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April 20, 2017

Headshot of the author, Drew Adams of GLSEN's National Student Council
Photo by Wunmi Onibudo

GLSEN’s Day of Silence is coming up! On that day, participants go silent to bring awareness to LGBTQ bullying and harassment in schools. It’s awesome, but obviously not everyone can participate. Some people want to go silent, but they HAVE to speak (for work, school, or other endeavors). And others can’t participate because they don’t want to get in trouble with unsupportive family or peers. Even if you can’t be silent on the Day of Silence, there are ways you can help support this movement!

1. Respect those who ARE silent on the Day of Silence.

Not speaking for an entire day is a lot harder than it sounds! If you know people who are trying to be silent that day, do your best to help. Tell them you think they’re awesome! Don’t ask them questions or put them in a position where they feel like they need to talk. A little respect goes a long way toward encouraging people to keep at it and not give up. When you tell someone how much you appreciate their silence, they might just make it through the whole day.

2. Stand up for the silent if others challenge or bully them.

There might be people at your school or in your community who don’t understand or respect those who are trying to be silent on Day of Silence. Some might tease them, try to force them to talk, or otherwise hassle them for what they’re doing. If you see any of that going down, step in and say something. Explain what Day of Silence is and how staying quiet is a way to speak for the voiceless LGBTQ students who get bullied. Point out that someone being silent isn’t hurting anybody. Make sure the silent person knows that they’re not alone and that someone supports them. If a bully is being particularly threatening or you don’t feel safe in the situation, get an authority figure (teacher, principal, etc.) for help. Bullying should never be tolerated for any reason.

3. Spread the word about Day of Silence!

Even if you can’t be silent, you can use your voice to spread the word! Start by signing up at to show your support. Tell your classmates, friends, teachers and anyone you can think of about Day of Silence and how to participate. Encourage those who might be a little hesitant to take part in the movement by signing up themselves! Every person who participates in Day of Silence is one more voice for justice for LGBTQ youth in schools. Be the change, in any way you can!

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

April 18, 2017

Photo of 3 youth holding up fingers to indicate silence

Day of Silence is April 21! Here are 9 ways educators can get involved in the largest, student-led action against anti-LGBTQ bullying in schools.


Use the new Educator Guide for the Day of Silence for lesson ideas before, during, and after the Day of Silence.


Pause your teaching to join GLSEN for the national moment of silence and solidarity for 3 minutes at 3pm ET/2 pm CT/1pm PT.


Structure your lessons with silent writing: Send a letter to your governor in support of LGBTQ students with GLSEN. 


On April 21, tell your LGBTQ students to go to so they can share their school experiences for GLSEN's National School Climate Survey.


Set up a Day of Silence table in your school lobby or hallway, and invite students to give away Day of Silence stickers, buttons, and info cards.


Organize a Breaking the Silence assembly, rally, or open mic. Breaking the Silence is an important action on the Day of Silence. Prepare with your students beforehand how they want to take action and advocate for LGBTQ people at their school.


Encourage your students to download the selfie sign, answer, “How are you ending the silence?” and tweet answers @ the Department of Education.


Structure a letter-writing lesson where students write to their administrators, supervisors, or other school leaders to urge them to create policies that protect LGBTQ students.


Preview and then host a screening of one of the films from the Youth and Gender Media Project, which is offering free streaming to Day of Silence registrants.

Looking for ways for students and GSAs to get involved? Check out our full guide, created in partnership with the National Education Association.

Are you participating in Day of Silence? Make sure to register!

Photo of three youth promoting Day of Silence registration

April 11, 2017

GLSEN's Day of Silence is April 21! It's the largest student-led national event in protest of anti-LGBTQ bullying in schools. Students take a vow of silence in an effort to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBTQ behavior by illustrating the silencing effect of bullying and harassment on LGBTQ students and those perceived to be LGBTQ.

Often, at the end of the day, participants "break the silence" with a rally, open mic, or other event where they plan how they'll work to address anti-LGBTQ bullying at school (Here's a guide with ideas!).

Student leaders from GLSEN's National Student Council created this playlist that you can use when you break the silence and commit to making your school LGBTQ-inclusive.

This piece appeared in the Day of Silence zine.

Are you participating in Day of Silence? Make sure to register!

