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March 21, 2019
I listened… the sound slowly crept into my ear, triggered my reaction, and confusion started to consume my mind. “What’s your name?” the teacher questioned. My heart raced as I tried to search the blankness of my memories and whispered, “My name is Sovandarid Prom.” I was ten when my family and I immigrated from Cambodia – an underprivileged country in Southeast Asia – to the United States with dreams of new life and fresh opportunities. Upon arriving, I met a society that was rooted in more racial bias than I was prepared to confront.
In America today, immigrants are constantly detained and deprived of their basic rights. We live in a society where people’s survival and existence is criminalized. The criminalization of immigrants in this country has contributed to a surge in anti-immigrant views and bias. Over the past several years, I have been constantly reminded through the eyes of the government and the media that I am not welcomed here; that I need to go back to my country, and that even if I learned English, I will never be accepted. This type of bias and hostility towards immigrants in our society has filtered down into our school systems resulting in greater discipline for immigrant students, an increase in dropout rates and incarceration, and lower educational outcomes. The issue of immigrant rights are sewed into the fabric of this country and we can’t turn a blind eye to this issue any longer.
As a queer immigrant coming from a traditional Asian family, home was never a place for me to fully express my queer identity. As a child, I thought school would provide some of the safety and freedom that I did not have at home, but I later found out that wasn’t the case. In school, I listened to classmates make dehumanizing comments about immigrants and queer folks far too often. Xenophobia and queerphobia were ingrained into the minds of these students as they joked about invasions, crimes, deportation, trans identity, and so much more. The nastiness of comments from my peers about immigrants and queer people catapulted me into an isolating darkness of self-doubt and self-hatred, yet educators did little to nothing to aid the struggles of students like myself who held these multiple marginalized identities.
Racial and queer biases in our society have been integrated into the environment of many schools across the country, as it normalizes the aggression in which young people interact with their peers from different countries and cultures. According to the GLSEN 2017 National School Climate, 87% of LGBTQ students experienced harassment and assault based on their personal characteristics, including their race and ethnicity. We need to realize that our society will improve only when we breakdown the boundaries that are stacked among people of different races in schools. Boundaries create rejections that lead to the lack of opportunities for the growth of relationships and diversity. Let’s build relationships and solidarity, NOT walls and boundaries within our schools!
One of the best ways to support queer immigrant students is to build a more relationship-centered school; meaning, educators must promote a sense of belonging and diversity in classrooms. Fostering an environment of connectedness plays a huge role in students feeling respected, accepted, and supported by teachers and peers. Simple practices such as identity activities can dismantle individuals’ feelings of isolation and helps build conversations about commonalities in classrooms. GLSEN’s Identity Flowers are a great tool in increasing familiarity with differences; which ultimately, can alter perspectives, facilitate acceptance and diminish the misconceptions and prejudices that fuel discrimination.
In addition, by simply creating policies that enable students to properly address students of a different identity, we can tackle issues like name calling. Having a proper layout of what words are okay to use will allow for a more efficient and inclusive learning space. By doing so, it will provide the appropriate outlets to encourage students’ voices and action in celebrating diversity. Immigrant students deserve to feel a sense of safety and community in school, and GLSEN’s resource for anti-slur policy can be the first step in helping to make this a reality.
Together, our differences can make a strong and beautiful community. Even in the face of intolerance, discrimination, and violence, we must not forget to spread the words about the importance of inclusion and diversity and to respond to hatred with love and a celebration of our differences.
Darid is a member of GLSEN's National Student Council.
February 21, 2019
For No Name-Calling Week 2019, we encouraged students and educators across the country to create artwork using the theme of #KindessInAction in K-12 schools, because artwork has the power to change school climates for the better.
Cole Mendelsoh, Milton Terrace Elementary
How does this submission show #KindnessInAction in schools? This drawing shows love for all.
Elizabeth Keating, St. Luke's School
How does this submission show #KindnessInAction in schools? Our submission is a compelling series of Posters, which are a call-to-action and awareness building on behalf of No Name-Calling Week. It highlights the school's support of the initiative and showcases the school's various activities throughout the week.
Mary Uribe, Minarets High School
How does this submission show #KindnessInAction in schools? My submission shows the support of women and human rights as a whole. We are all individuals of power and sacrifice. We are the future and the strongest people in the world.
February 20, 2019
Jessica Chiriboga - 2018-2019 National Student Council Member
Love. Love. Love. Love must be the thud that drives LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers with each step forward.
