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October 26, 2016

6 LGBTQ History Makers I Wish Were in My History Textbook

Happy LGBT History Month! There are so many LGBTQ folks who have made their mark on history. Unfortunately, many of them have gone without credit. Few are mentioned in mainstream history books, and when they are, their sexuality and gender identity are often excluded.

In 2012, California became the first state to require schools to have an LGBT-inclusive social studies curriculum, which is a huge step. GLSEN research shows that for LGBTQ students, being taught LGBT-related topics is related to lower levels of LGBT-related victimization.

While we recognize this triumph for California, the other 49 states and Washington, D.C., still need to follow suit. In the meanwhile, here are six LGBTQ history makers I wish were in my history books. You can incorporate them in your school curriculum or next GSA meeting! GLSEN also has a host of other resources to include LGBTQ history in the classroom.

1. Bayard Rustin (1912-1987)

Bayard Rustin

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

Bayard Rustin was a civil-rights activist and an openly gay man. In 1944, he refused to register for the draft for World War II and was jailed for 26 months. Later, he became an advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He also organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Even after the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60s, he continued his activism for LGBTQ people. Unfortunately, though, his presence in history is often erased.

2. Alan Turing (1912-1954)

Alan Turing

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

Alan Turing was a British mathematical genius who laid the groundwork for artificial intelligence. He studied math and cryptology, and in World War II, he was a major player in breaking codes used by the Germans. He was also gay, which was illegal in England at the time, and he was charged with gross indecency when the police found out. When he died, it was ruled suicide by cyanide poisoning, but now some historians think it might have been accidental. In 2009, the British government formally apologized to Alan Turing for how they treated him.

3. Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992)

Marsha P. Johnson

Photo Source: Wikipedia

Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson was a transgender woman and an activist who regularly went to Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York that was often raided by police in the 60s. During a police raid on June 28, 1969, the people in the bar fought back, with Marsha at the helm, which many say sparked the modern LGBTQ rights movement. In 1970, she co-founded STAR, Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, a trans rights group and a shelter for homeless trans teens. Marsha died in 1992 under mysterious circumstances, and the case is still unsolved.

4. Harvey Milk (1930-1978)

Harvey Milk

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 and was one of the first openly gay men to be elected to political office. As a young man, he served in the Navy and later got involved in the LGBTQ rights movement. One of the board members resigned from the board and then shot both Harvey Milk and the mayor. Milk’s legacy lives on, though, and in 2016, the Navy announced that a tanker ship would be named in his honor, the USNS Harvey Milk.

5. Sally Ride (1951-2012)

Sally Ride

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

Sally Ride was an astronaut and astrophysicist and in 1983 was the first American woman in space with NASA. She taught at University of California-San Diego and started a company called Sally Ride Science to inspire girls to pursue science and math. She died of pancreatic cancer in 2012, and after she died, it became public that she was lesbian and had been in a long-term relationship with another woman. She has inspired many others to follow in her footsteps.

6. YOU!

Yes, you have the power to make history as an advocate for LGBTQ students, and I hope one day to be reading in my history book about your work to make schools safe and affirming for all students.

But right now, in this historic political moment, you can add your name to the history books by pledging to support LGBTQ students with GLSEN. When you add your name, be sure to check the box to indicate that you’d like to receive policy updates, which will give you opportunities to truly make history for LGBTQ students across the country. Then, at the end of the month, GLSEN will recognize you in a special LGBT History eBook!

Drew Adams is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.

Add your name to the history books!


October 14, 2016

6 LGBTQ Latinx Heroes for Every Classroom

As Latinx Heritage Month comes to a close, we asked GLSEN’s National Student Council, our national leadership team of LGBTQ student activists, about the LGBTQ Latinx people who they think should be in every LGBT-inclusive curriculum. Below are the students’ own words about these heroes, who are deeply connected to their communities and who have worked within movements to make change.

