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March 12, 2018

Photo of National Student Council Member Imani Sims

The closet door. While to some it is just a piece of furniture, the closet door is very symbolic to closeted folks in the LGBTQ community. Coming out (of the closet) can be a special moment. In Love, Simon, which comes out March 16, we follow Simon’s coming-out journey. We see Simon through his highs and lows, and just like me, Simon “came outfine!

As a fellow queer youth, I am very excited to see a movie about some of the same experiences I went through! Love, Simon provides a clear representation of a high-school student coming out, which is rare in mainstream media. It’s important that we continue to have representation and our stories shared widely so that LGBTQ students feel affirmed about our identities.

I want to share a few thoughts around my coming-out process in hopes of supporting other students’ coming-out process and the conversation that Love, Simon helps start. While coming out can be nerve-racking, it’s very nice to keep in mind a few things:

1. Come out when you want to.

You don’t have to rush this process. Don’t feel pressured to come out on LGBTQ “holidays” such as National Coming Out Day or National LGBTQ Pride Month in June. You can come out whenever you feel it is right for YOU!

2. You don’t have to come out to everyone if you don’t want to!

This is very important, especially if you don't particularly feel safe. It’s perfectly okay if you want to come out to certain family members or friends, because coming out is about your personal wellbeing and safety. I came out slowly, starting with the people closest to me. As time progressed, I told portions of my extended family and even some of my friends. There are still people I haven't come out to, but I believe these things take time.

3. Have a coming-out party! (if you want)

The best part about coming out is you can be as extra as you want. Throw a pride parade for yourself. Come out to your family at Sunday dinner as you pass the potatoes. Invite all your friends to a coming-out party! Remember: This is about you. Whether it’s low-key or extra, it is yours! My coming-out experience involved me, my mother, and two maroon couches that we both sat on. While there were no party balloons present, I really appreciated the intimacy of the conversation because it made me feel more comfortable!

4. You don’t have to come out for anyone.

When you’re extremely close to someone, you get used to sharing everything with each other. Your friends and family might even encourage you to share things, or share things a little faster than you might like. REMEMBER: you come out for you, not for anyone else. I always felt like I was lying to my family about my sexuality. To me, every day I was “acting straight,” until I came out. As time went on, this mindset became very toxic, and I started to realize that being “honest” should not come at the price of my wellbeing.

5. You can come out as many times as you like.

Maybe you came out the first time as a certain gender or sexuality. Then throughout the course of your life, you have changed and now you identify as another gender or sexuality. Or, maybe you came out the first time as a certain gender and sexuality. Then throughout the course of your life, you have changed and now you identify as a different gender with the same sexuality you came out previously with. Both of these are okay! Coming out isn’t always a one-time thing.

I identify with the first scenario. I first came out to my family as bisexual, but I soon realized that I felt attracted exclusively to girls instead. After coming out as a lesbian, I used to beat myself up about my change, but sexuality is FLUID, and sometimes it changes and sometimes it doesn’t.

I hope whoever is reading this feels calmer about the coming-out process even when it can make one feel the opposite. I would like to end these considerations with one last important point.

6. You don’t HAVE to come out.

You don’t hear this one very often, so many don’t think that it counts as an option. But you truly do not have to come out. Coming out is not something everyone can do for safety, emotional, and mental reasons. If you feel it is not your time to come out, know that you have that right. You have the option to say no. You are not a coward; you are strong because you know what's best for you. And that’s all that matters.

I hope that you get to watch Love, Simon, to see a high-school coming out story on the big screen. Also that you feel like LGBTQ visibility and representation allows a piece of your story to be shown on the big screen, too. To bring Love, Simon into the classroom, GLSEN partnered with 20th Century Fox to develop a discussion guide and lesson plan to foster conversation on themes from the movie, such as coming out, identity, and safe spaces.

Representation is so important. I want to continue to see more stories, and complex stories, and diverse stories that highlight our different narratives of coming out in the LGBTQ community.

Imani Sims is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.

Love, Simon is coming out to theaters March 16! 

This post is sponsored by 20th Century Fox.

March 12, 2018

An image of the four main leads of the film Love, Simon next to this text: "Love, Simon everyone deserves a great love story. Coming out March 2018"

As educators, we have a unique opportunity to help our students to learn about the world around them. As any educator will tell you, we teach our students not just with our lesson plans, but with everything we say -- and everything we leave out.