While my newsfeed’s coverage of the migrant caravan has largely featured reports of gross xenophobia and rhetoric, November 17 brought a heart-warming, yet sobering story to light. In the city of Tijuana, Mexico, just two hours from my hometown, seven LGBTQIA+ couples who journeyed miles upon miles from Central America for the mere right to love freely were wed. This mass-wedding was beautiful, a hopeful juxtaposition in the wake of bigotry.
Yet the wave of pride and joy that swelled up inside my chest was soon replaced with a deep irrevocable sense of grief. The grief that engulfed me stemmed from the bleak reality that so many LGBTQIA+ people face around the world. These seven couples do not only face some of the highest levels of violence, extortion, poverty, corruption, drug trafficking, and gang violence, but also must contend with rampant homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia that seeks to erase their identities.
It’s altogether disconcerting, and even that word disconcerting is an understatement. People across this world fight for their mere right to live, their mere right to exist. As much as I have fallen in love with the earth, this is a moment where my heart runs over with disgust. As a student in a progressive southern California school, it seems unfathomable to me that a transgender student wouldn’t be allowed to use the restroom of their choosing. But yet, I am aware that in other states and other countries this is, unfortunately, a daily reality.
73 of the countries in our world criminalize homosexuality; in eight of these countries, homosexuality is punishable by death.
Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, 5,000 LGBTQIA+ persons have been executed in Iran.
In 2017, the brutal abduction and torturing of around 100 male residents in Chechnya (Russia) because of their perceived sexual orientation came to light.
In 2018, conversion therapy in unlicensed clinics, where victims were subject to atrocities ranging from rape to beatings, were exposed across Ecuador.
It’s important to note that because I am primarily exposed to American media, these stories were not ‘uncovered’ by Western media for several months and years, even with the cries of local activists and coverage by local organizations/media.
This reality rips my heart out. It grips my beating organ in its iron-clad hands and refuses to release its grasp. It is an all too familiar reminder that I have so much more work to do in my own activism.
In the bubble of my Southern California school, I’ve witnessed a great deal of ignorance, intended or unintended, displayed by my fellow out LGBTQIA+ peers.
Why does it matter that I learn about our history? Why does LGBTQIA+ activism matter if we can marry already? Why does it matter, students in California can already use the restroom of their choosing? Why does it matter what the world faces?
As silly as it sounds, I hear these questions all too often. These questions are rooted in a lack of LGBTQIA+ historical education, the privilege of wealth, a liberal locale, greater access to certain opportunities, and of being out and having a voice but not using it.
People often refuse to involve themselves in politics and activism when the issues don’t affect them directly. For some in my area, the ‘liberal’ bubble and the legalization of gay marriage is the end of the journey. Sure, they are not completely immune to discrimination, but the likelihood of damage done is insignificant enough that they can still educate or fight for others.
What I hope to communicate is that even when issues don’t directly affect us, we need to recognize our role in this community. This community is a beautiful one, drawn together by struggle and a common goal. It’s a community that has relied on coming together in trying times, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, to achieve equality for all members of the community.
Unity has been lost over the last few years in my particular area, perhaps because the urgency is no longer there. Perhaps because my generation is unaware of what it was like to exist merely a decade ago.
Like with all things, we call all do our part to help remedy this lack of awareness…
How does your area differ from others?
Recognize the needs of your community.
Is there a particular sexual orientation or gender identity at your school or in your community that seems to be facing stigma and discrimination?
Reflect on the issue.
What seems to be rooted in this discrimination? (i.e. misogyny, cultural values, etc.)
Respond to this issue.
Holding an educational meeting with your GSA and then come up with a plan of action to address the issue (i.e. educating staff on use of pronouns)
Create posters to educate school campus
Hold a protest or talk on your school campus
Make an announcement, video, or story in the newspaper to appear on campus to spread the word about your issue
I hope the migrant caravan and their beautiful story of marriage is a reminder that our siblings spread across the earth. We all stand together, country by country, state by state, town by town. Over miles of countryside and ocean, from the depths of the sea to the highest peak, we are united by love, whether that be a love for justice, for a partner, or for our community.
We must not forget our siblings. We must not forget to educate ourselves to advance our activism. We must not forget all the work we still have to do. We must not forget our goal.
Love must be the single unifier that brings us together in search of a safer, more beautiful earth. Love must be the answer.
