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September 12, 2018

A yearbook photo of the Nease High School GSA

The start of the school is always exciting because student-led LGBTQ clubs either relaunch or launch for the first time. This is the perfect time to register your club and establish your #GSAgoals for the year! (Registering your GSA gives you access to GLSEN materials, ensures you're on our mailing lists, and more)

The GSAs featured below got together and outlined what they wanted to achieve this year to best serve their members and school communities. Read their plans below and tag @glsen in your own #GSAgoals post!

1. Nease High School GSA

 
 
 
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"Our club wants to create a safe and supportive community for Nease’s LGBTQ students! This year, we hope to create an LGBTQ book section in our library, put on a production of The Laramie Project play, teach queer history, talk about queer activism 101 and our rights as students and Americans, participate in GLSEN's #AllyWeek by writing notes to our teachers and making friends at the other St John’s County high school GSA clubs, and do GLSEN's #DayOfSilence for the fourth year in a row! We are so excited to be making a huge difference for our school climate and our peers and we hope our work outlasts our presence at Nease :)" . . @NeaseGSA was one of the first GSAs to register with GLSEN this year! To celebrate their awesome (and well-organized!) club, we are featuring their #GSAgoals for the year. Does your student-led #LGBTQ club have any of the same goals as @NeaseGSA? #gaystraightalliance #gendersexualityalliance #spectrumclub #inclusiveschools #safeschools #safespace #letyouthlead #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary

A post shared by GLSEN (@glsen) on Aug 20, 2018 at 2:14pm PDT

 

2. Rainbow Alliance

 
 
 
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These Rainbow Alliance leaders were among the first students to register their student-led #LGBTQ club for this new school year! They told us a little about their #GSAgoals for the year: "Our club is planning a few events such as bake sales and general tunes to socialize with other people to try and achieve a more accepting school. We are also trying to get a few of us into a couple assemblies throughout the year so we can talk about accepting yourself and others and talk about some hardships we have faced but got through thanks to the people in our lives." Photo:@indigoletter6 & @its_ya_boi_cain_also_im_sad Is your #GSA registered? Sign-up your club at the link in bio to get the latest resources and updates from GLSEN! #RainbowAlliance #gaystraightalliance#gendersexualityalliance #spectrumclub#inclusiveschools #safeschools#safespace #letyouthlead #LGBTQ#lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer#nonbinary

A post shared by GLSEN (@glsen) on Aug 22, 2018 at 4:00pm PDT

 

3.  Stillman Valley Pride 

 

4. F.W. Buchholz High School GSA

 
 
 
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This SUPER awesome and organized #GSA from F.W. Buchholz High School sent in their #GSAgoals for this year (in a numbered list!): "#GSAgoals for this year for F.W. Buchholz High School are: 1. Provide a safe place for people to speak and relax at the end of the day. 2. Create an environment that encourages others to contribute their ideas and discuss in forums between the club. 3. Try to get more of our school to participate in #DayOfSilence, by reserving a table during lunches to talk to students. 4. Involve school educators more in our school wide donation drive for our local Gainesville area AIDS project to maximize our reach to the students in our school and as a result receive more donations for the people who receive from the project." Does your club have any similar goals? . . . #gaystraightalliance #gendersexualityalliance #spectrumclub #inclusiveschools #safeschools #safespace #letyouthlead #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary

A post shared by GLSEN (@glsen) on Sep 10, 2018 at 4:30pm PDT

 

The GLSEN Jumpstart Guide can help you get your club off its feet as you start the new year. And don't forget to register your club for the latest updates and resources!

September 11, 2018

Image of GLSEN National Student Council member Sameer

GLSEN is heading back to school with a whole new National Student Council! The 2018-2019 National Student Council members took to GLSEN's Instagram to introduce themselves - and share their community-building expertise to help you achieve all your #GSAgoals this year! 

In addition to their tips, check out our Jumpstart Guide for ways that you can get your GSA started (or restarted!). And remember to register your GSA or similar student-led LGBTQ club to get all the latest resources and updates from GLSEN!