There are so many high schools today comfortably teaching Romeo and Juliet as one of the greatest love stories of all time. As educators, we show our students over and over again that heterosexual love and romance is “common” and “acceptable” -- even more, that it’s “romantic” and “desirable.”

What many high schools are missing is the integration of queer romance and the opportunity to learn, read, and discuss characters and relationships that aren’t framed in heteronormativity. GLSEN research shows that nearly 4 in 5 LGBTQ students don’t see positive LGBTQ representation in their curriculum. We are missing stories like Love, Simon, a story about seventeen-year old Simon Spier. He's yet to tell his family or friends he's gay and he doesn't actually know the identity of the anonymous classmate he's fallen for online.

That’s why GLSEN has partnered with 20th Century Fox to bring this film and its important themes and characters to your students. We have developed a discussion guide and lesson plan to help foster conversation about the movie’s themes, especially around coming out and invisible identities in your classrooms.

At GLSEN, we know the benefits that LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum can have for all students. This movie, and the book it’s based on, can help you ensure that your students don’t leave high school thinking that stories like Romeo and Juliet are the only love stories worth remembering.

Becca Mui is the Education Manager at GLSEN.

Love, Simon is coming out to theaters March 16!

This post is sponsored by 20th Century Fox.

March 08, 2018

Photo of National Student Council Member Katie Kegittko

I was in sixth grade when I started to realize and explore my identity as a queer person. And, like many other students, I also started to hear negative comments and derogatory slurs about LGBTQ people in my school. It was by no coincidence that I began engaging in eating-disorder behaviors shortly thereafter.

Historically, eating disorders have been depicted in mass media (television shows, magazines, and works of fiction) as illnesses associated with white, straight, cisgender female adolescents. However, they affect people of all demographics and backgrounds. In fact, there have been multiple studies that show that LGBTQ youth are disproportionately susceptible to developing eating disorders.

Research shows that as early as twelve years old, lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are at a much higher risk of binge-eating and purging, including laxative abuse and/or vomiting, than their heterosexual peers. Additionally, a survey of nearly 300,000 college students found that transgender students had over four times greater risk of being diagnosed with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, and two times greater risk of eating disorder symptoms such as purging.

Essentially, LGBTQ students are more likely to experience eating disorders and their symptoms at a higher rate than their straight and cisgender peers. And this may not be a coincidence: There are several unique experiences that queer youth go through that may be related to developing an eating disorder. These include, but are not limited to, stress surrounding coming out, internalized negative beliefs about oneself, and discrimination and bullying. LGBTQ people may also face challenges that prevent them from seeking out or obtaining treatment and support.

There are many factors that can contribute to developing an eating disorder; a need for control, experiences of trauma, underlying mental illness, and societal pressures that glorify a “perfect body” are just a few. For me, one of the earliest reasons that I began to engage in disordered eating was an identity impairment caused by being a closeted queer person afraid to come out.

As a young person struggling to figure out my sexuality, I felt like there were no resources or people to help me during that time, and walking in the hallway to hear slurs like “that’s so gay” only made me feel even more ostracized. Similarly, I felt like my identity was being discredited when I came out as gender non-binary, because my peers and teachers alike refused to call me by my correct pronouns. So without a community to turn to as an outlet to help me navigate and grow confident in my identity, I turned to creating an identity in another community.

In my experience, dieting websites and programs were a direct gateway into darker pathways online that promoted and advocated for eating-disorder behaviors. While dieting programs and calorie-tracking websites taught me how to restrict my intake, pro-eating disorder websites taught me how to take that obsession further and how to hide it from others. Although I finally got what I wanted – a seemingly “supportive” community – I paid the price of years of suffering physically, socially, and emotionally.  This is why it was important for me to find a community that actually affirmed and supported all of my identities and my recovery process as an LGTBQ student.

In high school, I finally found a consistent and supportive LGBTQ community in my hometown as well as through GLSEN advocacy online. Community that affirms my identity helped me feel empowered, supporting my mental health and wellbeing. However, the “stickiness” of the eating-disorder label followed me for a while. It is important to note that recovery is a process, not perfection. Now, I am proud to say that I am confident in my identity as a bisexual, non-binary, femme, powerhouse in recovery from an eating disorder rather than someone whose only sense of self is connected to food and weight.  

There must be a change in the way we discuss and prevent eating disorders, as we are leaving entire populations behind. Popular culture has a responsibility to increase awareness of LGBTQ identities in general, and reflect the accurate nature of our lives to include mental health and eating disorders.