Jessica is a member of GLSEN's National Student Council
February 06, 2019
Jessica Chiriboga - 2018-2019 National Student Council Member
Bounce. Bounce. Bounce. Breathe. Racket up. Extend through the serve. Follow through.
I repeat those words in my head like a mantra as sweat rolls down my forehead. It’s a hot summer morning in 2017, the type of day where the sun beats down incessantly on the green and blue court. Days like this always make me jokingly reconsider why I’m out on the court, why I’m running after a small green ball with a netted circle on a stick.
My coach snaps me out of my inner monologue, asking me what corner of the box I decided to aim at. It provides direction, he says, to have a position or corner in mind before I start my backswing.
“Down the service line”, I answer. That’s a lie. But certainly not as big of a lie that I felt I lived everyday.
You see, often on those summer days we spoke of social issues and general news, freely and uninhibited, unleashing our opinions, our disappointments, and our hopes. I was always quite comfortable speaking with my coach due to his open mind and good heart, but whenever our discussions approached my community, my mouth shut close.
“The LGBTQIA+ community,” he would start, “is facing ... and it’s a disgrace that they have to face that everyday”. “Yes”, I’d respond, “I wish that community didn’t have to face that. It’s unfortunate.”
During that summer, never once did I refer to that community in the first person. My community remained in the shadows of third person, an entity removed from our dialogue because of my fear and deep sense of shame.
There was always uncertainty then around disclosing a part of me. Actually, that’s not completely true. When meeting new people I was unabashedly clear about my identity. If they didn’t agree with who I am then they just left or didn’t pursue a friendship. Fine with me, I thought, spares me the effort.
It was the people I deeply cared about, the people I truly loved and respected, that I had hesitancy around. It was my coach, the man who has helped me through so much, that I feared would judge me (even though deep down a seed of hope knew he wouldn’t).
Yet, for me, and so many LGBTQIA+ students, that fear of rejection lingers and stings, regardless of how supportive that person may or may not be. This exists because for me and so many of my sisters in the sports community, there is a warranted fear of homophobia, but beyond that sexism, racism, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, and islamophobia. We fear being cast out by our teammates, belittled by our coaches, kicked off our sports teams, and not being seen the same way. As athletes who truly love and value the game, this scares us more than anything. Our lives are so intertwined with the game, the match, and the journey, that anything that could jeopardize that frightens us.
During the summer of 2018, I missed a Saturday pre-season practice for L.A. Pride. I told my coach, and he asked some questions and compared it to how he remembered it years ago. Even then, I doubted myself. Did he know I was gay? What if I was just an ally supporting the community? Did he care? Would this change everything?
Our next private lesson rolled around, and he told me about a new documentary he had watched, Alone in the Game, about LGBTQ athletes in the professional, collegiate, and Olympic levels.
My heart swelled in that moment. I knew he knew. But instead of dread, I felt nothing but welcome. I felt nothing but supported.
Thank you coach, thank you. You’ll never know how much that day meant to me. You’ll never know how much each email with the latest LGBTQIA+ news means to me. You’ll never know how much you mean to me Coach.
For more resources, check out…
GLSEN Massachusetts’ Sample Sports Presentation
And GLSEN’s research brief on The Experiences of LGBT Students in School Athletics
Jessica is a part of GLSEN's 2018-2019 National Student Council.
February 04, 2019
School-based mental health providers – counselors, psychologists, and social workers – can often be some of the first adults that young people connect with regarding their LGBTQ identity. In fact, in the 2017 National School Climate Survey over half of LGBTQ students reported that they would feel most comfortable talking with school based mental health professionals about LGBTQ issues. Unfortunately, a recent study shows that 76% of school mental health professionals received little to no preparation on working with LGBTQ youth (Supporting Safe and Healthy Schools). These providers can adopt some of the following best practices to best serve their students:
Advocate with other teachers and administrators
LGBTQ students need to know that there is at least one adult who is supportive of them. This is, very importantly, a “show don’t tell” version of allyship. What this means is that it is not enough to simply say we are supportive of LGBTQ students, we need to show it through our actions. I recognize that because of different environments, locations, and administrations, we as mental health counselors might not have as much of a voice in our school system to be able to do some of these more public actions. However, take a look at this list and see if there are a few that you might be able to do, or alter to be able to fit within the bounds of your particular school. Here are several suggestions of public actions that you can take to show your support of the community.