1. Imani (they/them)

 
 
 
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We asked GLSEN's new 2018-2019 National Student Council for their tips on starting (or re-starting) the their GSAs in their upcoming school year. Here's what @rostampon (they/them) from Rocky River shared: "#gsagoals: the best way to have a successful GSA is to get people to your meetings !! Start planning now, in fact, never stop planning ! People are more likely to come to GSA meetings/events if they know they can rely on a snack and an inclusive place to unwind. The best way to let people know who you are is to advertise and have frequent events. Advertisements go beyond flyers and social media posts! Current GSA members are living, breathing advertisements for inclusivity and warmth. If people see YOU being inclusive, they are more likely to join the GSA that you’re a part of." . . How are you starting off your student-led #LGBTQ club this year? Make sure to visit the link in bio to find all the resources you need to head #backtoschool! #InclusiveSchools #SafeSchools #gaystraightalliance #gendersexualityalliance #spectrumclub #rainbowclub #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary

A post shared by GLSEN (@glsen) on Aug 21, 2018 at 9:55am PDT

 

2. Clay (flexible pronouns)

 

3. JP (he/him)

 

4. Juno (they/them)

 

5. Darid (they/them)

 
 
 
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We are welcoming GLSEN's 2018-2019 National Student Council by asking them their tips for GSA's heading #BackToSchool. Here's the advice @Justrid1 (17, They/Them) shared for clubs trying to accomplish all of their #GSAgoals this year: "GSAs are about valuing all people regardless of whether they're gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, or questioning. So make sure to form a Community Agreement and set guidelines to build a safe space and develop a sense of community for LGBTQ+ youth to thrive and excel as individuals. Also don’t be afraid to get involved and have fun!" #LetYouthLead#gaystraightalliance #queerstraightalliance#QSA #rainbowcoalition #spectrum#LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer#nonbinary

A post shared by GLSEN (@glsen) on Aug 23, 2018 at 4:00pm PDT

 

6. El (they/them)

 
 
 
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2018-2019 GLSEN National Student Council member @a_queer_person (16, they/them) shared their thoughts on the best ways to reach your #GSAgoals this year: "I honestly believe that the key to a successful GSA is inclusivity. Look around you, are there groups that aren’t represented within your alliance? Why might some students hesitate to join? Be intersectional in your mindset as you perform outreach. Speaking of outreach, make sure the student body knows you exist! Send out email reminders, polls, and bring in snacks to personalize your GSA to the needs of your members. As important as it is to stay active and educational, it’s also important to take the time to bond with those around you." How do you create an inclusive student-led #LGBTQ club at your school? #LetYouthLead #gaystraightalliance #queerstraightalliance #QSA#rainbowcoalition #spectrum#LGBTQ#lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary

A post shared by GLSEN (@glsen) on Aug 24, 2018 at 10:37am PDT

 

7. Victorea (she/her, they/them)

 
 
 
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As students are heading #BackToSchool and back to their GSAs, GLSEN's new National Student Council is sharing tips for GSAs hoping to achieve all of their #GSAgoals this year! Victorea Camille (16, she/her, they/them) stresses the importance of communication: "Communication with all members so super important!! Making sure that everyone is getting what they need from the club be it safety, validation, or community. If your club is working together like a well oiled machine, then y’all will be able to spread that joy and sense of unity to the entire school!" How are you keeping your #GSA connected this year? #GSAgoals #LetYouthLead #gaystraightalliance #queerstraightalliance #QSA #rainbowcoalition #spectrum #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary

A post shared by GLSEN (@glsen) on Aug 25, 2018 at 3:30pm PDT

 

8. Brianna (she/her)

 
 
 
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Need help getting your #GSA started as you head #BackToSchool? 2018-2019 GLSEN National Student Council member Brianna (14, she/her) and president of her school's GSA has some tips: "Advertising is KEY! Spread the word and let people know what your GSA is all about. Anytime you can further publicize the GSA at your school, do it! At events such as club night, maybe make a poster with some information and pictures of the events held by your GSA in the past years, to let people get a feel of what it consists of. Let people get to know what the atmosphere of your GSA is." Find more resources for your GSA at the link in bio! #GSAgoals #LetYouthLead #gaystraightalliance #queerstraightalliance #QSA #rainbowcoalition #spectrum #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary

A post shared by GLSEN (@glsen) on Aug 26, 2018 at 4:30pm PDT

 

9. Anaïs (any pronouns)

 

10. Sameer (he/him or they/them)

 
 
 
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2018-2019 GLSEN National Student Council member @sameerhjha (16, he/him or they/them) wants to share info that will get your #GSA rolling as you head #BackToSchool: "Always bring food! People will be much more willing to venture into your GSA if they know you have delicious treats. They'll come for the food and stay for the gay! Also, try to partner with other organizations on campus that can provide an intersectional perspective, or bring in guest speakers with voices that are usually underrepresented or silenced. This can help bring in more members, but more importantly it will keep your GSA a place of inclusivity." A meeting with snacks? #GSAgoals for real! #GSAgoals #LetYouthLead #gaystraightalliance #queerstraightalliance #QSA #rainbowcoalition #spectrum #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary

A post shared by GLSEN (@glsen) on Aug 28, 2018 at 11:30am PDT

 

11. Thomas/Selena (he/him, she/hers)

 

12. Liam (he/him)

 

13. Jessica (she/her)

 
 
 
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New GLSEN National Student Council member @jessicachiriboga17 (16, she/her) shares her wisdom about creating a successful #GSA as you head back to school: "The first step is definitely raising awareness about your club! Whether that comes through videos, club week, posters, social media, or so on, the goal should be to establish that there is a safe space for ALL people at your high school. Meetings should be engaging exciting, and that comes through utilizing icebreakers and presentations to further educate your GSA. Try to attend a couple events (or organize your own community events) as a GSA to grow even more as a family. And, as always, emphasize that your GSA is a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community and their allies!!" How are you setting up your GSA as a safe space this year? #LetYouthLead #gaystraightalliance #queerstraightalliance #QSA #rainbowcoalition #spectrum #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary

A post shared by GLSEN (@glsen) on Aug 29, 2018 at 4:30pm PDT

 

14. DaShay (they/them)

 

15. Sayer (she/her)

 

16. Sarah (she/her)

 

17. Cruz (they/them, he/him)

 
 
 
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2018-2019 GLSEN National Student Council member @cruzilious has a simple but effective tip for creating an inclusive #GSA when you head #BackToSchool: "ask! gsas are supposed to be safe spaces for all members, but it can only be one if everyone is asked about their needs and wants for the year. every members needs can be different so without asking gsa’s can struggle in trying different perspectives for members and could soon crumble. Know that without intersectional teaching, the gsa will possibly not know a fuller understanding of how it impacts everyone's needs. gsa’s aren’t there to cover just one persons needs, they aren’t to cover just a single orientation or gender identity, they aren’t to cover one single topic, they are to cover needs of all members. so ask for needs, don’t assume!!" How will you make sure your #GSA is inclusive this year? #GSAgoals #LetYouthLead #gaystraightalliance #queerstraightalliance #QSA #rainbowcoalition #spectrum #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary

A post shared by GLSEN (@glsen) on Sep 1, 2018 at 5:05pm PDT

 

18. Kian (they/them or he/him)

Don't forget to register your GSA to join the largest network student-led LGBTQ clubs in the country! 

August 24, 2018

Students with their hands up in a classroom

In 2012, the Netherlands mandated the inclusion of sexual diversity in the Dutch curriculum. This past January, I visited fourteen schools and interviewed over thirty Dutch educators and advocates to synthesize best practices from the last six years of implementation. After moving back to the US I wanted to share my findings and their implications for teachers here in the US. I’m glad to connect with GLSEN’s to share my findings:

  1. Policies matter. Although the underpinnings of Dutch policy can be traced back to the Calvinist roots of the country, it was clear that the national call for inclusion made an impact. Teachers believed that speaking about LGBTQ topics was completely normal and part of their duty as Dutch teachers. What can US Educators do?  If your school does not have policies in place to protect LGBTQ students check out this resource https://www.glsen.org/article/modelpolicies

  2. We’re all in this together. New to the classroom? Nervous about backlash from parents? Lean on your community. Only 43% of educators in the Netherlands were employed full time, as a result, every school had multiple teachers for each content area. LGBTQ topics were frequently included in the sex education curriculum, and biology teachers had a community within their school to exchange lesson plans, stories, and troubleshoot instructional issues. Teachers shared that when they encountered a challenge, they just asked other educators! What can US Educators do? Tap into a network of teachers working towards the same goal by joining GLSEN’s Educator Network.

  3. Meeting at the intersection. There is a common misconception that the Dutch are a homogenous population. With large numbers of both western and non-western immigrants, there is no single image of “looking Dutch”. There were remarkable examples of culturally responsive teaching, including a teacher who called up the mosque prior to starting the sex education unit. What can US Educators do? Consider how being LGBTQ can intersect with other identities.  

  4. Empower youth. At a school outside of Amsterdam, I had the opportunity to witness student officers of the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) facilitate a workshop with their peers during biology class covering the myriad of LGBTQ identities and answering questions. The school was intentional about making a place for inclusion during the day, and that students led the charge. As educators, we must make put the structures in place so that youth can organize and lead. What can US Educators do? Find resources for GSA support at www.glsen.org/gsa.