Once we begin these difficult conversations, we must start implementing supports for LGBTQ students. In health class, this may mean sharing statistics about how eating disorders affect LGBTQ youth. More generally, this means we must change the way we often discuss what makes a “normal body,” and move away from the gender roles and expectations that may be communicated through curriculum. There is no “normal” way to have a body, be a certain gender, or to love someone. What may be an offhand comment can irreparably harm a student’s self-image.

Right now, you can support LGBTQ youth, especially those with eating disorders, by learning more about and implementing supports in school for LGBTQ students. These supports can come in the form of supportive educators, inclusive and affirming policies, inclusive curriculum, and student clubs that support LGBTQ visibility. Implementing these supports can result in students feeling empowered, so that their sense of self-worth can grow.

Katie Regittko is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council. James Van Kuilenburg, another member, also contributed to this piece.

March 05, 2018

A photo of a group of students on the floor of a classroom in a discussion circle

Students have been fighting to end violence in schools so that they can feel safer in an environment that is meant for knowledge and growth.

From Black students in the Children's March in the 1960s, Day of Silence being created in the 90s, Dream Defenders, Black Lives Matter, and Black Youth Project 100, now to Parkland, students have been advocating for the safety of LGBTQ students for years.

As the March for Our Lives demands safety in schools through nonviolent protest surrounding gun violence, we hope that you continue to engage in conversations and actions that create change in whatever capacity you can.

There are ways you can take the lessons you learn and turn them into action to make change in your school.

Learn:

Discuss then Act:

  • Use the resources above to start a conversation around demanding safety in schools.
  • Look up laws in your area, make a plan to bring this up with administration, school boards, and politicians. Read through GLSEN’s Quick Guide to Meeting with Decision Makers
  • Discuss the importance of voting, and how to have conversations with others around electing officials that are willing to implement and take action around school safety.
  • Have a teach in about Knowing Your Rights Around Free Speech In Public Schools
  • Discuss safety tips for those of you who might be going to non-violent protests:
    • Have a conversations around safety of folks with marginalized identities before any protests. Know that the risk of attending a protest is different for everyone depending on the identities that they hold.
    • Discuss: What To Do If Your Rights Are Violated At A Demonstration Or Protest
    • Tell a supportive educator.
    • Tell a parent or guardian.
    • Game plan to go with friends. There is safety in numbers and people who know what you need while attending the event.
    • Having an emergency number written down or memorized.
    • Have an emergency plan and a meeting spot in case you get split up from your party or if things go south.

Breathe:

We know that with everything happening, what is of utmost importance is your safety. That at the moment it feels like students have to do the work when adults are the ones in power and have the ability to make changes that have direct impact on your ability to be in school safely.

Some of you have been long demanding this before this particular shooting. You have been doing the work showing us that we can't wait for the next shooting or murder. You are making your voices heard and rising up to demand action to create the schools and communities our world needs and deserves.

Please make sure to take care of yourselves. Be in community with those that give you joy. Recharge, and know that you are valued and loved. Here are some resources for you to use.

Tate Benson is the Youth Programs Associate at GLSEN.

March 05, 2018

A photo of a teacher in front of a classroom of students

Students have been endlessly fighting for violence to be addressed in their schools so that they can feel safer in an environment that is meant for knowledge and growth. As the March for Our Lives demands safety in schools through nonviolent protest surrounding gun violence, it is critical for educators to continue to engage in conversations and actions that can create change in whatever capacity you can.

Learn:

Reading about the history of nonviolent protest can help you be better prepared to facilitate conversations with your students, and to have context for the March for Our Lives.

Teach:

When possible, structuring lesson time around these topics will help your students to better understand and process the protests and activism they’re seeing in the media.

Act:

You’re in our networks because you’re committed to your students’ safety and well-being. Here are some actions you can take to serve them during this time. If you are near a local GLSEN Chapter, especially GLSEN Northern Virginia or GLSEN Maryland, reach out to them if you’re interested in supporting the March in person.

Breathe:

The world has been asking too much of educators for too long. For many of us, some of the suggestions and responses have exacerbated that point beyond imagination. Remember that while you are supporting your students, someone should also be supporting you. Take time to decompress and find joy each night; your students are depending on you and your energy each morning.

As the students are showing us, we can't wait for the next shooting. We must make our voices heard and rise up to demand action to create the schools and communities our world needs and deserves.