a. Have pronoun buttons available in an obvious location in your office. Also, wear your own pronoun button if you’d like!
b. Display LGBTQ-affirming materials and signs while you work with youth. This can be done with books, safe space stickers, or posters to promote an inclusive space, or with notebooks or lanyards if you travel between spaces or schools.
c. Advocate for time and/or funding for your school to be able to have a GSA (Gender & Sexuality Alliance or Gay-Straight Alliance) group.
d. If a teacher or administrator is using bigoted language (whether in front of students or not), respectfully but firmly let them know that the language they are using is inappropriate.
e. If an adult or student in the school is using the wrong name or pronouns of a transgender student who is out publicly, correct them. Don’t make a big deal of it, as that can draw uncomfortable attention to the student. Instead, simply say the correct name or pronoun and then let the person continue speaking.
f. Find out from your school regarding their policies regarding bathroom use, and advocate strongly that your students can use the bathroom that matches their identity, or at the very least, for them to be able to use the gender-neutral staff bathroom. Refer to and share GLSEN’s Trans Model Policy for support.
Explore LGBTQ-Community Resources
Take some time to do research in your own area regarding therapists and clinics that are LGBTQ-friendly, and compile a list of referrals for students who are looking for therapy outside of school. Granted, depending on where you are, those resources may be slim, but there are multiple vetted online support groups as well as national helplines for young people to be able to get support outside of school.
This need for referrals holds particularly true if you only have time to meet with students infrequently, or for short periods of time. Forgive yourself if you can’t be “The Person” that this student goes to for support regarding their LGBTQ identity. There are so many hats that a school mental health provider has to wear, and it is an honorable thing to recognize your limits. You can still have a positive impact, even if your primary role is connecting that student to an outside provider and being a safe space in the school environment for the time that you are able to give them.
Be transparent with your students about what you can (or cannot) hold confidential
It is crucial when working with LGBTQ youth that we are forthcoming regarding what our obligations are regarding confidentiality. Every school is different regarding what is expected of their counselors in regard to sharing what a student has shared, be it with teachers, interns, administrators, or the student’s family members. In addition, it is important to be aware of how note-taking may happen after you see a student and of who might have legal access to those notes.
Personally, unless safety is a concern in any way, I believe thoroughly that it is our ethical duty as counselors not to share any information about a student’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or curiosity and exploration of gender expression, unless the student is ready to come out and wants some help with having those conversations. It is so important for young people to have a safe space, and have access to adults who value their privacy and respect their need to take their time with self-discovery. Remember that public school students have a right to privacy. If this confidentiality is not possible due to the particular expectations in your school, you need to make that clear to any student who might want to share personal information with you regarding anything along the LGBTQ spectrum.
As LGBTQ youth are more likely to experience mental health concerns regarding suicide (YRBS 2017, Trevor Project), be very transparent with your students that you will have to break confidentiality if you are concerned about their safety either due to potential self-harm or harm from someone else. Depending on the situation, even with this necessary break of confidentiality, you may be able to keep the person’s LGBTQ identity out of the conversation if the student wants to keep that part of their identity private for the time being.
Follow their lead with their coming out path
When we’re working in a school setting, we often have dual relationships with students. We see them privately in our offices, but we may also interact with them in other settings, such as in a group session, in mediation, in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting, or even in classrooms. This can make it feel tricky to know how to keep confidentiality for a client while also respecting what they may have shared with you about their identity.
For example, let’s say a student comes out to you as being a transgender girl. Ask her how she would like for you to address her in public settings. It’s possible that she may, for now, ask you to continue to use her legal name or “deadname” and he/him pronouns in public, as she does not yet want others to know. You are not being disrespectful to then follow her wishes. When you are meeting with her alone, use her chosen name and her female pronouns. Furthermore, offer to help her facilitate conversations with her parents and/or the administration should she decide she is ready to come out publicly. Share GLSEN’s Coming Out Guide to help the student consider different aspects of this ongoing process.
There are myriad factors that play into a young person’s decision to come out or not, and potentially a student may feel that due to their individual circumstances it may not be safe for them to be out. All you can do is hold space for them, and allow them to safely explore their thoughts and feelings about their gender or sexual identity with you, without the pressure of feeling obligated to have to take everything to the next step of coming out.
