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GLSEN Connecticut's Student Organizing Blog
Day of Silence 2016 Reflections
Upon reflecting on the purpose of the Day of Silence, I realized that it doesn't mean you have to be silent. The Day of Silence means you can be a voice for the LGBTQ people that have been silenced. Even after three years of being on GLSEN Connecticut's Student Org. Team, I've only now just learned that the Day of Silence is a day of advocacy to speak up for people with and without words.
The Day of Silence was very successful for me. I found that the faculty at my school were very lenient and understanding with my not talking for the day. Although it was difficult, a lot of people supported those of us that did it. A friend of mine ordered lunch for me because I wasn't speaking and walked around with me almost all day helping me through things that required speaking. I found that even those who weren't participating were very supportive of the day, which is what made it so successful.
This is my second time participating in Day of Silence, and once again, I was shocked at how moving the experience was. It's a very powerful, challenging day, because that feeling of physically not being able to speak is very familiar to me, and I always forget how hurtful that period of my life was until I'm there again. In a sense, it's a good reminder of how far I've come. Now, I have friends who find other ways to communicate with me and remind other people that I'm not speaking. For me, it was really the little things that made the day hardest. I've found my niche participating in the classroom and making quick, funny jokes with all of my friends. It was really hard and eye opening, not being able to do either of those things. Looking at all of this, I think the hardest part about Day of Silence is that it's the kids that have already been through that experience that participate, when they're not the ones who need to. I'd really like to figure out how to increase participation in Day of Silence so that everyone can experience it and get that perspective.
Parker, April 12, 2016
Today I’d like to talk about the Trans Day of Visibility, bathroom bills in the country right now, and how they tie together.
The Transgender Day of Visibility (TDoV) was established in 2009 as a way for trans people to share selfies and stories and our lives. It is every March 31st, and it was created, and continues, for a very important reason. In 2009 trans people had 0 visibility, so as years have passed the purpose of the day has changed with our culture. Right now, America is in the middle of a debate about trans people in bathrooms. We are more visible than ever right now. Everyone in America knows, or thinks they know, what a transgender person is. Due to this, a lot of the community has been calling for #MoreThanVisibility, a hashtag started to demand that we deserve more than basic acknowledgement. Currently, trans people lack access to health care, jobs, education, safety, and of course, bathrooms. #MoreThanVisibility is a trend to demand basic rights we are too often denied. Of course, the original purpose of The TDoV still stands. While we are now visible, this day stands as a platform to share our stories and break stereotypes, proving that trans people come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds.
Now, bathroom bills. While called “religious freedom bills”, they do little more than simply harm the LGBTQ+ community. More specifically, the T. These bills would, and are, forcing transgender people to use the bathroom of that of their sex assigned at birth. These bills exist due to one harmful stereotype: Transgender people are only in bathrooms to be perverts and fool people. However, there are approximately 0 reported cases (ever) of this being the case. Meanwhile, 70% of Transgender people report feeling unsafe in public restrooms. These bills harm every trans person, but they do play off the belief that the only type of trans person is a trans woman who isn’t “passing” (passing meaning to appear as cis). The reality is, you can’t always tell if someone is trans. Not to mention the total disregard of transgender men. Testosterone can undo the changes of estrogen, so any trans man on hormones for a year plus can safely never be assumed female. Nobody wants a man in the women's restroom, so let trans men use the men’s room. On the other side of things, no one wants a woman in the men’s room, so let trans women into the ladies’ room. “Passing” shouldn’t have to be a part of the narrative on this, but in such a transphobic society it does matter to the safety of trans people, and others’ opinions on us. The states currently introducing these so called “religious freedom bills” are: Mississippi, Georgia, South Dakota, Colorado, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Oklahoma. (according to aclu.org).
How does this relate to the trans Day of Visibility? Bills like these rarely come from places of true hatred. Sometimes, but it is rare. Bills like these come from being uneducated. They come from being confused as to what a trans person is. Bills like these come from thinking that we are something other than human beings. The goal of TDoV is to change that. It is a time to share our stories, and our faces, and say and prove that we are who we say we are. Because bills like this do not believe trans people, and that needs to change. #MoreThanVisibilty is a good, but sometimes basic visibility is still needed.
Kate, March 30, 2016
Hi everyone! My name is Kate Connors, and I'm a senior at Greenwich Academy. Along with being a Student Leader for GLSEN Connecticut, I am the President of my school's GSA, and I run my own organization outside of school called Queer Students Organization (QSO). I'm involved with a lot of activities, including theatre, choir, robotics, among others, but I'm very committed to LGBTQ issues.
