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January 18, 2018

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

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

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

Clara Horton (they/she)

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

Untitled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soli Guzman (any pronouns)

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

Untitled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She doesn’t see the power it holds,

My painfully beautiful brown skin.

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

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

The overarching history it has.

My skin comes from my grandfather side,

My skin came from Torreón, Mexico,

Where my grandpa was born.

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

Before him my skin came from native Americans,

And that skin was passed onto my mother.

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

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

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

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

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

Yet through this pain my skin has so much beauty,

How it changes shades through the seasons like the sunsets,

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

How I wear orange and red and I shine.

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

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

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

 

To the girl who complimented me,

your act of kindness can be interpreted in many ways,

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

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

Complemented my love for stem and my knowledge,

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

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

Mari Contreras (They/Them)

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

pale;

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

 

not your average gay

We’re not all muscular

We’re not all slim

We’re not all tall

We’re not all short

We’re not all feminine

We’re not all masculine

We’re not all one same hair color

We’re not all one same eye color

We’re not all one same age

We’re not all one same race

We’re not all from once same place

We’re not all a certain gender

We’re not all friendly and are not all nice

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

We’re not all quiet

We’re not all loud

We’re not all always excited

We’re not all dramatic

We’re not all one profession

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

 

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

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

 

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

I know i do and will tell you how it is

 

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

 

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

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

Sarah Bunn (She/Her) 

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

variation [fake asian]

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

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

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

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

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

 

heirloom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Larissa Izaguirre (She/Her) 

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

Sticks and Stones

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

January 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Adrian Zongrone, MPH is a Research Associate at GLSEN.

January 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Becca Mui is GLSEN’s Education Manager.

January 08, 2018

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

January 08, 2018

Students in a GSA working together

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

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

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

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

Act 

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

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

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

Learn

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

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

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

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

January 08, 2018

A teacher teaching in front of her students

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

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

Learn 

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

Teach

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

Act

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

Donate

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

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

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

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

November 30, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 27, 2017

Four pronoun buttonsTrans, non-binary, and gender nonconforming students, this is a moment for you. This is a moment to remind you that your pronouns are valid. This is also a moment to acknowledge the anxiety and stress that you might experience if you’re sharing pronouns (for the first or fiftieth time) or being misgendered. You are not alone.  

Your gender self-determination is work. You existing as your beautiful self is work. As we work towards manifesting a world where folks can self-identify their gender freely and without anxiety, these affirmations are here to remind you that you have a right to feel at home with yourself.

1. Marcus (They/Them/Theirs, He/Him/His)

 Cis people can be called whatever they want with little to no complaint – you  deserve the same. It’s actually quite easy to use correct pronouns, and if people see it as a burden then they are not being respectful or compassionate enough. Your pronouns are a necessity, not a choice you are "burdening" others with. 

 2. Ezra (He/Him/His, Ey/Em/Eirs)

To be honest, it's still something I struggle with on the daily, but when you find the right person who puts the effort into using your correct pronouns and begins correcting other people, in my experience, people start to catch on. There's also this cool game that I like to have people play, which can help.

3. Nate (He/Him/His)

Never feel guilty correcting people. Email your teachers as much as you need, and ask your friends and allies to correct people for you, especially if it's an authority figure. There’s strength in numbers, and you don’t have to do it all by yourself.

4. Ose (They/Them/Theirs)

You know yourself better than anyone else. No one is entitled to (nor do they need) any more explanation than you’re willing to provide. Do and say however much or little you’re comfortable with.

5. James (He/Him/His)

It's reasonable to feel a lot of stress and anxiety about pronouns, and you're not alone in that. Sometimes the answer to a situation is not as straightforward as you may think. Never correct a person if you don't feel comfortable, and make sure you have some allies around you that can help. Sometimes correcting people takes too much energy and causes too much stress, and it's valid to recognize that and step back. Do what makes sense to you! There's no one size fits all.

6. Cruz (Ze/Zir/Zirs)

There’s always the fear of unacceptance and confusion, but your pronouns are a right that can never be taken away. It is very anxiety-inducing to say, “Actually, my pronouns are… and it is appreciated that you use them.” But you have every right to say it.

As someone who identifies as agender, I want to validate that there are more pronouns besides she/her/hers, he/him/his, and even they/them/theirs. You are who you are, and no one can take who you are away from you. I’ve learned over time that we are valid no matter what, even if we find our pronouns having to be corrected. 

7. Niles (They/Them/Theirs)

You are not required to correct people whenever they mess up your pronouns; it isn’t your job to teach people how to treat you with respect. But you absolutely have the right to correct people in any way that feels comfortable to you; your comfort and identity are more important than making your correction overly kind or palatable to others. If you can’t correct someone when they use your pronouns incorrectly, that’s okay. If you correct people every time they mess up, gently or not, that’s okay, too. You are valid regardless. No one can take that away, no matter how hard they try.

And to trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming educators, we see you too. Here are words from Milo (They/Them/Theirs):

“As a teacher who uses they/them/their pronouns at work, I experience pronoun anxiety every day. However, I believe that school communities can work together to create more affirming environments for trans and gender nonconforming teachers and students. To the teachers and administrators out there, we all know that building positive relationships with students is essential for a productive and engaged classroom. Proactively creating a school environment where students (and teachers) feel comfortable sharing their pronouns is a fundamental part of building relationships with trans and gender nonconforming students. You don’t have to understand their identities to respect their pronouns. If it’s difficult or confusing for you, do your research and practice! That’s what being a lead learner is all about.”