Remember that we will never be experts
One of the most important things I’ve learned as a therapist is that the moment we think we are an expert in something is the moment that we stop learning. Regardless of whether we may have decades of experience as a counselor, or if we are out and proud regarding our own gender identity and sexual orientation (I myself am as queer as a tea cozy!), that does not make us experts on a particular student’s experience. We have to do our own continuing education (on our own) to learn how the language is changing, and we have to do it enthusiastically. We have to allow our students to correct us, and not become defensive if we have made assumptions that are challenged.
More than anything, we have to hold an open, honest space where we allow each individual student to teach us about their specific experience. Just because I have worked with countless queer and trans teenagers does not mean that I automatically understand every emotion, hardship, or desire of a person walking through my door. What makes someone truly a professional is confidence in the acceptance of being wrong, and a genuine willingness to learn. You are here, reading this, which means that you already are on a solid path toward being the person that an LGBTQ student may need. In fact, you probably already are.
Kit McCann, LMFT, she/her, is a queer/gender therapist in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
February 01, 2019
On January 25, 2019, for the first time, the CDC released data on health behaviors and experiences of transgender youth from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS). Data collected by 19 CDC-funded sites (10 states, 9 large urban school districts) included a single-item question to measure the proportion of high-school youth who identify as transgender in the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). Population-based data (including YRBS) are critical to address disparities that exist between transgender and cisgender youth.
Knowing which questions to ask and how to ask them in order to get high-quality data can be a challenging task. That is why we have been working to try and get it right – developing, testing, and piloting questions. We work closely with partner organizations and research colleagues to identify the most accurate and effective ways to accurately represent in surveys students who identify as transgender. A variety of governmental and non-governmental partners, including GLSEN and CDC, have been working to share data and find the most effective way forward.
Data from the 2017 state and local YRBS indicate that transgender students are more likely to experience violence victimization, substance use, suicide risk, and sexual risk, and would benefit from increased support. This spring, 22 states and large urban school districts will assess transgender identity for the next cycle of YRBS data. In addition to increasing surveillance, programmatic efforts to create safer learning environments and ensure access to culturally competent care are important steps to improving the health of the nation’s transgender youth.
Joseph G. Kosciw, PhD, GLSEN’s Chief Research & Strategy Officer; Michelle M. Johns, MPH, PhD, Health Scientist, Research Application and Evaluation Branch, CDC’s Division of Adolescent School Health (DASH); J. Michael Underwood, PhD, Chief, School-Based Surveillance Branch, CDC’s Division of Adolescent School Health (DASH)
January 21, 2019
Before I socially transitioned as Gender Non-Conforming (GNC), my transness held little consideration in my advocacy work. I made parts of myself invisible out of self-hate. I grew up Black, queer, and transgender in the South. In my town, hate and underrepresentation of my sexuality and gender expression caused me to avoid parts of myself. As a trans educator, I have experienced isolation to its fullest extent. From this, I am imbued with a sense of responsibility to center dialogue in my school community on queer and trans experiences that have remained hidden because of social stigma and hatred.
My experience as a GNC or trans educator is one of constant discrimination in schools. Trans and GNC educators are often treated with skepticism, made invisible in curriculum and instruction, given little to no space for programming or extracurricular engagements, and pushed out of school communities because of discrimination from faculty or the student body. Based on my experiences, when schools attempt to include transgender identities in curricula, we are often tokenized and these methods are inconsistently reinforced. These issues are deeply-rooted, intentional, and institutionalized. They are also microcosms of the larger social stigma of transgender identities in American society.
Too often, the focus of discussion around transgender and GNC discrimination in schools is the use of pronouns and gender inclusive restrooms. This limited focus does not consider the holistic impact of transgender identities in and beyond the school environment. In my experience, so many individuals in schools focus on how to appropriately pronounce my honorific, “Mx.,” or feel the need to announce that they are “getting used to my pronouns.” These comments, devoid of intention, signify that people assume that my desire for inclusivity can be achieved through their correct pronunciation of my honorific. I also have a desire for more support from school leaders around my ability to self-define.
Rather than “getting used to” trans and GNC individuals, support them authentically. Ask them if they feel safe in your community. Ask them if community members are displaying attitudes of acceptance. While bathroom use and pronouns are important issues, recognizing one’s existence and validating their belonging sends a powerful message about that transgender person’s right to fully access the school space. Transgender individuals are humans. We are not single stance issues to choose a side on in political discourse or an uncomfortable object around which you must wrap your mind. For those who are willing to recognize the fullness of transgender and GNC community members’ humanity in a school environment, I would suggest that you all attempt some of these steps:
1. Be aware of the issues that face trans and GNC students and educators in and beyond school.
Try watching videos and reading blogs at www.glsen.org/trans.