  5. Change is possible. In 2010, the Netherlands’ main LGBTQ advocacy organization initiated a campaign in schools to recognize Purple Friday— a day that raises awareness about LGBTQ people and fights homophobia. Purple Friday now reaches over 90% of schools and almost every teacher and student proudly shared their Purple Friday story. What can US Educators do? Keep the momentum going. Bring Ally Week, Day of Silence, and No-Name Calling Week to your school this year.

Despite political and cultural idiosyncrasies, the Netherlands provides a vision of what is possible in the United States— a future with policies that require inclusive curriculum, and teachers working together to empower students and craft schools that value all identities.

Amber Moore

Amber Moore is an educator and social justice researcher. You can read more about her work at: www.themooreyoulearn.com

August 08, 2018

Protect the Supreme Court

Every day since Election Night 2016 it feels like there’s a new nightmare to face. Watching the results come in with my friends in my dorm room is a moment I will never forget. That night my friends and classmates, LGBTQ students, disabled students, students with a variety of immigration statuses, students of color, students with minority religious faiths, and students with other marginalized identities started to process what a Trump administration would mean for all of our futures.

Just as we knew in that moment, President Trump, his cabinet, and those allied with him in Congress have done immense damage, not only to policies and laws designed to make society slightly more equitable for the underrepresented among us, but to the news cycle and public discourse.

I admit, the Trump news cycle can be daunting, even for me as a member of the GLSEN Public Policy team. Despite the challenge of keeping up with every new issue, it’s important to be vigilant in recognizing the threats to our freedom and safety as they come.  This is why I need you to understand how Brett Kavanaugh’s impending lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court is not just a political issue, but will have an impact on the rest of my life and the rest of GLSEN students’ lives as well. As a transgender young adult, looking to go out in the world after graduation, there’s so much at stake for me.

I’m concerned about Kavanaugh’s potential to overturn the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

I’m worried about how Kavanaugh could influence interpretations of Title VII, the law that impacts workplace non-discrimination.

I fear for the LGBTQ K-12 students who may be denied a safe education if taxpayer money is diverted from public schools to vouchers for schools that are not legally held to the same standards.

It’s scary that Kavanaugh could influence the Court to rule that businesses and places of public accommodation do not have to serve me because my very existence as being queer and trans is against their beliefs.

It terrifies me that Kavanaugh has the capacity to erase my dreams of having a family.

I’m also facing the reality that Kavanaugh is a real threat to my ability to access reproductive health care.

This is the reality for me, others like me, and even scarier, others less advantaged than me. Even with all this worry, I recognize that my privilege will shield me from a lot of the threats that Kavanaugh poses to marginalized folks. While these things will hit hard for people like me, they will hit harder for people who aren’t white, able-bodied, not religiously affiliated, and citizens by birth.

I’m terrified to see what Kavanaugh, working for the Trump administration, means for public education, LGBTQ people, civil rights, immigration, affirmative action, voting rights, organized labor, environmental protections, common-sense gun regulations, and the outsized influence of money in politics. What’s even scarier is that once Kavanaugh is on the bench, he’s been appointed for life. Clarence Thomas, the longest serving justice has been influencing the Supreme Court for 26 years and counting, and its possible for Kavanaugh to follow in his footsteps.

We all need to make our opposition to this nomination heard. The vote looks close and we have a real chance to make change. There is so much at stake; we all need to be taking action to make sure our decision makers know not only that Kavanaugh is a disaster for the Court, but that each and every one of us opposes his nomination. Here are a few things you can do to help:

  1. Take a second to text THREAT to 21333 and follow the text-to-call instructions to let your Senator know that you oppose the Kavanaugh nomination. Even if you think your Senator is a confirmed “yes” or “no,” hearing from constituents can impact their decision.

  2. Share this post and any other materials on why to oppose Kavanaugh with your friends, family, and networks. The more people we mobilize, the more change we can make.

  3. Show up for a “Unite for Justice” in opposition to Kavanaugh’s appointment on August 26th. In cities across the country, advocates in support of civil rights, public education, and other progressive causes are rallying in opposition to Kavanaugh’s nomination. Find a rally near you at uniteforjustice2018.com.

Take these actions now and often, and together we can work to stop this nomination in its tracks. There’s far too much at stake to let Kavanaugh be seated on the Court without a fight.

Sarah Everett is part of GLSEN's Public Policy Team.