1. Jennicet Gutierez

Jennicet Gutierez

Photo Source: Twitter

“Jennicet Gutierez is the transgender activist who interrupted President Obama at a White House event for LGBT Pride Month this year to demand an end to the deportation of LGBTQ immigrants. She has been a huge inspiration for me. She and the rest of Familia: TQLM are incredible activists, and I truly look up to them.” –Emme

2. Denice Froham

Denice Froham

Photo Source:

“Denice Frohman is a queer spoken-word artist. She writes about her struggles as a queer minority and is a part of many LGBTQ Latinx organizations. She won Women of the World Slam Poetry in 2013, the same year she won Creative Artist of the Year at the Hispanic Choice Awards.” –Miguel

3. Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

“A bisexual Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo is literally me, but way more of a badass. She has inspired me to love myself as a hairy brown Mexican and bisexual woman. Her art pushes me to keep trying with my own, and the way she broke traditional gender roles has me feel more comfortable with the way that I am. Keeps me going every day.” –Ellie

4. Julio Salgado

Julio Salgado

Photo Source:

“Julio Salgado is so so so so so so incredible. He has transformed a highly marginalized intersectional identity into a platform for empathy and activism. He is queer and undocumented, and as a filmmaker, he uses his art to shine light on important issues related to undocumented LGBTQ life. His works enable people to realize they are not alone while also influencing political and cultural thought.” –Matt

5. Juan Gabriel

Juan Gabriel

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

“Singer and songwriter Juan Gabriel, who recently passed away, was unapologetically flamboyant and Mexican. He had so much pride in his culture and never gave in to the macho-man ideals of traditional Mexican society. He got called some of the nastiest names ever during his lifetime because of the way that he chose to express himself. But he was passionate about the music that he made. He never stopped performing. He made me comfortable with myself and inspired me to exist as loudly as possible. He had a heart of gold, and honestly he will never stop being my hero for that.” –Ellie

For Latinx Heritage Month, GLSEN also has resources for you to use in your school curriculum or next GSA meeting. How will you continue to incorporate Latinx heritage into your classroom?

Celebrate Latinx Heritage Month!

September 28, 2016

From Teasing to Torment: School Climate Revisited
Today, GLSEN released From Teasing to Torment: School Climate Revisited, a survey of secondary school students and teachers about the current landscape of bias and peer victimization in school.

Unfortunately, according to the report, almost three-quarters (74 percent) of middle and high school students experienced some type of peer victimization in the past school year, and over half (51 percent) of teachers believe that bullying is a significant problem at school.

The report goes into depth about student experiences with many types of bias, including based on race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, body size, gender, religion, ability, economic status, and gender expression. The report also examines how teachers intervene in incidents of bias and what training teachers receive, with a close look at LGBTQ issues in particular.

Read the executive summary and download the report and register for GLSEN’s free webinar on the report’s findings, to be held 3-4:30 p.m. ET October 4. In the coming weeks, GLSEN researchers will share more about the report’s specific findings on this blog.

Here are 4 findings from the report.

From Teasing to Torment: School Climate Revisited


From Teasing to Torment: School Climate Revisited


From Teasing to Torment: School Climate Revisited


From Teasing to Torment: School Climate Revisited


September 27, 2016

Identifying outside the gender binary
By Miguel Johnson


Being non-binary means identifying as a gender other than exclusively male or female. As a person who identifies as non-binary — in particular, as genderfluid, which means that my gender varies over time — I struggle when people try to put me into boxes that I simply don’t fit into. People either want me to behave how they feel a boy should (i.e. hyper-masculine all the time), or they want me to shut up, be “girly” and obsess over makeup and gossip. They won’t allow me to be a little bit of both.


At school, I feel as if I have to choose between being myself and being safe and accepted. Oftentimes, I see other members of the LGBTQ community bash non-binary people, especially in classrooms and on social media.


Being non-binary can be especially difficult when it comes to gendered spaces, like bathrooms. As a non-binary person, I have to think about what bathroom everyone expects me to use, whereas binary people don’t have to worry about this. Being able to use the bathroom safely is a luxury that I simply do not have. 

#MyAllies recognize their privilege and help to make me feel safe at school.

GLSEN's National Student Council member Drew

Recognizing my privilege within the gender binary
By Drew Adams

I identify as a transgender male, so I identify as one of the two binary genders. The truth is, being binary is a huge privilege. In general, our culture only recognizes two genders, guys and girls. Bathrooms, toys, clothing sections, deodorant scents, hair and skin products — so much in our society is gendered.


This is especially true in our schools. In so many cases, non-binary students are forced to use gendered bathrooms, since there is no gender-neutral alternative. Also, a lot of teachers still use the “girls on one side, boys on the other side” method to split the class into groups. I can’t begin to imagine how non-binary students must feel in those situations.


But as an ally to non-binary students, I have to recognize my privilege. In my position of privilege, I always try to challenge traditional gender roles and the idea that there are only two genders. I also do my best to respect gender-neutral pronouns, like they and them. In general, I have to be supportive and accepting.