2. Survey the GSA clubs in your school to gather evidence of the climate for LGBTQ youth and ask your LGBTQ+ faculty their opinions with earnest intent.
Find GSA resources at glsen.org/gsa.
3. Make space and programming on transgender experiences accessible for all faculty and students.
4. Ask people how they want to be identified, leave it at that, and deal with your confusion on your own.
Consistent efforts toward transgender inclusion are challenging and should be treated with diligence. Remember, your school is working with a human population and not with objects of fascination. All humans deserve adequate attention and validation. Indifference toward or ignorance of the discrimination against transgender lives bolsters the power of hate and perpetuates the current system. We need all individuals to be stakeholders in our liberation.
Mx. Marvin D. Shelton Jr., M.S.Ed., Middle School English Teacher, Riverdale Country School, Pronouns: They, Them, Their
January 14, 2019
In preparation for GLSEN's No Name-Calling Week, we asked GLSEN's National Student Council 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.
Want to share how you identify? You can put #KindnessInAction and join the conversation by posting your own sign with the names YOU want to be called. Make sure to use #KindnessInAction and tag @glsen on Twitter and Instagram!
To get involved with No Name-Calling Week, and to get free streaming of LGBTQ-inclusive classroom documentaries, register here!
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"I am driven, mixed-race gay activist!" Join GLSEN National Student Council member @jessicachiriboga17 and share the names you want to be called with this sign at the link in bio! #KindnessInAction #NoNameCallingWeek#stopbullying #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi#trans #queer #nonbinary
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National Student Council member JP shared the names he wants to be called for #NoNameCallingWeek! How are you putting #KindnessInAction and working to end name-calling and bullying in your school in the new year? @j.p_grant #NoNameCalling #NNCW #stopbullying #inclusiveschools #safeschools #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #Bi #Trans #queer #nonbinary
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"I am a passionate, geeky, Latinx activist who will not conform to your binary" - @a_queer_person Tell us the names you're proud of with this selfie sign or in the comments below! Find other ways you can show that you're against name-calling this #NoNameCallingWeek at the link in bio! #KindnessInAction #affirmations #stopbullying #inclusiveschools #safeschools #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer
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What are the names that you want to be called? During #NoNameCallingWeek, show that you're against bullying with this selfie sign! It it and tons of other activities to help you put #KindnessInAction at school at the link in bio! @love_me_only34 #stopbullying #inclusiveschools #safeschools #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary
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"I am a strong, PROUD queer immigrant." - @Justrid1 What names do you WANT to be called? Share your names and take a stand against bullying & name-calling with this selfie sign at the link in bio! #NoNameCallingWeek #KindnessInAction #InclusiveSchools #safeschools #supportsafeschools #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary
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GLSEN National Student Council Member Sayer (@badassfemme63) wants to be called #gay, #passionate, and #femme! Let everyone know the names you want to be called this #NoNameCallingWeek with this "I am" sign at the link in bio! #KindnessInAction #inclusiveschools #safeschools #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary
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GLSEN National Student Council member Juno is powerful and necessary! What are the names you'd like to be called? Take a stand against bullying & name-calling with our #NoNameCallingWeek selfie sign at the link in bio! #KindnessInAction #affirmations #inclusiveschools #safeschools #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary
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#Powerful. #Activist. #Biracial. #ChangingTheWorld. National Student Council member @ayo_bri02 is pushing back against name-calling and sharing the names she WANTS to be called! What are the names you want to be called? Share in the comments below or with your own sign at the link in bio! #NoNameCallingWeek #KindnessInAction #stopbullying #positivity #inclusiveschools #safeschools #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary
January 03, 2019
I have been a secondary science educator for fourteen years. I have loved teaching science – piquing students’ interest in the world and in scientific possibilities, and encouraging them to pursue science careers. After all, science solves the world’s problems. I was named ESL Teacher of the Year, twice nominated for my campus’ Teacher of the Year, and held numerous leadership positions at multiple campuses in multiple districts. In spite of this, anti-LGBTQ discrimination has led me to resign, ending my teaching career mid-contract.