June 21, 2018

Picture of a student in front of the lesbian pride flag

"when i think of pride, i think of all the black kids that are searching for a space to call theirs." - Imani

GLSEN's National Student Council shared what #PrideMeans to them on the GLSEN Instagram to start a conversation about what really matters to LGBTQ youth this month. Read their stories below and tag @glsen on Instagram or Twitter to tell us what #PrideMeans to you with your proudest selfie!

For more ways to support LGBTQ youth during Pride, visit glsen.org/pride!

 

To address what really matters during #Pride, we asked members of GLSEN's National Student Council what #PrideMeans to them. Here's what Soli (she/her) shared: "Pride for me is when I feel at home and safe for the first time in a while. Recently I was able to find a home for 3 hours with one of my best friends Zane and got to dance and sing without judgement in a queer centered space. I was high on the happiness of others. That is pride finding family and a community even if it is only a few hours. My favorite thing about being queer is going to events with other people like myself. Specifically the beautiful of the individual of being in an accepting place, feeling safe and joyous because of others happiness. That is pride." @musical_random_mess Want to share your Pride joy? Use #PrideMeans and your favorite selfie, or share your story in the comments! #InclusiveSchools #SafeSchools #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary

A post shared by GLSEN (@glsen) on Jun 18, 2018 at 4:00pm PDT

 

Sarah (she/her) from GLSEN's National Student Council shared what #PrideMeans to her: "Pride to me means being able to take all the different aspects of my identity and openly share them with others, both LGBTQ and allies, in a comfortable space. my identities as a queer person, as an Asian person, as a young person, do not outshine each other but rather come together and allow me to express myself as much as I wish to. it is an opportunity to not only celebrate how far the LGBTQ community has come, but also continue to advocate against the oppression we still face."  @sarah.bunn Why is #Pride important to you? Tell your story with #PrideMeans or in the comments! #InclusiveSchools #SafeSchools #LGBTQ #lesbian #gay #bi #trans #queer #nonbinary

A post shared by GLSEN (@glsen) on Jun 19, 2018 at 11:30am PDT

 
Find out how you can RISE UP for LGBTQ Youth during Pride and all year long at glsen.org/pride.

June 21, 2018

A Photo of a GSA holding a Rainbow flag

This Pride we are encouraging folks to rise up, speak out, and take action to protect LGBTQ youth across the intersections of multiple marginalized identities. GLSEN's National Student Council shared action steps that people do to put allyship in action and rise up for queer students. Read their tips below and see glsen.org/pride for more ways you can get involved! 

1. Educate Yourself  

Ose Arheghan: "allies can start to educate themselves on not only what queerness means now, but where that comes from. The importance of learning LGBTQ history cannot be overstated in my opinion."

Cruz Contreras: "allies need to stop taking the easy route of learning 'basic' terminology for the community. learn and educate about the “Q+” in LGBTQ+, learn how intersectionality plays a big role in many of our communities advocates fighting stances, learn that pride marches are not just about a colorful rainbow parade, and finally learn that just saying you're an ally does not mean you are taking action to improve the lives of us in the community."

2. Be Conscious of Who You Are Supporting Financially

James VK: "allies can help by refraining from rainbow capitalism and using financial resources to literally fund things that go directly to LGBTQ students work."

Sarah Bunn: "Action steps that people can take in allyship are understanding the history and importance of pride month. It is key to know that supporting rainbow capitalism/businesses that exploit the LGBTQ community for profit is NOT allyship. People must remember that pride month is made to elevate voices that are usually ignored, especially those that are marginalized within the community, such as those who are POC or disabled.

3. Ask & Listen

Emily Gentry: "the biggest action step I would propose is instead of making the acquisition that pride harms society, ask questions to further your understanding. if you don’t get why the lgbtq community celebrates pride, ask. if the sexuality or gender spectrum confuses you, ask. pride is a month of celebration, and well as a month of showcasing and educating our lives."

Kian Tortorello-Allen: "Action steps people can take are showing up, listening and educating yourself. Teach yourself and others what it means to love yourself and others and show up for those who might not have all the love yet."

4. Center Marginalized Queer Identities

Imani Sims: "in order to have pride, you need to be inclusive. you need to center the queer folks of color, the queer folks with disabilities, the poor queer folks. to have pride is to make sure everyone has a seat at the gay table (gayble if you will), and amplifying voices that are often silenced."

Soli Guzman: "During pride, people have to remember that pride is made for queer people to find each other and themselves. Specifically, to celebrate ourselves for our beauty and culture. This right here is what those who are allies must remember: Pride is not made for people to take photos and post them on Instagram with rainbow face paint. Pride is not time to kiss your best friend on the cheek for Snapchat. It’s a time of remembrance and celebration for those who are queer and a time to highlight marginalized voices who are not seen in the community."