Photo of three youth promoting Day of Silence registration

April 11, 2017

Illustrating of hands writing, organizing, and multi-tasking

As active members of your communities, you carry an immense amount of power. Through organizing, mobilizing, and speaking up for what you believe is right, you can advocate for LGBTQ-inclusive policies and the wellbeing of all students at your school. Remember, school administrators, school board members, and elected officials don’t know what it’s like to be a student, and they may not understand the changes they need to make for safer schools. But by sharing your stories and outlining specific changes, we can get their attention and encourage them to act. 

Here are 12 tips for meeting with decison-makers, like school administrators, district superintendents, and state legislators. For more information, check out this quick guide.


  • Make an appointment: Decision-makers are often very busy and will most likely not have the time to meet with you on short notice. Scheduling a meeting in advance will help their staff prepare and ensure a more productive meeting.
  • Plan ahead: Have a clear idea of what your goals are for the meeting, what you are going to say, and who you will be meeting with. It is best to work out the logistics of who will be taking notes and who will do the talking beforehand. Practice your story and what you’re asking for. Planning ahead is the best way to ensure that you are able to make the most out of your meeting.
  • Authentic vs. professional clothes: They don’t always have to be at odds with each other. Wear the clothes that make you feel confident and powerful. You deserve respect, no matter what you’re wearing. However, don’t let your outfit overshadow your goals or message.
  • Be early: Plan to arrive at least 10 minutes before the meeting in order to avoid being late. Sometimes finding the office of decision-makers can be complicated if you have never been there before. Being early allows you extra time to calm your nerves before getting into your meeting.

Make it happen

  • Be flexible, and don’t be surprised if you meet with a staff member instead of the decision-maker. Often staffers are more knowledgeable on specific issue areas than the decision-maker and are better suited to meet you. They will inform the decision-maker of your views and requests after your meeting.
  • Keep your materials organized and on hand. Staff members and decision-makers meet with hundreds of people every week and deal with many different issues. Short handouts that explain the issues that you are discussing can be very helpful to the decision-maker to reflect on your meeting after you leave. They are also helpful resources for staff to follow up with your “ask” and issues.
  • Introduce yourself to the decision-maker and/or the staff members. Tell them a little bit about yourself and your background. Provide a personal narrative in order to make your message more engaging and memorable. Think about your narrative not as a full biography, but as a short story that illustrates a problem that needs to be solved. Your full introduction and ask should take about 3-5 minutes.
  • Make an “ask.” Ask them to do something real and measurable that solves a problem — and that you can hold them accountable for later. Clearly state your position on the issue you came to discuss, and describe how the ask will advance that position.
  • Be ready to answer questions and provide details on the issues that you are discussing. Knowing your issues inside and out gives you credibility and makes it a lot harder for you to be ignored. If you don’t know the answer, tell them that — but offer to follow up with an answer.
  • Take notes on what happened during the meeting, the decision-maker’s position on the issue, and what you were able to accomplish through the meeting.
  • If the decision-maker disagrees with you, stand up for yourself, but do not become overly argumentative. Try to share the issue from your personal perspective, emphasize the positives of your position, and keep the conversation on a constructive note.
  • Send a follow-up letter or email thanking your legislator and/or staff members. Include any information that you might have in support of your issue and your specific ask. The follow-up message is important because it confirms your dedication to your cause and helps build a valuable relationship between you and your decision-maker. It is also great to follow up on any details that were left unanswered during your meeting; this is one of the ways to keep your decision-maker accountable.

Keep in touch! Let GLSEN know about your community organizing by reaching out to

April 11, 2017

Headshot of National Student Council member KianPhoto by Wunmi Onimudo 

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” -Elie Wiesel

This quote truly embodies the importance of Day of Silence for me as an LGBTQ youth. It shows that we must always make our voices heard. Anti-LGBTQ harassment and bullying leaves students feeling unsafe and unable to speak up. But by participating in Day of Silence, you are not only making your voice heard, but also bringing attention to the voices that aren’t.

My freshman year of high school, I felt silenced. I was bullied and scared, and I didn’t know what to do. No one was listening to my voice, and eventually I stopped feeling like I had one at all.

Seeing people at my school participate in Day of Silence made me feel less alone. It assured me that people within my school were willing to stand up for me when I experienced anti-LGBTQ harassment. Without the Day of Silence, the members of my school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance, and the numerous allies within my school, I wouldn't know I had that support.

Now that I am out of that situation, I will stop at nothing to make my voice heard. I will stand up against bullying and protect those who can’t protect themselves. I was once in that situation; I was hopeless. But, here I am now. It is almost exactly a year later, and I am advocating on the national level to make a difference in the world.