Becca Mui is GLSEN's Education Manager.

February 27, 2018

All my friends remember hearing me rant sophomore year about our AP US History Textbook. Quite frequently I’d rant about the lack of inclusivity in our “comprehensive” education. Queer representation was boiled down to a single paragraph and a picture on one page of an 800+ page textbook. There was a single sentence about the Mattachine Society and one sentence about Stonewall followed by a sentence stating that AIDS in the 1980’s slowed the sexual revolution of the 1960’s. The part that bothered me the most was the sentence about Stonewall: “A brutal attack on gay men by off-duty police officers at New York’s Stonewall Inn in 1969 proved a turning point, when victims fight back in what became known as the Stonewall Rebellion.” Stonewall was not an attack on gay men, it was an attack on TRANS. PEOPLE. OF. COLOR.

That experience reinforced the idea that if I wanted to learn about my history it would be on my own time, on my own terms, outside of school. While that was helpful for me, I know the majority of the students gearing up for the AP US History exam aren’t thinking that way. I think that’s unfortunate because queer history, especially Black queer history, IS American history. So all Americans should learn it. That’s why I think the #QueeringBlackHistory campaign is so important. I wanted to highlight the women and femmes I look at as role models and wished I learned about in school.

You can view some of these icons below, or scroll through GLSEN's Instagram! You can also always find resources about supporting Black LGBTQ students at glsen.org/black.

-Ose Arheghan, GLSEN’s 2017 Student Advocate of the Year.

Marsha P. Johnson

A photo of Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson is one of the most famous queer women of color in the LGBTQ community. In partnership with Sylvia Rivera, she founded STAR (the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) which was an organization that helped homeless or runaway trans individuals. Johnson also worked with the Gay Liberation Front and was an integral part of the Stonewall Riots. 

Abigail Hollis

A photo of Abigail Hollis

Abigail Hollis is one of the 11 original members of University of Missouri Concerned Student 1950. CS1950 was a student response to racism on campus and pushed for leadership change within the university.

Cece McDonald

A photo of Cece McDonald

Cece McDonald is a trans activist bring attention to the problems with the American prison industrial complex. McDonald was assaulted in a racist and transphobic attack and retaliated in self-defence. She made national headlines in 2012 when she accepted a 41 month plea bargain for second-degree manslaughter and was housed in a male prison. Her story shone light on violence and discrimination against trans women of color.

Audre Lorde

A photo of Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde was a lesbian, Civil Rights activist, and poet laureate of New York. Her poetry brought attention to the struggles of black people, women, and members of the queer community. She continuously called for and encouraged others to call for the liberation of minority communities.

Brittany Ferrell

 Photo of Brittany Ferrell

Brittany Ferrell is a 28-year-old activist who led protests in Ferguson, Missouri after the shooting on Michael Brown. Ferrell, along with her wife, led a protest that shut down Interstate 70 in the town and were both arrested. Ferrell also founded organization, Millennial Activists United.

Laverne Cox

A Photo of Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox is an actress and advocate for the trans community. In her breakout role as Sophia on Orange is the New Black, Cox became the first openly trans person nominated for a primetime Emmy in the acting category. In the last 3 years, Cox has become the first trans person to do things like star in a broadcast TV show, have a wax figure in Madame Tussauds and win a daytime Emmy for directing.

Sekiya Dorsett

A photo of Sekiya Dorsett

Sekiya Dorsett is a queer filmmaker who has had work shown at film festivals all around the world. She has produced content for LOGO TV, USA Network and Oxygen. Recently, her documentary Revival: Women and the World followed the lives of five queer women of color who traveled the country sharing their story through music and poetry.

Pauli Murray

A photo of Pauli MurrayDr. Rev. Pauli Murray was a Civil Rights leader, lawyer, women’s rights leader and one of the first African-American female Episcopal ministers. As a lawyer, Murray’s work set legal precedent for both Brown v. Board of Education and Reed v. Reed, both cases integral to the Civil Rights and women’s rights movements. As a women’s rights activist, Murray work alongside Betty Friedan to co-found the National Organization for Women.

Amandla Stenberg

A photo of Amandla Stenberg

Hunger Games and Everything, Everything actor Amandla Stenberg made headlines when they publicly came out in Teen Vouge’s Snapchat as bisexual. Stenberg is an outspoken activist who advocates for women, African Americans, members of the queer community and young people.