Marisa Matias: "Learn about intersectionality! That’s the first step to becoming self-aware and the best ally one can be. Learning where identities fall in the scope of American society is crucial when understanding the struggles of marginalized people!"

6. Don't Censor Queer Expression

Ezra Morales: "wanna be a better ally to LGBTQ+ & other minority students? allow them to wear items that represent what pride means to them. saying a student can’t wear a rainbow item within school dress code is a form of censorship!"

For more ways you can take action in allyship with LGBTQ youth, visit glsen.org/pride

May 31, 2018

A Photograph of actress and singer Hayley Kiyoko

Students thrive when they see positive reflections of themselves in their curriculum. For Asian LGBTQ students, this means learning about and honoring history, people, and events related to their intersectional identity as both Asian/Pacific Islander and LGBTQ.

Throughout Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, GLSEN’s National Student Council members Sarah Bunn and Marcus Breed used GLSEN's Instagram to share the queer API icons who’ve made an impact on their lives. See their posts below and add your own icon to the conversation with #APIqueericons on Twitter or Instagram. Don't forget to tag GLSEN!

Although May is officially API heritage Month, Asian and Pacific Islander LGBTQ identities should be part of an inclusive school curriculum all year round. Visit glsen.org/aapi for more info and resources about supporting Asian LGBTQ students.

 
For more icons, resources, and a timeline of AAPI queer historical events, visit glsen.org/aapi!

May 30, 2018

GLSEN National Student Council member Danny Charney

Dear Stacy Bailey,

I want to thank you and all the openly queer teachers across the country.

These last few weeks I have been hearing your story: you shared your authentic self and were suspended just because you showed your class a picture of your future wife. I applaud you for filing a federal lawsuit against the school district and not bowing to pressure and resigning. You have every right to stay in your job.

I want to thank you for being a role model and showing LGBTQ youth like me that our presence matters. I am nearly at the end of my high school journey, and as I look back at my years in school, I am reminded of my few openly LGBTQ teachers. They showed me what it means to be out, proud, and passionate. When my middle school teacher, Mrs. Kramer, showed us a picture of her wife and her adorable dog it made me daydream of what my life would look like with a husband and my own kids.

I came out at the beginning of freshman year. If it wasn’t for openly queer teachers who showed me that being a part of the LGBTQ community was perfectly normal, I would have never had the courage or taken the risk to reveal my authentic self.

Stacy, your story is one of the many that we hear year after year about teachers who are authentically being themselves. Thank you for being an openly queer teacher who has no agenda but to teach students the power of kindness and respect.

The fact that there are so many places across the country where openly LGBTQ teachers cannot show their students a picture of their family is frustrating. Every teacher has the right to be their true selves; students and the community should rally behind teachers who are facing discrimination.

I encourage you, Mrs. Bailey, and all other queer teachers to stand tall and keep fighting. By fighting, you are showing me, and millions of other students and teachers across the country, that the right to be ourselves is undeniable. As I progress through college, I will work to make sure each and every person feels like they matter. I envision a day where difference, whether it be sexual orientation or gender, is accepted. Thank you, openly queer teachers, for being everyday heroes. I wouldn't be the proud and out person I am without your strength and determination to be yourself.

Sincerely,

Danny Charney

Danny Charney is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.

May 16, 2018

Teacher standing in front of a room of students

In the current divisive and challenging climate in the United States, many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) people struggle to find their safe spaces, especially in schools. Historically and presently, LGBTQ educators specifically have faced challenges being their authentic selves. My colleagues and I have been studying the experiences of LGBTQ educators for over a decade. Our findings from the first two national surveys (conducted in 2007 and 2011, reported in A Safer Place? LGBTQ Educators, School Climate and Implications for Administrators) have shown that too many LGBTQ teachers feel unsafe in their workplace climates. In fact, one third of these educators felt that their jobs were at risk if they were out to administrators and over half felt their jobs were at risk if they were out to students. Approximately one quarter also reported being harassed at the schools where they work.