If you are being bullied and harassed, please remember that you are not alone. Everyone participating in Day of Silence cares about making your school safe for you. Rise together as a school and a community. You will make it through it and have your voice heard.

Kian Tortorello-Allen is a member of GLSEN's National Student Council.

This piece appeared in the Day of Silence zine.

Are you participating in Day of Silence? Make sure to register!

Photo of three youth promoting Day of Silence registration

April 11, 2017

Photo of 3 youth holding up fingers to indicate silence

GLSEN's Day of Silence is Friday, April 21! Here are ten tips and tricks to help you organize to put an end to anti-LGBTQ bullying in schools!


Don’t use duct tape to cover your mouth. Opt for a shirt or sign around your neck that visibly shows your support without hurting yourself!


Change your phone lock screen to the official Day of Silence statement to show to your teachers, friends, and coworkers over the course of the day why you're being silent.


Plan something to break the silence, whether it’s a dance, a picnic, or a little after-school meeting to make some joyous noise.


Remember you have a right to free speech, and that includes the right not to speak. If you feel your rights are being violated, contact Lambda Legal, and they may be able to help!


Partner with a local GLSEN Chapter to host a Breaking the Silence rally.


Promote Day of Silence at your school by hanging up posters, distributing flyers, setting up a table at lunch, or even making an announcement over the PA system to get others involved!


Sign up for GLSEN UP to stay connected with advocacy actions dedicated to the wellbeing of LGBTQ youth in schools.


Make Day of Silence shirts! You can make them on your own, or create custom ones for your school or GSA! Other shirts are also available for purchase.


Share the Day of Silence Educator Guide with your teachers and GSA advisors. 


Use the momentum from Day of Silence to stay involved in LGBTQ student issues. Register your school’s GSA to get helpful advice all year long!

Danny Charney and Madison Miszewski are members of GLSEN's National Student Council.

This piece appeared in the Day of Silence zine.

Are you participating in Day of Silence? Make sure to register!

Photo of three youth promoting Day of Silence registration

April 10, 2017

Dear Secretary DeVos, 

You have a crucial position–ensuring that America’s children attend high quality schools and are prepared to contribute successfully to society as thoughtful, engaged citizens. Central to that mission is ensuring that students are safe so they can do their best to learn.

As you’ve said, the Department of Education has a “unique role in protecting students.” We believe that, right now, you have an opportunity to honor that unique role—by ensuring that your department is protecting all students.

In your first address to your department, you set a high standard: “We believe students deserve learning environments that foster innovation and curiosity, and are also free from harm. I’m committed to working with you to make this the case.”

If you are truly committed to creating safe learning environments for students, then that should mean all students, including transgender students. We urge you to read the new report, report as co-authored by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and GLSEN, in partnership with the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National Education Association (NEA). The report, Separation and Stigma: Transgender Students & School Facilities, outlines the profound harms of exclusionary policies on transgender children—harms that can be addressed with your direction. 

There are an estimated 150,000 transgender youth between the ages of 13 and 17. These transgender students, as well as those who are younger, are part of school communities throughout the country, and like other students, they’re there to learn, graduate and prepare for their future. When schools fail to protect transgender students from discrimination and bullying—or when schools deny transgender students access to restrooms that match the gender they live every day—it becomes extremely difficult for transgender students to succeed in school. If transgender students cannot safely use the bathroom, they cannot safely go to school.

Your department’s decision to rescind the “Dear Colleague” letter that instructed schools to allow transgender students to be able to access sex-segregated facilities such as restrooms and locker rooms in accordance with their gender identity sends a clear message: transgender students are excluded from your charge to protect students.

And this decision was not neutral; the federal government sets an example. Emboldened by your department’s action, a number of states have sought to pass legislation limiting transgender students’ access to school restrooms and locker rooms. To date, seventeen states have introduced such legislation. Although the text of the bills varies, they are designed to stop transgender students from using facilities that match the gender they live every day. Singling out transgender students and telling them they must use separate restrooms is humiliating and discriminatory. Similarly, forcing transgender students into restrooms that don’t match the gender they live every day puts their safety at even greater risk.

And, excluding transgender students is needlessly harmful. As hundreds of school districts around the country have proven, ensuring transgender students can use the restroom at school jeopardizes no one’s safety, but rather it affirms the humanity and most basic needs of the students in our country’s schools.