As you continue your journey, sharing GLSEN’s pronoun resource might be helpful – plus GLSEN’s wealth of resources for supporting trans students.

November 22, 2017

A student and a teacher in a classroom

Acceptance of trans folks in schools has become a hot-button issue. With all of the misinformation floating around, many schools wonder how they can best serve their transgender and gender nonconforming (GNC) students. I am a transmasculine student, so these issues hit very close to home.

I think educators are well positioned to be my advocates in schools and make real change in addressing these issues. Enter my wonderful school counselor, Ashleigh. They identify as queer and use gender-neutral pronouns, though they don’t worry about the specific label of their identity. When I spoke to them about trans inclusion in our school, they were a bit nervous – my school is still not very open to the free discussion of queer topics – but my counselor tries to be as open as possible with their queer students. Here’s what they had to say:

On the importance of schools supporting trans faculty:

When we think of schools, we often think only of the students. But schools are made of both faculty and students. We have to ensure that schools are a safe place for their faculty as well; teachers should be able to change pronouns freely and discuss how they identify in class. It would empower teachers to be able to say, “This isn’t right,” and redirect disrespectful students who are using transphobic language. But if an administration is stifling queer and trans voices, it sends a powerful message to the faculty that these identities are not accepted, which then leads to students not accepting trans identities.

On ways educators can be supportive of trans students, even with a difficult school administration:

Teachers can make their classrooms into safe havens. There will always be pockets of positivity and negativity, but I believe positivity will always trickle down. Teachers should make an effort to use gender-neutral language and work to dismantle gender roles. Will teachers always be able to nip everything in the bud? No, it gets exhausting for everyone. But if a teacher makes it clear that derogatory speech or actions are not acceptable, they can help make their classroom a safe place for transgender students.

I still remember the first teacher who ever called someone out of the classroom after he harassed me for being queer. She was my history teacher, and from that day on I stayed in her classroom as much as I could. I ended up loving history, all because I felt safe in her classroom. All because she was the only person who ever fought for me.

On how youth can drive change:

You have to demand rights, and scream for it. Things change so quickly in the LGBTQ community, and youth are who are driving all of the changes.

When I was a teenager, I remember coming home from a trip to see the President arguing against the legalization of marriage equality. I never got an apology for the hurt I had to suffer from this experience as a young person. But to see when marriage equality was legalized and the White House was lit up in rainbows… I can’t explain what that meant to me.

My counselor has been instrumental to making our school trans-inclusive, but we still have a long way to go. Discriminatory acts can still slip through the cracks. I hear derogatory remarks against transgender people almost daily with little to no repercussions.

It is important that schools act as a unit when it comes to ensuring safety for their transgender and GNC students; it cannot simply be talk. Students, teachers, and school administrators must put their words into action. Change is happening slowly, but the future is bright. Students and educators looking for ways to make their school trans-inclusive can look to GLSEN’s wealth of resources.

As my counselor said, “It may seem bad now, but what is going to be your White House in rainbows?” Although fighting for my rights may be tiring, I can’t wait to see what my rainbow will be.

Marcus Breed is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.

November 20, 2017

Headshot of Kian Tortorello-Allen

I’m a 16-year-old brown, trans guy. As a visibly trans brown person, I face different and often more intense forms of both racial and gender discrimination. Through this discrimination I often feel like my identity is being erased. I often don’t see myself represented in LGBTQ spaces, which tend to be dominated by white voices and experiences; sometimes those spaces are racially ignorant or even racist. Black and brown trans folks have to be resilient to even exist. 

I don’t always feel like I have the support to truly be proud of my transness and my brownness. Today is Trans Day of Resilience, and it’s about continuing the fight towards justice for trans folks. With that in mind, here are 4 things you (especially cis-white folks) can do to better support trans students of color.  

1. Listen

Make sure to listen to the stories, experiences, and voices of brown and Black trans students. We have a unique perspective and face different, intersecting forms of discrimination and oppression in our lives. 

2. Learn

Once you’ve listened to brown and Black trans voices, make sure to educate yourself. Read books, look at resources, and fill yourself with knowledge! By educating yourself, you can help be a better ally to trans people of color. GLSEN’s resources on supporting trans students and research on the school experiences of Black and Latinx trans students can be helpful tools in your self-education.    

3. Acknowledge your privilege

Privilege often brings access and authority that aren’t given to another group. Therefore, it’s important to acknowledge your privilege, recognizing that your race, sexuality, gender, class and so on all affect your experiences. You can use your access and authority to improve the experiences of Black and brown trans folks.

4. Highlight 

You can be an ally to trans people of color by highlighting their voices; it’s critically important to highlight and raise up their voices when you can. If you have a platform, use it to share stories that aren’t always heard. Remember to make space for those who traditionally wouldn’t have it.   

In recognition of Trans Day of Resilience, a number of trans, gender nonconforming, and non-binary artists of color, in a project put on by Forward Together, created artwork that truly shows the strength, beauty, and power within the trans brown and black communities. One of these artists, Art Twink, created the piece below, which really resonates with me. Black and brown trans people have been twice gifted with diversity, and our uniqueness makes us glow. 

Illustration of trans folks of color; "We are the blessed ones"
(Art by Art Twink. More pieces at TDOR.co) 

As Trans Awareness Week comes to a close, I’m inspired by the resilience of my community of trans folks of color, and I’m hopeful that you’ll join us in fighting for justice.

Kian Tortorello-Allen is member of GLSENs National Student Council.

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