Slowly, the support for LGBTQ educators has been increasing since our first two surveys were conducted; however, even today, there are still times when LGBTQ educators do not feel very safe. A colleague of mine and I are currently examining responses from the third and most recent installment of our LGBTQ educators’ survey, conducted in 2017. As we found in our past surveys, we see that LGBTQ educators’ experiences differ depending on where, what, and who they teach. For example, elementary teachers are more worried about being “out” to their students than high school teachers. Elementary teachers also report less LGBTQ inclusion in their schools’ curriculum and fewer LGBTQ-related resources in their schools’ libraries than their high school counterparts. Similar to findings from the general population of teachers reported by GLSEN, we found regional differences in LGBTQ educators’ reports of their school’s policies. LGBTQ educators in the Northwest were more likely than those in the Midwest to have  school policies addressing the use of homophobic and transphobic language. Regional differences extended to LGBTQ teachers’ experiences of harassment – with those in the Midwest reporting more harassment than those in the Northeast.

And it’s not only LGBTQ educators who suffer when their school is not LGBTQ-inclusive. We know that inclusive schools are critical for LGBTQ youths’ educational success and personal well-being. Yet, despite the fact that LGBTQ students who are exposed to positive representations of LGBTQ people and history report more positive school experiences and better educational outcomes, GLSEN’s most recent National School Climate Survey found that less than one-fifth of LGBTQ students attend schools with an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum.

In order to provide the best education and support to students, including teaching an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, teachers need to be the best teachers they can be, and they can only do that when they feel safe to be exactly who they are. Clearly, our findings indicate that this is not always the case. So, what can be done? One avenue for change is within the school leadership. School administrators can have a major impact on the overall school climate and workplace climate. In a 2015 Ed Week interview, Kevin Jennings, GLSEN founder and former U.S. Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education, stated the following about educational leaders, “I think if there was one thing that I would like to see happen is it's greater leadership on the part of superintendents and principals.” With greater leadership will come more consistent support and guidance for LGBTQ educators, which will translate to better outcomes of all measures for LGBTQ students. By taking steps to ensure the right policies, resources, and practices are in place, school administrators promote a more positive and inclusive environment for LGBTQ educators and LGBTQ students alike.

In their work with policies, curricula, and hiring, school principals can have a huge impact on LGBTQ student experience by promoting a safe, welcoming, and fair environment for LGBTQ educators in their schools, enabling these LGBTQ educators to be the critical and positive representations LGBTQ students need, in addition to being fantastic educators too!

Dr. Tiffany Wright, Associate Professor

Co-Director, Joint EdD Program in Educational Leadership
Program Coordinator, Leadership for Teaching and Learning

Millersville University of Pennsylvania

May 15, 2018

A photo of GLSEN's Educator of the Year Stephanie Byers

At the GLSEN Respect Awards, we recognize exemplary role modelsstudents, educators, individuals and corporationsthat have made a significant impact on the lives of LGBTQ youth. At the event in New York later this month, one of the role models we're recognizing is Stephanie Byers, an Instrumental Music Educator from Wichita High School North as Educator of the Year!

Some of Stephanie's accomplishments include advocating for the needs of transgender students at the State Capitol, participating on panels for the “National Day of Coming Out,” chaperoning the GLSEN Greater Wichita’s “Day of Advocacy,” and training future physicians around transgender health care. We asked this exceptional educator about what motivates her to teach and what suggestions she has for for creating an inclusive curriculum, leading a new GSA and using GLSEN resources. 

1. Why did you decide to become an educator?

​Wow! Making me put on the “way-back” thinking cap. My first teaching job began in January of 1987 so I’ve been at this for awhile. My decision to become an educator happened when I was 12. In 1975 I started in my first band class - sixth grade band with Mr. Chuck Pappan. I grew up in a suburban, college community, but like most communities there were areas of town where people who were blue collar tended to live.  I grew up in one of those neighborhoods. My neighborhood middle school was full of students from working class parents. Mr. Pappan took this ragtag bunch of kids who decided to play in band and began to instill in us the ideas of each person having value, that the quality of your character was more important than whether your clothes were new or hand-me-downs. That everyone deserved to be treated with dignity.  He did all of this with the most gentle heart, incredible spirit, and so much humor that our sides would hurt nearly every day after class. He made a huge impression and difference in all of our lives. It was during that time that I decided I wanted to be a band director - a music educator if you will. So from 12 years old I knew this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to teach people to feel good to be with each other, to work for a common goal, to know that even if they’re the only player of their instrument, they are not alone.  That it’s okay to laugh at your own mistakes - just work a little harder to not make them next time. And that music feeds our souls and surrounds us in all of our lives.