School administrators have long worked to ensure that transgender students have access to facilities that match their gender identity while still protecting the privacy and safety of all students. In addition to local school districts that protect transgender students, 13 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination in education based on gender identity and sexual orientation. These state laws protect transgender students from discrimination by staff, faculty, and students, including being unfairly denied access to facilities.

That’s why administrators representing schools and districts from 31 states and the District of Columbia, collectively responsible for educating approximately 2.1 million students annually, submitted an amicus brief in the Gavin Grimm case stating that their collective real-world experience shows fears around inclusive policies are baseless. The administrators informing the brief submitted the following argument:

“[A]llowing all students to access sex-specific facilities and amenities that match their gender identity will lead to general disruption; will violate the privacy or “comfort” of other students; or will lead to the abolition of gender-segregated facilities and activities for all students. [They] have addressed and in some cases personally grappled with many of the same fears and concerns in their own schools and districts. However, in [their] professional experience, none of those fears and concerns has materialized in the form of actual problems in their schools. Instead, inclusive policies not only fully support the reality of transgender students’ circumstances, but also foster a safer and more welcoming learning environment for all students.”

Safety and privacy are important concerns, but as you know, having inclusive school policies doesn’t affect schools’ legal obligation to ensure safe facilities or ability to act if a student engages in inappropriate behavior. There has been no increase in safety risk for students resulting from transgender-inclusive non-discrimination.

The same cannot be said of schools that have left this matter unattended to. When schools fail to protect transgender students from discrimination and bullying—or when they deny transgender students access to restrooms that match the gender they live every day—it becomes extremely difficult for transgender students to succeed in school and prepare for their future. Three-quarters of transgender students surveyed in GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey felt unsafe at school. In the same survey, seven out of ten transgender students surveyed said they’d avoided bathrooms because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable. 

When transgender students are forced to use bathrooms that do not match their gender, or when they are barred from communal facilities altogether and told to use a separate facility, they are singled out for discrimination and harassment, and transgender students are already vulnerable to hostile school environments.

Secretary DeVos, we know you care about protecting students. Parents, transgender youth, and research demonstrate the tangible and intangible harms that come when transgender students are left to fend for themselves at school. It is time for your department to live up to your vision. It is time to provide school districts around the country with clear guidance about their obligation to ensure transgender students can not only survive in school, but thrive. While adults argue about whether we can implement policies already proven successful in hundreds of school districts nationwide, it is transgender students who pay a heavy personal price.


Movement Advancement Project
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Education Association

Sign on to this open letter to get this research in Secretary DeVos' hands right now.

Image of cover of Separation and Stigma, with "Secretary DeVos: Read the Facts!" and

April 07, 2017

This year, on GLSEN's Day of Silence on April 21, students, educators, and advocates across the country will take a vow of silence as a symbol of the silencing effects of anti-LGBTQ bullying, harassment, and discrimination. At the end of the day or soon after, folks will gather in their local communities to "break the silence," committing to fight for LGBTQ-inclusive schools. 

If you haven't already, register for Day of Silence. Then, find out where you can break the silence in your community, or learn how to organize your own rally. 

If you're organizing a public event, tell us about it, and we'll add it to our list.


Los Angeles
Miguel Contreras Learning Complex
322 South Lucas Avenue
April 21, 1:30-3:00pm


GLSEN Collier County
Naples United Church of Christ
April 21, 7-11:00pm
Facebook Event


GLSEN Greater Wichita
A Price Woodward Park
April 21, 3-7:00pm
Facebook Event


GLSEN Baltimore
The Ynot Lot
April 21, 4:30pm-6:30pm
Facebook Event


Kansas City
GLSEN Greater Kansas City
LikeMe Lighthouse
April 21, 3-4:00pm
Facebook Event

New York

GLSEN New York Capital Region
Empire State Plaza
April 21, 4-9pm
Facebook Event

GLSEN Hudson Valley
LGBTQ Center
300 Wall Street
April 21, 3-7:00pm

New York
Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture
515 Malcolm X Boulevard
April 21, 6-9:00pm

New York
Moonlight Special Screening
April 21, 6:30pm
Google Event

West Nyack
GLSEN Hudson Valley
Palisades Mall
Community Room
1000 Palisades Center Dr.
April 21, 3-7:00pm


GLSEN Northeast Ohio
Universalist Unitarian Church of Akron
April 21 


Arlington, VA
GLSEN Northern VA
Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington
April 21, 6:30-10:30pm
Facebook Event 

Are you participating in Day of Silence? Make sure to register!

Photo of three youth promoting Day of Silence registration

March 30, 2017

Image of people holding up Protect Trans Youth signs at Stonewall Rally

In February, the Departments of Education and Justice reversed the Obama-era guidance issued to school districts on accommodating trans students. Soon after, the Supreme Court sent back to a lower court the case of Gavin Grimm, a trans teen who was denied access to the school bathroom that aligns with his gender identity. 

Though Title IX is still federal law – it prohibits discrimination in education based on sex, which includes trans students – the protections afforded to trans students are in limbo. School communities are left in confusion about their obligations under Title IX. And trans students are left in fear.

In the weeks since the reversal of the guidance, school districts, other education bodies, and political leaders across the country have made public their commitment to protecting trans students, often citing existing state and local protections. This is what leadership looks like:

1. Superintendent Torlakson, California Department of Education

 2. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh

3. Chancellor Wilson, DC Public Schools 

 4. Superintendent Carranza, Houston Independent School District

 5.  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

 6. Des Moines Public Schools 

 These are joined by many others that have committed to protecting trans students:

But not all responses have been positive. Some school districts have taken the reversal of the guidance as license to discriminate. In Kansas, the Derby School District rolled back their trans-inclusive bathroom policy, putting young trans Kansans in greater danger.

As the courts hear Gavin’s case, we must take action to ensure trans students are protected. Here’s how you can help right now:

March 30, 2017

Photo of Christian J. Zsilavetz at Pride celebration
Photo Courtesy of Christian J. Zsilavetz

I am a 47-year-old trans educator. At age 36, when I lived in Seattle, I started transitioning. For 18 months, I tried being stealth, but it didn’t work for me. I was always scared someone would peg me as trans and want to create a riot out of my identity. At age 42, I moved across the country to Atlanta and spent a year home with my children before returning to teaching. Yet another year closeted, I realized that being closeted just did not help me reach the students I felt I needed to reach.

Today, I sit across from a 14-year-old transgender student from Forsyth County, GA, a place not far from Atlanta and known for its racism, homophobia, and transphobia. We both are dealing with family issues, depression, and anxiety, and we both are surrounded by others who support and love us just as we are.

Greetings to all gender-fabulous youth out there! I am an out, queer-identified transman, and my name is Christian James Zsilavetz (he, him, his). I invite you to Google me. Seriously. That is quite a shift from 10 years ago when I thought I would just die, or at least get beat up and more, if anyone knew that I was transgender.

I am the Director and Co-founder of Pride School Atlanta, a K-12 school that is openly free of homophobia and transphobia. We have a small school our first year, but we support youth, educators, and families all around the United States and far beyond by virtue of being “googleable.”  We also provide workshops and the like for schools and businesses, which is something I am headed to do today.

I need you to know that we are everywhere, and that adults everywhere will keep fighting the battle for trans rights in schools. Your job is to continue to grow into the person you are meant to become. Our job is to continue to help make schools awesome for you, your friends, your families, your teachers, and your coaches. 

Know that you never need to be alone with your problems again unless you choose to. Know that you are not the only one dealing with depression and anxiety and the challenges of dating/not dating, home issues, homelessness, joblessness, disease. Know that you are not the only one who is happy, joyous, and free, and ready for the world, either.

It is okay to be happy because you are transgender. It is okay to be angry because you are transgender. It is okay to be sad because you are transgender. All these feelings will pass and come back around at different times.

Most of all, I ask of you to do whatever you need to do to care for yourself and your closest friends, working only to change the things you can and asking for help with the rest. Don’t accept horrible behavior from anyone. Document great things and document moments of harassment, intimidation, and discrimination. Email them to yourself, a parent (if it will help), and a staff member who can do something about it.

Find reasons to laugh a lot. Hang with your people whenever you are able, even if it is by Skype. You likely don’t have a lot of emotional or mental reserves some days, so taking care of yourself, your schoolwork, your room, and perhaps a part-time job is more than enough. If you or a friend are at risk of self-harm or being harmed by others, please call 911 and reach out to the Trevor Project, Translifeline, or the nearest LGBTQ organization. School may not change overnight, nor will your parents, nor will your family or friends, but you will continue to grow and become the person you are meant to become.

Christian J. Zsilavetz is the Director and Co-founder of Pride School Atlanta. He can be reached at

Additional Resources