Angelica Ross

A photo of Angelica Ross

Angelica Ross is a leading figure in the movement for trans and racial equality. She tackles everything from boardrooms, to film sets, to the White House. She is the founder of TransTech Social Enterprises, which empowers trans and gender non-conforming folks in the workplace. She also created the series Her Story which centers two trans women in LA.

Angela Davis

 A photo of Angela Davis

Angela Davis is an American political activist, academic, author and a self-identified lesbian. Her work continues to focus on the intersections of race, gender, and economic justice. She emerged as an activist in her work with the Black Panther Party in the 1960s. She continues teach as a professor and author books about the resistance including her most recent book, “Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement.”

I want to see #QueeringBlackHistory turn into plain ‘ol #QueeringHistory because our contributions should not be erased and our voices should not be silenced. I think it’s important for us as students to be represented in the school curriculum for it to actually be considered “comprehensive.” I hope one day that’s reflected in AP curriculum, Common Core, and local school district initiatives.  

Ose Arheghan is GLSEN’s 2017 Student Advocate of the Year. 

February 26, 2018

GLSEN's Student Advocate of the Year and author of this blog, Ose Arheghan, giving a speech at the 2017 GLSEN Respect Awards -- Los Angeles

Student Advocate of the Year Ose Arheghan at the 2017 GLSEN Respect Awards - Los Angeles

I remember my first week of high school. During lunch, I was sitting in the journalism classroom (which doubles as the meeting room for my school’s Gay-Straight Alliance), and two of the coolest people I’d ever seen in my life were making GSA posters for the freshman activities fair.

I remember seeing this Black, queer, androgynous person having a conversation about whether “LGBT” was really inclusive to the queer community. Fast forward to now, and that’s a person I consider my friend.

That experience was one of the first times I saw someone who looked like me as a Black person, AND a queer person, AND a gender nonconforming person. This person just simply existed in my community. I find that at my school the students who lead freshman tour groups and run student council don’t reflect my experiences. Sure, they have Black students, and they have queer students, and they might even have gender nonconforming students; but I don’t see the students who hold ALL of these identities.

A lot of high school is insufferable. I’ve sat through lectures in English class where students theorized as to whether Shakespeare was gay or straight with little to no understanding of the complexities of sexuality. I’ve had math teachers separate the class into guys and girls for the most arbitrary of reasons, which leaves me, as a gender nonconforming student, feeling out of place. In the classroom and curriculum, I simply haven’t felt included.

GSA is the one place I’ve felt included in all my intersections. Most of the queer people of color that I’ve met at my school I’ve met through the GSA. The students who have taken point on confronting the school administration on issues regarding the protection of our queer youth have been queer and trans Black students.

I’ve loved having GSA be a space where I felt like I was represented, where my entire self was represented. But honestly, that’s not even guaranteed. When leadership changes year to year, so can the level of inclusivity within the space. What is safe and inclusive this year can feel isolating the next. It’s important that we have schools and GSAs that are aware of identities that are important to me and students like me, no matter who is in leadership.

This month is Black History Month, and there’s an overdue emphasis on Black history and Black culture. Not only for this month but all year round, I urge schools to be proactive about creating spaces that are inclusive based on race, sexuality, AND gender identity in classrooms, curriculum, and school clubs. These GLSEN resources are a great place to start.

Ose Arheghan is GLSEN’s 2017 Student Advocate of the Year and a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.

February 15, 2018

Many teenagers feel pressured to have some sort of romantic relationship around Valentine’s Day. We see posts on social media like “My boyfriend got me this!” “My partner got me that!” and many, including myself, will retweet or comment “goals” on those posts without thinking.  GLSEN’s National Student Council partnered with Hollister to show different types of relationships to deconstruct what love and relationships look like around the holiday using #carpeloveHCO.  Student Council members shared pictures with their dogs, best friends, family, and significant others tto show that there is not just one way to show love and it can manifest in many different forms.. There is not just one way to show love. One council member took a picture with their gecko! Check out the National Student Council’s pictures below with their loved ones or scroll through GLSEN's Instagram. Carpe amor. Seize love every day! -Sayer (National Student Council)

Sayer

A picture of National Student Council Member Sayer and her friend petting a dog.