How will you be an ally to non-binary students? Register for GLSEN’s Ally Week, and learn more about being an ally to non-binary students here.


Miguel Johnson and Drew Adams are members of GLSEN’s National Student Council.

Photos by Wunmi Onibudo.

September 26, 2016


These Bisexual Students Have a Few Words for You, and They're Inspiring

In honor of Bi Week, GLSEN and bisexual youth across the country took part in a Twitter chat last Friday, Bisexual Visibility Day, to discuss bisexual student experiences. The chat topped off a week of celebrating bisexuality through #ILoveBIself, a campaign created by GLSEN's National Student Council dedicated to highlighting issues facing bisexual youth, promoting self-care and working to erase biphobia.

Before, during and after the Twitter chat, bisexual youth shared their truth.


They discussed how schools can be more affirming and inclusive of bi youth.


And so much more. Check out the hashtag #ILoveBiself on Twitter to read what else these incredible activists had to say.


September 20, 2016

GLSEN National Student Council member Danny Charney
Photo by Wunmi Onibudo

The first day I showed up in my school counselor’s office, I was depressed and alone. Sabrina, my counselor, explained to me that her job is to listen and offer a helping hand to students who need support. Like a good ally, she listened to me when I spoke about my problems.

When I told her that I’m gay, she explained right off the bat that being gay is a reason to celebrate. She said that being different and unique is a gift rather than something to be afraid of. After that, I visited her office every week, where I gained confidence as I talked with her about everyday life.

After a year of support and guidance from Sabrina, I was able to go in front of my school with my GSA and speak my truth. If it weren’t for Sabrina, I would have never been able to do that.

Sabrina really cared; the time she took to research ways to support me made a monumental difference in my life. I truly will never forget her. Educators like her are the reason why I love going to school.

Being an educator means not only teaching students material but also making sure we are safe and comfortable in our surroundings. When educators make supporting students their main priority, the outcome is beautiful. The more supportive educators that LGBTQ students can identify, the safer they feel at school, and the less likely they are to miss school due to feeling unsafe or uncomfortable, according to GLSEN’s most recent National School Climate Survey.

Every student should have a place to go at school where they can receive guidance and support. Unfortunately, while the majority of LGBTQ students can identify at least one supportive educator, less than two thirds can identify six or more, and fewer than two in five can identify eleven or more, even though supportive educators have such a positive impact on student experiences.

I am truly lucky to have a school counselor like Sabrina. But every LGBTQ student deserves someone like her at school. That’s why I signed GLSEN’s Letter to the Next President, which demands that every Presidential candidate publicly declare that they are supporting LGBTQ youth – and this means making sure every educator has the proper resources, training and school climate to offer support to students like me.

Will you add your name to the letter?

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

Add your name to GLSEN's Letter to the Next President!

September 08, 2016

GLSEN National Student Council member Drew Adams
Photo by Wunmi Onibudo

When I started high school, all I wanted was to be myself. I had recently come out as female-to-male transgender and was eager to live my life as my true self. Everything was going great; people used my pronouns - he and him, and I was using the men’s bathroom at school without issue.

But one day, I was called into the guidance office, where I was told that someone had “anonymously complained” about me using the men’s bathroom, and that I wasn’t allowed to use it anymore. Instead, I could use the school’s gender-neutral bathrooms, either the one in the nurse’s office or the other inside a classroom.

Forcing me to use a gender-neutral bathroom was an insult to my identity. It was absolutely humiliating to walk halfway across the school, passing several men’s rooms, to find one of the gender-neutral bathrooms to use. I practically hid from administrators who would have thought I was skipping class if I had said I was going to the bathroom while walking past one. My school had decided to alienate me, along with every other transgender student at my school.

My mom and I decided to try to reason with the school. We met with social workers, the principal, administrators and even the assistant superintendent of my school district. No one would change the anti-LGBTQ policy. No one would help me.

My school administrators almost flat-out told me that they were more afraid of a lawsuit from a parent worried about their child using the bathroom with a transgender student than they were of a lawsuit from me.

I decided that I needed to do something more, so I filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR). (If you’re experiencing discrimination at school, you can learn how to file a complaint with OCR here). Soon after, an investigation was opened. We offered the school district peaceful mediation, but to not avail. Then, the OCR launched a full investigation and interviewed all the people involved.