In the fall of 2017, shortly after school started, I was approached by a student and asked to sponsor a GSA. I was ecstatic at the opportunity. My two sisters and I identify as LGBTQ and we have religious parents who learned to love and accept us. As an out educator of 11 years, married to my wife for 9 years, and mother to 3, I was excited to offer a safe space for students to feel open to express their true selves.
In late February, however, I was called to the office of an administrator on my campus and was asked about a conversation that had occurred in my classroom. During a genetics lesson I overheard a gay slur. Anyone who has spent any amount of time around teenagers is familiar with the rampant use of negative LGBTQ terminology - in 2015, 92% of Texas students reported hearing “that’s so gay” in the classroom and 86% reported hearing other homophobic remarks (GLSEN 2015 Texas State Snapshot). In this instance, as always, I intervened to challenge the conversation with my typical, “not appropriate” and “it is offensive.” I believe it’s our role as educators to tell students that anti-LGBTQ comments should offend anyone; homophobic or transphobic comments, along with racist, sexist, ableist comments and any comments targeting a marginalized group of people, should have no place in our institutions, as they keep our classrooms from being safe and welcoming for all students.
The administrators informed me that the brief conversation I had with students was not an acceptable use of academic time and that I should focus on teaching the TEKS, Texas’s guiding K-12 subject required curriculum. I was the campus GSA sponsor; if I did not correct this type of language, who would? I highlighted the worrisome statistics from LGBTQ students - nearly 9 in 10 were harassed or assaulted at school (GLSEN 2015). All adults in schools should know that ignoring comments like the ones I heard only encourages the anti-LGBTQ behavior and can increase the isolation felt by so many. Unfortunately, however, school officials did not agree and I was formally reprimanded. A letter was entered into my personal file and it was expected that I not get in “an extended dialogue about those things” and “that these conversations not be allowed in [the] classroom”. Reprimand letters become part of a teacher’s employment record, can be used as documentation to support a firing, and travels with the teacher, even to other schools or other districts.
Although I was a teacher in a suburb of the fourth largest city in the United States – one whose most recent mayor was openly gay— and, most recently working in the third largest school district in Texas, the anti-LGBTQ climate left its mark on me. Texas is one of 34 states that does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression in public schools. Beyond that, Texas is one of the seven states with “No Promo Homo” laws that are designed to restrict instruction and limit school expressions of support for LGBTQ people or issues. The law in the Health and Safety Code, Sec. 85.007. requires that teaching materials “state…homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense” (now deemed unconstitutional by the ruling in Lawrence v. Texas).
Although my last school district has a stated policy to protect for LGBTQ students – including “offensive jokes, name-calling, slurs,” the reality is that educators are expected to remain quiet about LGBTQ issues. If the current administration continues to be welcoming towards divisive, derogatory commentary, if the Department of Education refuses to protect all students, if school districts refuse to follow through with written policy, it is the students who will suffer.
The research concludes that “No Promo Homo” states like Texas can create more hostile school environments – with less LGBTQ resources or supportive educators. Our role as educators is to guide and protect students to become productive members of society; we do this for all students, not just those like ourselves - especially the most vulnerable.
Administrators in any state need to be supporting their faculty in creating learning environments where all students can succeed. That’s why GLSEN created this guide for Administrators and School Leaders. It is time for school boards, school administrators, and all educators to fully embrace LGBTQ students and staff, not just as policy – but to really fight for their rights to feel welcome, safe, and protected.
Shannon Flores, Educator and GSA Advisor, TX
November 29, 2018
If you work in a school, it is vital that you provide an affirming and supportive environment for the LGBTQ youth who attend your school. Your LGBTQ students experience unique vulnerabilities and risks that their peers do not. According to a recent report by Chapin Hall at The University of Chicago, Missed Opportunities: LGBTQ Youth Homelessness in America, LGBTQ youth aged 18-25 are more than two times at increased risk of experiencing homelessness than compared to non-LGBTQ youth. The report also found that LGBTQ youth experience much higher rates of assault while being homeless than non-LGBTQ youth as well.
Due to the realities of homelessness and the limited access to affirming youth services, these youth need extra support. The risk does not stop after high school either. LGBTQ youth are at high risk of not finishing high school and that will put them at high risk of homelessness after high school— 34% of LGBTQ youth have less than a high school diploma, compared to 11% of the general population (Chapin Hall). An earlier report by Chapin Hall, Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America, showed that youth with less than a high school diploma or GED were more than four times (346%) at increased risk of being homeless than compared to youth who completed high school.