One of my favorite things we've done with our GSA so far has been our Valentine's Day Rose Sale. We've only done it for the past two years, but I definitely think it's become something that we all love and will continue doing for as long as we exist. Before we start, we as a GSA vote on a charity or organization we really want to support. Last year, we donated our proceeds to TransOhio in honor of Leelah Alcorn. This year, we chose to donate to the Point Foundation. The Point Foundation is a wonderful organization that works to give scholarships to queer youth leaders. We really sympathized with this cause because we know and appreciate how lucky we are to live and attend school where we do with all the support we have and wanted to give that to students who don't have the same opportunity we do.
We brand our rose sale as a platonic event, because while it is in the spirit of Valentine's Day, we want to make sure everyone is included. We call it Flowers for Friends and sell pink roses, instead of red, because we want to avoid the romantic connotation that roses can have. We want to broaden the scope of romantic love towards love for everyone around you, including significant others, friends, teachers, and family. Anyone in the community can come and order roses for their friends, and we deliver them. This event does a lot of time and planning, but it's really great bonding time for our group. We get to sit around and work on the tags or deliver them but all while hanging out and having fun. We grow closer while doing some great advocacy work.
In the end, we sold out of roses and raised and donated $600 to the Point Foundation. It was definitely a successful event and one I highly recommend to any GSAs looking for an activity to do!
In celebration of no name calling week, the GLSEN Connecticut Student Organizing Team is doing a blog post for every day of the week, each themed differently for each day!
RED: A time where the usage of names and slurs set off red flags for me was the first time that I heard anti-gay slurs used in my school's GSA. During my time in the GSA, I had been a presenter and a very vocal activist for LGBT+ rights in schools. One meeting, I walked in late, and heard an "ally" in the club using derogatory, anti-gay slurs in reaction to something a club member said that he did not like. This set off red flags for me; if he was allowed to use those slurs in front of the advisor and leader of the school's GSA, then who could stop anyone from using that language? This caused me to address the issue head-on, and eventually teach some of the offending students that using these hateful words were offensive.
-Oliver McVoy, Foreign High School, Senior
ORANGE YOU GLAD? An example of a time when someone's act of kindness made you glad/happy.
During my sophomore year a boy would constantly judge my sexuality and tell me that being Gray Asexual was not real. He came up to me during lunch one day and told me I was stupid for using labels like that when I was unexperienced. I felt uncomfortable in the situation until a student at the end of my table told him to stop harassing me, and that they were going to administration if he didn't back off. That day I was glad to have a bystander by my side to stop the other persons comments. If it weren't for them, the student would probably still be making comments and more people could have chimed in! That was the time I was glad about someone caring and helping me in a situation!
-Alex Ciaffaglione, Junior at Southington High School
YELLOW: Often time, non-threatening situations can feel frightening when certain language comes up. For instance, when using the bathroom while trans. On days where I am not harassed, the small things can be incredibly scary. On one occasion I was followed into the restroom by two boys. I entered my stall, used the bathroom, and then I heard it.
"What is it?"
"I think it's a transvestite or something."
I waited, fearful, all too familiar with where this could lead. Thankfully they left, but just being referred to with a slur, with those words and names, made something commonplace, peeing, fearful. That day I learned that words can do more than hurt, they can put serious, and justified fear into the hearts of those that hear it. . Not only for me, and not only for trans kids, but for lgbtq+ teens everywhere.
-Parker Levensaler, Junior at Southington High School
Green: What is an example of a time where someone around you acted in a way you wish you did?
Around my school slurs targeting the LGBT community are used a lot. There wasn’t really an LGBT presence at school until I came out last year so we’re a little behind in comparison to other schools. Up until this year actually I was the only out person at my school. I wanted so bad to change the school to make it more accepting for LGBT kids and inform people about the harm the words they were saying inflicted but I was so intimidated. There was already a social stigma surrounding me because I was out and I didn’t want to make it worse. Whether it was when I overheard conversations or direct verbal attacks I was scared. My attitude however changed this fall. My friend and I (who had just come out as pan) were in band practice and one of the kids in there called someone else a faggot. I wasn’t going to say anything because of how I felt but my friend immediately responded to him telling him what he did wrong. I was amazed that he could do that without a moment of hesitation. I was so envious of the courage he had just shown but it also taught me something. I wasn’t alone in school. I wasn’t the only out one anymore and I’d always have him and all my other friends to help me in how I wanted to change the school. Since then we've done so much for the betterment of our school and will continue to do so.
-Chris, Senior at Brunswick School
Blue: How did you lift someone up when they were blue?
"One time in biology class, a friend of mine got upset when someone called her stupid for doing worse than him on a test. It was someone she really hated and frequently bothered her, so it hurt her a lot. I helped her feel better by reminding her of how smart she is and how hard she's been working. I told her jokes and mentioned how her class rank was way higher than his anyway."
- Samantha, Sophomore
Purple: How did/can an act of kindness help you heal when you were emotionally or physically bruised. (Saturday)
When I was coming to terms with my identity and expressing that to my family and friends, my vulnerability and openness was met with different reactions. It was a difficult time; many people were closed-minded and those who had good intentions often said or did things that hurt, a lot, but they didn’t understand why. It was a very isolating time. I didn’t feel I had many people, if anyone, to talk to. It was especially hard at home, since I’m the youngest child and all my siblings either lived on their own or were away at school. My parents had a hard time being supportive; they were just very confused on how to handle this situation, and them being lost, in a sense, didn’t help me at all to navigate the confusion I felt.
Even though my sister wasn’t at home to comfort me, she found a way to show her support across the country. She joined her business school’s ally group and talked to me a lot about how I was feeling and how she could help. In the past year, she’s become the head of the ally organization and runs a lot of great events that help train and educate allies in her community. She has taken her support for me and grown it in to something so wonderful and helpful for everyone around her. I couldn’t be prouder of her.
That’s the great thing about acts of kindness: they grow and affect everyone around you. No matter how big or small, one act of kindness makes a difference. Everyone has the power to change the world we live in and make it a better place. I hope this week has inspired you to keep that attitude and implement it in your life every day.
- Kate Connors, Senior at Greenwich Academy
"I'm so proud to be apart of No Name-Calling Week. It's wonderful to see so many people come together to fight these issues. It gives me a lot of hope for our future."
"To me no name calling week is a time to highlight everything that lgbtq+ kids shouldn't have to face, but do, and put an end to it; because no one deserves to be called mean things, and I hope we can stop it altogether eventually."
"To me, No Name Calling Week was important because bullying is such a huge problem and names really influence the way we think of things. If we all make a conscious effort not to call people bad names and to even go the extra mile to say something nice, everyone would be a lot happier. No Name Calling Week is really about positivity to me in general, and working to make the world a better place by focusing on the little things."
"No Name Calling Week to me is a week where people don't use slurs or other rude names towards others. I personally love weeks like this because it makes people become more aware of things they say on a daily basis that could be seen as offensive. Overall, No Name Calling week is just a week where people treat each other with respect and it's also a way for people to learn what is not okay to say in a casual setting."
"No Name Calling Week is an important time for LGBT+ people to speak out against the hateful language that is common in our culture. Instead of sitting silent and accepting the words that hurt us, it is instead the time to act and teach people that these words still hurt, and that their usage must end."
"This week was important to me because I got to reflect on all the times hateful language has been used again me and my friends and act against it. It's really awesome also seeing a lot of people involved in it and supporting it."
Student Leaders Reflect on Their Student Org. Training and the Transgender Day of Remembrance
“Overall, I had so much fun meeting new people, reuniting with old friends, engaging in new activities on GLSEN’s mission and purpose, and sharing all the great food! Developing our very own workshop proposals for the True Colors Conference helped me grow as a student leader because it gave me the chance to offer my own knowledge and skills on different safe school topics. I realized how important my voice is since I plan to be heard as much as possible.”
- Kylar Maldonado, Junior, Ansonia High School
“My favorite part of training was when we learned our leadership styles. It taught me how to cooperate with people with different leadership styles and I now feel like a more flexible leader. I would also love to recreate the pride flag activity with my GSA! My pride flag not only reflected my multiple identities but also reminded me of the things that inspired me to become who I am today. It was a great way to get me motivated, and I'd love to share this activity with my school.”
- Gray Sailor, Senior, Metropolitan Learning Center
“For me, the Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day to reflect on the world I live in and how so many lives can be taken because of ignorance and fear. But I am so thankful for my own life and the lives of other transgender people I know. Much to my dismay, many members of my GSA did not know the day existed or the horrifying statistics showing the high levels of bullying and harassment targeting transgender and gender non-conforming students. I feel a responsibility to my school community and those lost in the last year to inform people of the significance of the day.”
- Alex Cavanagh, Junior, Amity Regional High School
Stay tuned for more quotes, articles, and stories from our Student Org. Team!