There’s a quote, I’m not sure who said it, but it’s, “Distance means so little when someone means so much.” I can’t tell you enough how true that is not only in relation to distance but time as well. I went 913 days, almost 2 and a half years, without seeing @chocogosto, in that time, there were months on end when Carly and I didn’t speak, but each time we reconnected, nothing had changed. The last time I saw her, we left camp with promises of talking, staying connected and meeting up through the year. Promises of staying in each other’s lives, being there for each other, making sure the other is okay. We have more or less kept those promises, more so recently, but there was one that we struggled to keep. It took us 913 days to meet up, we are separated by 3 hours and it took us almost 2 and a half years for us to see each other again. That’s what these pictures are, these pictures show the reunion of two best friends who act like lovers but I can promise you, there’s nothing going on there. These pictures show the reunion of two best friends who need each other. Everyone should have someone in their life with whom they can talk about anything, everything, or nothing at all. I’ve found that. I love you Carl. #carpelovehco 

Sarah

GLSEN's National Student Council member Sarah holding hands with their partner KP

I met KP 4 years ago when I transferred to their school. We didn’t interact often until a year later when they encouraged me to join our school’s GSA. As a closeted 9th grader, I was reluctant, but KP convinced me to come to one meeting at the end of the year. I finally joined in 10th grade, even though I was still learning to accept my queer identity. This ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, as my GSA helped me survive an incredibly rough year. I finished 10th grade doing three things I never imagined myself doing: becoming my GSA's co-head, coming out to my parents, and joining GLSEN’s National Student Council. KP was the first person I came out to after all of this happened, and they were one of the few people in my life who immediately accepted me. This led us to bond with each other and become closer, and eventually start dating. I’m incredibly grateful for the support KP has provided me all these years, and I’m so lucky to have them by my side.

Marcus

GLSEN National Student Council Member Marcus and their girlfriend laughing

I have been dealing with various mental health issues for a while. Shocking, I know. A queer AP student? Mental illness? It was basically a match made in heaven. Yet everyday I still have something to look forward to: Spending time with my girlfriend and friends. They have pulled me through so many hard times, and I can't explain how important they are to me. My girlfriend really is my other half, and my friends feel more like soulmates than people I simply like to talk to. They are love to me. #carpelovehco 

Danny

Picture of GLSEN National Student Council member Danny with a friend in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

Emily and I met three years ago at sleepaway camp. From the moment we met I knew we would be inseparable. Every summer we would reunite at camp and would spend the summer hiking, zip lining, or just laughing and smiling around the fire. Now that she has gone off to college, I count the days to when she returns home so we can reunite. We always pick up from where we left off, giggling, and embracing. She has always been there for me, on days when I felt alone, or on memorable life events. In the future, I know that no matter where we both go in life, she will always just be one phone call or text away. #CarpeLoveHCo 

James

Picture of National Student Council member James with his brother

When I came out as transgender, I thought my relationship with my little brother would change. I was afraid that because I was different, he would be uncomfortable with me. Instead he embraced me for who I am, and we have become even closer since. Just like we always have, we spend time together laughing and joking on our porch and in the backyard. We #CarpeLoveHCo by celebrating our differences and building on our similarities.

Ose

A photograph of Student Advocate of the Year Ose laughing with two of their friends in the snow

When considering the idea of love, I immediate think of two people: my best friend and my partner. They've both, in different ways, expanded my definitions of love, trust, and companionship. For me, this past year has been a series of ups and downs that have changed the way I see and navigate the world and I wouldn't have wanted to experience this era of my life with any two other people. Moving past high school, these two people are the ones I want in my life for the long haul to keep me honest, happy, and bright.

Soli

A picture of National Student Council Member Soli and friend holding hands in front of a tree

I show my #Carpe love by spending time with those who are there for me in the best and worst of time. My friends who are there to support me at school and my dog who loves me at home. 

Imani

A photo of GLSEN National Student Council member Imani and a friend laughing

Warm company, cold weather. it’s very important to spend time with the people you love, even if it’s just having a chat and looking at memes! which is why i’m carpe-ing my diem by looking at dog pictures with my best friend (because how else should you spend your time)?? 