You can help support the LGBTQ students who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness in your school so that they feel affirmed in your community and have an adult ally. Here are some ways you can support your students.
1. Trans and Gender Nonconforming (TGNC) youth may not be able to afford the items, treatments or legal services needed to present as the gender they identify as. This should not stop school staff from affirming their gender and allowing them to use facilities or participate in events that affirm their gender identity. Allow youth to self-identify, express themselves how they choose, and allow for that to change and evolve on their personal timeline.
2. Survival sex unfortunately is a real reality for some youth experiencing homelessness, in order to survive and get their needs met. 27% of LGBTQ and especially TGNC youth have traded sex for money, food, places to stay, compared to 9% of non-LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness (Chapin Hall). If you are supporting a student who has engaged in survival sex, use a harm reduction approach. They are getting a need met to survive, do not shame or blame them. Listen to them and help them connect to resources for food, shelter, gender affirming medical care/clothing or what else they need. If you meet them with shame, blame or punishment; they will still need to survive and they will not find the school environment safe for them anymore.
3. Students may have a hard time focusing in class, check in with them and ask them when the last time they ate or had water was. If they are showing up they want to be there, support them in being able to be present.
4. Like number 3, check in to see if they have slept the night before. As we all know this will definitely affect someone’s mood and attention. If a student falls asleep in class, do not jump right to consequences. Instead, have a conversation with them, ask them how you or the school could create a plan to support their ability to learn.
5. LGBTQ youth who experience high rejection from their families are more than 3 times as likely to use illegal drugs, compared to LGBTQ youth who experience little to no rejection by their families (Family Acceptance Project). This risk is something school staff deal with across all student identities but when it comes to youth experiencing homelessness it is important to have an understanding as to why this group uses more substances, and may be using them to cope with trauma and the stress of homelessness. Of course, keep your space safe for all students but it is proven to have better results and less dropout rates if the approach is harm reduction and is supportive instead of just punitive.
6. Hygiene can be an issue with homeless youth. This is due to a few factors; they may not have access to a change of clothes/laundry, or they may need support on life skills. They may not be showering as a response to trauma or they may be experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, psychosis or other serious mental health issues. These factors may cause the youth to be bullied in school so be aware of how they are interacting with their peers, and how it affects their mental health. School staff can support them by providing them with toiletries, and clean clothes or resources for those items. Assisting them with extra access to locker room showers is also very useful and will help them feel like themselves. Connect students to the school social worker if it becomes an ongoing issue to explore with the student where the behavior is coming from.
7. Homelessness is chaotic. This makes it really difficult for youth to be able to show up on time and regularly to school, work, or appointments. LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness have limited to no access to public transportation or cars, especially in suburban or rural areas. Work with students on making up assignments and assistance with travel.
8. The traumas of homelessness, family rejection and abuse can make people feel hopeless. It is a horrible reality that LGBTQ youth who experience high levels of rejection from their families are more than 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide than compared to LGBTQ youth who experience little to no rejection by their families (Family Acceptance Project). It is so vital that youth are connected to the school social worker or counselor and has school staff that they trust and affirm them. Make sure your staff are trained on how to assess for suicide. When youth are affirmed for who they are and have their basic needs met that risk is greatly diminished.
9. LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness have experienced immense amounts of trauma. Violence and homelessness is interconnected. Violence makes people at risk for homelessness, and homelessness makes people at risk for violence. You can support youth by using a trauma-informed approach to managing the space and supporting young people. When youth “act out”, are hyper-vigilant, or have quick reactions of self-defense, take a step back and support the student by understanding where that reaction came from in order to figure out the plan to support them, instead of only punitive measures. Often the reaction is a trauma response that would need support from the school counselor or social worker.
10. Last but not least, it is crucial to have social workers on staff who have real understanding of LGBTQ youth, gender and sexuality. They do not need to identify with the community themselves but it is so very important that they understand and affirm the youth. The risks are too high, and LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness need extra support and if the staff do not understand and empathize with them, they will not go to them for support. The repercussions of that are too high. Youth are consistently doing the work to be their best selves, and we must do the work to show up and affirm them.
Nadia Swanson, LMSW, is the Coordinator of Training and Advocacy for the Ali Forney Center. This blog is part of a GLSEN partnership with the Ali Forney Center to learn more about what school-based resources and actions can be done to support LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness.