it be that everyone wants to be heard.
5. As the president of your GSA how do you make sure that you create a safer space where others voices and ideas are heard?
I connect with every single one of my members especially when they are having an issue. I discourage people from being rude and condescending asking them to treat everyone with dignity and respect, which is the school motto of E.O. Green. I have always encouraged new opinions and ideas. An open mind to different opinions and ideas than your own is such an important skill to have.
All of our members play a huge part in outreach, whether they are part of the LGBTQ+ community or allies. Our events reach out to every student and staff member on campus and we have seen a positive change to our school’s culture. We’re proud of the work we have done to bring E. O. Green Junior High School into an accepting and welcoming space.
6. What impact have you seen your club make on your school?
Since starting PRISM last year, we have seen such a major shift in the way students interact with each other. Seeing people loving who they love and being who they are warms my heart because I can proudly say we helped make that happen. People who would otherwise be alone at school now have lifelong friends they met through PRISM. I see people who have had their self-confidence majorly boosted thanks to the caring community in PRISM . Most importantly, I see smiles on faces that used to look as though they were on the verge of tears.
We have seen the word gay and other identifying terms being used as slurs decrease greatly, and bullying due to sexual orientation is rare now, thanks to our supportive Principal and Assistant Principals. Even our Superintendent has given her full support to our GSA. PRISM has made such a major impact on so many lives and it took every single one of us working together to do that.
7. What advice do you have for students trying to build their school’s GSAs?
Communicate calmly, even if it may seem the world is against you. I know when we first started, we felt intimidated. It was our willingness to remain calm in the face of hate and to sit down and to discuss how to make things better for everyone that made us successful. To continue, talk with authorities around you. Bring fully formulated ideas to them and show them how important it is that everyone deserves representation and a safe place to go. Have a solid backing of people to help when you fall. Be true to yourself and what you believe in and you will go far. And of course, the GLSEN site was so important in giving us the guidelines we needed to begin, so starting there is valuable.
8. What do you hope your school’s GSA can do in the future?
I hope that when I leave PRISM and move on to my high school GSA next year, the club will continue its striving for the equality of all people regardless of sexuality, sex, gender orientation, race, religion, or class. I hope that the good work of making our school, community and world a safe space for everyone continues. I have faith in my fellow members and have no doubt they will keep fighting for equality.
9. What GLSEN resources have you used, and how have you used them?
The information on forming the club was our starting point. The GLSEN Jump Start Guide was important in forming our GSA and knowing our rights. We have taken ideas for events, and printed out signs and stickers from the GLSEN site for all our events, such as the Day of Silence, which is a personal favorite. The Day of Silence significant because of the opportunity to teach people that not everyone has a voice and how hard it is to remain quiet, the patience one must have to not make a sound, and how all this is representative of those who cannot speak out of fear they will be harmed. We had a successful No Name-Calling Week as well. It is easy to do with the resources GLSEN provides.
The resources give us great information and topics to discuss and act on with PRISM. The article on Empowerment and Self-Identification has helped in the foundation of our GSA’s ideals. The concept of encouraging those around you to love themself is so incredibly important. I’ve personally used the article on Misgendering and Respect for Pronouns to help students support their transgender peers. It is important to know the proper pronouns for others and yourself. GLSEN’s education resources have been key to our success with all students. GLSEN has been such a major help in setting up PRISM and teaching others the importance of equality. Thank you all so much for the important work you do to support us!
May 09, 2018
In 2012, I came out to my parents that I identify as a bisexual woman. I was blessed to have caring, non-judgemental parents. However, I was not so lucky with geography. Living in Texas since birth, I grew up with anti-LGBTQ bias following my every step. This is especially true within the schools in my state.
Look no further than this Texas law, which states: “The materials in the education programs intended for persons younger than 18 years of age must: (1) emphasize sexual abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage as the expected standard in terms of public health and the most effective ways to prevent HIV infection, sexually transmitted diseases, and unwanted pregnancies; and (2) state that homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code.”
Laws like this one are often referred to as “no promo homo” laws because they prohibit the positive portrayal of homosexuality, particularly in health class. And these laws are currently found in 7 states: Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and my state, Texas. In these seven states, nearly 10,000,000 students are affected by this discriminatory legislation.
Though laws like this one do not explicitly address bisexuality, the notion that same-sex relations are unacceptable and even criminal, perpetuates the idea that bisexual students are “less than our heterosexual peers.” Unfortunately for me, I internalized this message; I’ve wanted to hide my bisexuality and show only the part of me attracted to men, in order to preserve my respectability as a “proper” young woman. I never want to be considered a criminal, especially not because of the people I love.
Not surprisingly, according to GLSEN’s latest research, schools in states with “no promo homo” laws were more likely to include negative representations of LGBTQ topics in school curriculum, and were less likely to include LGBTQ topics overall, compared to schools in states without these laws even in health classes. When students see negative representations of themselves in their lessons at school they suffer. In other words, these laws have a real, negative impact on students like me.
— GLSEN (@GLSEN) January 30, 2018
When your identity is already underrepresented in every outlet (such as media, athletics, and fashion), the last place you want your identity to be covered up is in your education. If you live in one of the seven states with these laws, I urge you to send a letter to your state representatives urging them to repeal the law. If you don’t, check out GLSEN’s guide on LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum – it shows how and why educators should include positive representations of LGBTQ topics at school.
Em Gentry is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.