Mari

A photo of GLSEN National Student Council member Mari and their dog

So a gay chicanx and a pit bull? stereotypical right? maybe so, i mean we’re two broad-shouldered, stern, aggressive and intimidating looking individuals that were only ever given a bad wrap were really just two individuals that were labeled who had needed a pal and were misunderstood. on july twenty-eighth, two-thousand sixteen, a three-year-old rescue pit bull with separation anxiety, raised and trained as a fighting dog, you couldn’t ever tell by the smile. 

i didn't just adopt “that rescue pit bull”, i adopted my buddy/pal, caesar. the details from all different kinds of relationships are what make the bond. you may never know love though until you stand outside with twenty-degree weather in boxers and a t-shirt, just to see and make sure someone is okay after they run into the steps, then the wall, then the door, you get the point right? #CarpeLoveHCo

Marisa

A photo of National Student Council member Marisa with her gecko on her head

I found my home not in the sense of a house, but in those who I love #Carpelovehco

Love and relationships develop in so many different ways past the confines of what society tells us that they should be. We hope that you’re able to show the ways that you display your love and build relationships with those that support you to be your full authentic self.

Sayer, Sarah, Marcus, Danny, James, Ose, Soli, Imani, Mari, and Marisa are members of GLSEN's National Student Council.

February 14, 2018

A picture of former GLSEN National Student Council member TJ Mitchell smiling

Growing up in school in South Carolina was so isolating. All of my friends would talk about having sex, and I would tell lies about how much fun I had with a made-up girl.

Attending health class was hard for me as a gay high school student in 2015. I was always taught about heterosexual relatonships: that only a man and a woman can reproduce, and what sex was like between them. (Of course, they were only talking about cisgender men and women, as transgender people were never acknowledged, and lesbian, gay, and bisexual people were also not even spoken of.)

I was always left wondering what was being left out. As an LGBTQ student advocate, who has done his own research, I now know one possible reason why I didn’t learn more about people like me and relationships like mine: In South Carolina, it’s illegal to teach about homosexuality in health class.

According to a South Carolina law, health education “may not include a discussion of alternate sexual lifestyles from heterosexual relationships including, but not limited to, homosexual relationships, except in the context of instruction concerning sexually transmitted diseases.” And recent GLSEN research shows that laws like these, known as “no promo homo” laws, hurt LGBTQ students. Not only do they leave LGBTQ students without critical information about their health, but they also make it more difficult for educators to show support for their LGBTQ students.

Althought this law focuses only on health education, it’s often generalized to other subjects in school. Not surprisingly, I didn’t learn about LGBTQ topics in any class at all.

I had no one, and I felt so stressed. I would never ask teachers the questions I had because I didn’t think they had the answers. I had to do a lot of self-teaching and finding information just to protect myself.

I’ve graduated now, but this law still affects over 700,000 public school students in South Carolina, and six similar laws in Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi affect another nearly 9 million. If you live in one of these states, I strongly urge you to send a letter to your state representative to ask for a repeal. No one deserves to feel so alone.

TJ Mitchell is a former member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.

February 14, 2018

A photograph of a crowd of people with pink, white, and blue signs that say: "Protect Trans Youth"

You may have heard about the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights’ decision on February 12, 2018 to no longer investigate or take action on any complaints of discrimination against transgender students' use of restroom and locker facilities.

While this is yet another blow from an unsupportive administration, it’s important for everyone, especially those of you that are trans and gender nonconforming (GNC), to know that you still have rights in school.

Here are six things that you can do:

  1. Breathe. Know that we’re still with you. You still have rights as trans students, and we are here to make sure that they are enforced. Title IX has been around through many administrations and will continue to exist.
  2. Ask for your school to make visible their commitment to LGBQ and specifically trans and GNC students. They can put up a Safe Space Sticker or Poster, or "Trans Students, You Are Loved" sign.
  3. Those of you that want to take action in allyship, check in with your trans and GNC friends, assure them that they still have the right to a safe and supportive learning environment. You can check out this Know Your Rights resource together.
  4. Find out about the policies your school has to protect LGBTQ students. Text TRANS to 21333 to find out about laws in your state.
  5. Work with your GSA to ask your school administration to ensure that you have trans-inclusive nondiscrimination policies. Use GLSEN’s Trans Model Policy for guidance.
  6. Take action with educators, students, and community members across the country by asking your U.S. Senators to hold the current nominee for the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Ken Marcus, accountable to trans students. Ken Marcus has not made clear his stance on protecting trans students, and your Senators can impact his legacy.

Although it may seem scary, overwhelming, and frustrating to continually hear that this administration does not demand your protection, the law is the law, and you are still protected. Know that there are those that are still fighting for your rights. GLSEN is here to provide resources and support. Please let us know what you need as you are working on being your beautiful, valid selves and supporting other students around you.

Tate Benson is GLSEN's Youth Programs Associate.

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