2. What do you love most about being an educator?

​What I love most about being an educator is seeing the difference that takes place in people’s lives.  As I write this, Teacher Appreciation Week is happening. My Facebook page has been filled with former students writing to tell me that their fondest memories in high school came from my classes.  Some met their future spouse in my class, some fell so in love with music that they became professional musicians and/or professional music educators themselves. One wrote to tell me that I taught them to see music in another light - as a tool of emotion and that music could be far more than ink on a page and sound in the air if you let it tell its story. Some told me of how they clung to music as their homelife unravelled through divorce and homelessness. They spoke of how everyone was treated equally in my class. Some said my classroom was the only place they felt safe to be themselves while in High School.  How can you not love the difference in someone’s life that they attribute to you and your class?

3. How do you incorporate lessons of respect in your curriculum?

You’d think that a music teacher would focus on playing the right notes with the right fingerings, the correct rhythms, proper tone and volume.  In fact that is a part of my class. But what I see as the main function of music is communication. Communication is a fundamental of life. Respect is integral to good communication. Listening to what others say. Realizing that everyone is giving their best for today and that’s what counts.  Our job is to lift each other up and not put each other down.

The building I teach in just held it’s 89th graduation Tuesday evening. In one of our halls there are the senior pictures of nearly every person who graduated from Wichita High School North during those 89 years. As you look through those photographs you begin to notice that at times when our Nation was so separated by race and ethnicity, there are photos of people of color, side by side with white students.  Going far back you see photos of students of all socio-economic levels hanging side by side - their commonality? - Wichita High School North. North has always been a building of inclusivity. Acceptance is rooted in its very foundations. It matters less to the teachers of North High where your family is from, what language is spoken at home, how much money your family has, than what you want to do with your life and how can we help you find your best. The quality of your character is valued above all else. Many years ago there was the “Choose Another Word” campaign, an attempt to change the culture of derogatory terms based on sexual preference, ethnicity, learning disabilities, etc…  Even though that campaign ended some time ago, our staff and students still practice it.

In my classroom I take it to the next level. Often I point out that there are aspects of our existence that were made by our choice, but most things that make us us came about without our control - our ethnicities, our parentage, our gender identity, our sexual preferences, etc. These are things that contribute to who we are but they don’t completely identify us. Often it’s these very differences that make us interesting people! Since high school music can be competitive we also focus on learning to be respectful of others. We must demonstrate the respect we want others to show us. The idea of “I’ll respect you if you respect me!” is slightly askew.  It really should be: “I’ve shown you respect, will you please give me the courtesy of doing the same.” I also try to teach that “those who can” have an obligation to reach out to those who can’t and try to lift them up to reach their best.

4. What is the number one lesson you hope students take away from your classes?

That music is life.  In order for things to go well we must all work in harmony.  Each of us have our own purpose, but our purpose don’t exist in isolation.  Looking out for each other is more important than building divisions between us.  Strive to understand each other. That doesn’t mean you have to agree, just try to see life from outside your own perspective.

5. As state legislatures across the country are trying to limit the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming students, how do you make sure your classes are inclusive of these students?

I ask students what their preferred name is to start with. Whatever name is in the records is just a starting point, what I want to know is: what do you go by?  I use the pronouns that the student prefers. If I don’t know the pronoun, then I just use their name.

Bands and Orchestras wear “uniforms”.  For concerts we wear dress clothes, black on bottom and either white or black on top.  Gender doesn’t matter in what you choose to wear, just remember that if you choose to wear a black skirt or a black dress to make sure it is long enough when you sit down.  

I’ve begun working with my district to change some of the names of our vocal music ensembles - so instead of “Women’s Choir” - we could use “Treble Choir” etc.

6. What advice do you have for educators trying to build their schools’ GSAs?

Have a ready explanation of what “GSA” means for the school.  Advertise. Make it have more substance than just a social group.  Work to get students who are “allies” involved. Work with your local GLSEN chapter.  You may not know what all the area GLSEN is doing, but your students will - especially via social media.

7. What tips do you have for educators trying to create an inclusive curriculum?

Let what unites us be a bigger thing than what divides us.  Teach that being gay, lesbian, bi, straight or transgender aren’t “choices” people make - it’s just who we are.   Give space for kids to find themselves.

8. What GLSEN resources have you used, and how have you used them?

Our school is covered in GLSEN safe and inclusive stickers.  Teachers and other staff choose to put them up and it’s amazing at how frequently you see one in a classroom window.  Being in a large, urban, district, people often come to me to tell me about something happening in another building. I will then call our GLSEN chair person and ask her if she knows about it and who she can talk with to help?  I also take GLSEN surveys and share them with our faculty during staff inservices. I would like to find ways to get our GSA more involved with the Greater Wichita GLSEN.

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