The OCR determined that my school district was in violation of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination in education on the basis of sex. The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice have interpreted Title IX, which bans discrimination in education on the basis of sex, as protecting transgender and gender nonconforming students; however, my rights are currently in limbo, as the courts consider cases challenging the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice’s interpretation of Title IX.

Meanwhile, I’m hopeful that my school district will soon implement an LGBTQ-inclusive bathroom policy, but for now, I go through every day, like so many other transgender students, just hoping to use the bathroom that aligns with my gender identity and to be treated with respect.

As we head into the election season, it’s critical that we elect leaders who will fight for LGBTQ-inclusive policies in every school, including at the national level in the Oval Office. That’s why I just signed GLSEN’s Letter to the Next President, which demands that every candidate for President support LGBTQ-inclusive school policies.  

When my school failed to protect me, I did something about it and took a step toward creating positive change in my school. Will you do something to help all transgender students and add your name to GLSEN’s Letter to the Next President? Click here to sign.

Drew Adams is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.

Add your name to GLSEN's Letter to the Next President!


August 31, 2016

GLSEN National Student Council member Rowan LittlePhoto by Wunmi Onibudo 

I first learned about Gay-Straight Alliances (a.k.a. Gender-Sexuality Alliances) during my first week of freshman year. I remember flipping through my school-issued agenda to find a list of extracurricular clubs, and I branded the GSA (along with the Harry Potter club) with a yellow highlighter stripe to indicate my interest.

The first meeting, in truth, was a bit rocky – not necessarily well-planned. The club had some vague, open-ended discussions, but we never really tried to make any real changes in our school.

But when new officers were elected at the end of the year, our club underwent some major changes. The new officers were adamant about making change at school instead of just sitting around and talking. That year, my sophomore year, we started talking to the administration. It was not an instant improvement – not by a long shot – but it was the beginning of a trend of taking action. 

The following year, my junior year, not only did our attendance more than triple in size, but we also gained a reputation as a group of students who create change. That year, we spoke at a teachers’ professional development day about respecting student names and pronouns, added a non-binary option to our homecoming court, and established a multi-stall gender-neutral bathroom at school.

But despite our great successes and future plans, I still think back to our original GSA: sitting in a circle, talking about how life has treated us and (sometimes) crying. Even though we are clearly a force to be reckoned with at school, we are also something much softer than that.

Sometimes we have lots of attendees, and we’re doing something big, like talking to the principal. But other times, we just talk to one another. And that’s something worthwhile, too. When someone in the club is struggling, we’re a shoulder to cry on. When a teacher undermines one of our students, we’re a big sibling to address the issue. When home life is chaotic and unrelenting, we’re gentle and accepting.

This is a group of people who will accept every pronoun and presentation, who will listen to every bad relationship story, who will offer advice and friendship that goes well past those classroom walls. We have students at almost every step of the journey: students who are out at home and students who are closeted; students who are transitioning and students who haven’t even thought about it; students who have a phonebook full of allies to call and students who just have us. 

A GSA can be a place where students work to ensure their school is LGBTQ-inclusive, and it can also be a place where students navigate the struggles of forging an identity. Luckily, my GSA is both. 

As I go back to school for my senior year, I’m fighting for every school to have a GSA that can be as impactful as mine. That’s why I’m signing GLSEN’s Letter to the Next President, which demands that all candidates for President publically support LGBTQ students, which includes supporting a GSA in every school. Will you sign the letter with me?

Rowan Little is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.

Add your name to GLSEN's Letter to the Next President!

August 25, 2016

Emme Goldman of GLSEN's National Student CouncilPhoto by Wunmi Onibudo 

I can still distinctly remember how fantastic it felt when sixth-grade me found an old, water-damaged copy of Nancy Garden’s Annie on My Mind on the shelves of my school library. It was the first time I realized that positive depictions of LGBTQ identities could be found somewhere within the walls of my school.

From health classes that ignore the experiences of LGBTQ people to history and English classes that lack positive representations of LGBTQ people, my school, like most schools, often fails when it comes to including LGBTQ identities in the curriculum. According to GLSEN’s most recent National School Climate Survey, only 18.5 percent of LGBTQ students were taught positive representations of LGBT people, history or events in their classes, even though LGBTQ students with an inclusive curriculum report more positive school climates and better educational outcomes.
LGBTQ-inclusive curriculumWhen I was first discovering myself, navigating how my identity fit within my classes was frustrating at best, and painfully lonely at worst. If LGBTQ identities ever did get mentioned, it was as a brief afterthought — not true inclusion. In my classes, LGBTQ identities became a politicized concept rather than being recognized as true, lived parts of who people are.

It wasn’t until eighth grade that I realized the beauty and potential of a fully inclusive curriculum. My English and history teacher, a queer-identified woman, stressed the value of radical acceptance, taught about historical events and how they affected LGBTQ people, and fought for an LGBTQ young adult book to be required reading in the eighth-grade curriculum.

It was an incredibly liberating experience to exist inside the classroom wholly and freely. I was finally able to come out publicly as transgender and begin living life on my own terms. When I came out to my class, every single person in the room could understand where I was coming from, and it was because we had a teacher who insisted on inclusion and acceptance as part of her curriculum. 

I now realize how incredibly rare that is in any school, and how lucky I was to be there. That I was able to have some of those truly positive experiences shows that we’ve come a long way. Nevertheless, not all of my classes have had an inclusive curriculum. Many of my LGBTQ friends feel the same loneliness and sense of being unwelcome as I once did, and they often skip class because they feel excluded and unable to be themselves.

In order to have safe and affirming schools for LGBTQ students, we must have LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum. Right now, as we approach election season, you can help make sure every school has an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum by signing GLSEN’s Letter to the Next President, which demands that every candidate for President support LGBTQ students. This includes supporting LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum in every school.

I signed the letter because I know firsthand the positive impact of an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum and how it feels to open a book and see yourself in the pages. Will you join me and sign the letter, too?

Emme Goldman is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.

Add your name to GLSEN's Letter to the Next President!


August 24, 2016

GLSEN’s work in secondary schools, like the distribution of the GLSEN Safe Space Kit to every middle and high school in the country, has shifted the needle towards respect for all. But at a time when several states are attempting to roll back the rights of LGBTQ students, especially transgender students, there’s still so much progress to be made. Our work in elementary schools may hold the greatest potential. It’s during elementary school that students develop a sense of a self, family and community, while learning how to value differences and think critically about the world.

That’s why GLSEN, with the generous support of Wells Fargo, is distributing 5,000 copies of Ready, Set, Respect!, GLSEN’s flagship resource for elementary educators. Ready, Set, Respect! provides kindergarten through fifth-grade educators with lesson plans on name-calling, bullying and bias; family diversity; and gender diversity. Through the fall, GLSEN and Wells Fargo will distribute 5,000 copies to elementary schools across the country, reaching 2.2 million K-5 students with the essential message of respect and kindness for all. 

In June, GLSEN began this distribution in the Napa Valley Unified School District in Napa, Calif. In a workshop facilitated by Jenny Betz, GLSEN’s Director of Education and Youth Programs, nearly a dozen elementary school principals, vice principals and other educators from across the district learned about the toolkit and discussed how they can incorporate Ready, Set, Respect! into their schools’ existing strategies for diversity and inclusion.

Jenny Betz trains elementary educators from Napa Valley Unified School DistrictJenny Betz trains elementary educators from Napa Valley Unified School District

“It was an incredible opportunity to have a district-wide conversation with elementary administrators about how to make respect for all a reality for all students and families,” said Betz. “Ready, Set, Respect! helps create young people who are respectful, accepting and self-aware and who will contribute productively to society as they grow older.”   

The group of educators also met with John Lake, Vice President and LGBT Segment Manager at Wells Fargo, who was able to hear about some of the issues they are facing in their schools, from accommodating young transgender students to helping their staff understand the importance of LGBTQ inclusion. Following the workshop, he presented the first of the 5,000 copies of Ready, Set, Respect! to Maren Rocca Hunt, the Executive Director of Elementary Education at the school district.

John Lake and Maren Rocca Hunt, who received the first Ready, Set, Respect! of the distribution campaignJohn Lake and Maren Rocca Hunt, who received the first Ready, Set, Respect! of the distribution campaign

“Wells Fargo is proud to continue supporting GLSEN in a way that will impact millions, helping instill in students the values of respect and diversity – values that we share closely with GLSEN,” said Lake.

As part of the distribution of the toolkits, GLSEN will also launch a new professional development training for elementary educators with a number of GLSEN Chapters, whose volunteers will distribute the toolkits to educators in their local communities.

Together, GLSEN, Wells Fargo and elementary educators across the country can help make the world a place in which every child learns to respect and accept all people.

Want to make your local school a place where students learn to value diversity and kindness? Share Ready, Set, Respect! with elementary educators in your community.

GLSEN's Ready, Set, Respect!