This year will be my first participating in Transgender Awareness Week. As co-president of my QSA, it will be my responsibility to educate my school community on transgender identities. This also means I must communicate the need for Transgender Awareness Week: why is visibility important? Why is it important to build trans awareness across communities this week?
I have tried to look to my own experience to begin to answer these questions. Growing up as a gender nonconforming youth, I often faced societal resistance that I didn't quite understand. Incidents of confrontation and bullying by various adults and my peers followed me throughout my childhood to the point that I felt uncomfortable in my body, my clothes, and everything expected of me due to my sex. I found myself thrown headfirst into a strictly gendered society whose norms I couldn't quite fit, and by the time I reached high school, I was too scared and confused to explore further into my gender nonconformity.
10th grade was a catalyst for change in my life. I began identifying as queer and I set out to educate myself; it was at this point that I learned about the trans community. Seeing people with experiences similar to my own was liberating and finally led me begin exploring my gender identity. I spent nights pouring over personal stories, articles about the gender binary, and anything related to queer studies. My mental health and overall happiness improved drastically, and I was able to reach out to a community that was truly supportive of my identity and experiences. I sometimes imagine how different my childhood would have been if I had been exposed to trans narratives earlier in my life. I could have perhaps avoided years of anxiety and depression. I might have been confident in my appearance, my choices, and myself. Things would have undeniably been better.
While these past events cannot be changed, moving forward as people who have succeeded in a cisnormative society we can turn back and begin to deconstruct the obstacles we have faced (and continue to face). With our knowledge and understanding of issues specific to our community, we can and must begin to create an environment of support and awareness for the ourselves and for the next trans generation.
The bottom line is that trans youth need to be able to see themselves. They need the resources to understand how they feel, explore their identities, and find others like them. Trans youth should not grow up believing that they are sick or broken or alone. Transgender Awareness Week is a vital platform for jump-starting the type of education and change that will make it possible for transgender and gender nonconforming people to find the resources and support that they need.
*Sarah is a member of GLSEN's Transgender Student Rights Advisory Committee.
Transgender Awareness Week is an opportunity for students, educators and community members to increase visibility of the transgender community and to raise awareness of the experiences of transgender and gender nonconforming students, who often face hostile school environments. Click here to learn more and take action!
Each year students from around the country don their caps and gowns and participate in an important milestone: graduation. While research tells us that LGBT students face bullying and harassment at higher rates than their non-LGBT classmates, students from all over the country share with us the positive impacts their GSA has had on their lives. GSAs, they say, serve as a sanctuary and a place of support and affirmation of their identities. They are safe spaces where students can find the support they need to thrive in school and continue on their journey in life.
We asked students affiliated with GSAs what they are planning to do after they graduate. Here are some student highlights.
- Katiayna (NV) - studying Environmental Science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas
- Kyle (MI) - studying Global Affairs at Yale University
- Nadah (TN) - enlisting in the Air Force; future surgeon
- Zac (PA) - studying at a Community College, then Ball State University or Lock Haven University
- Daniel (NC) - studying Political Science: International and Comparative Politics at Appalachian State University
- Taurean (MA) - studying Sustainable Landscape Architecture at a local community college
- Erica (OH) - studying Environmental Engineering at a local college
- Louie (MA) - studying Psychology at Salem State University
- Tyler - studying Software Engineering
- Chelsea (OH) - joining the ROTC and studying Biology at a local college in Ohio; future doctor in the Army
- Danielle (AZ) - studying Political Science while minoring in Business and Women & Gender Studies in Arizona
- Jose (CA) - studying Culinary Arts at Le Cordon Bleu; future pastry chef
- Lii (PA) - studying International Relations while minoring in linguistics or business at New York University
- Emily (OH) - studying nursing
- Kiann (PA) - studying pre-law at the University of Miami
It’s perfect that graduation season intersects with LGBT Pride Month. We cannot think of anything more fitting since it is truly a moment of pride for students who have made it (dare we say with flying colors) and for those of us on the sidelines, who know there is not enough glitter in the world to capture how proud we are to witness the next generation of world leaders turn their tassel and begin their post-graduation life.
To the Class of 2014, congratulations! We're proud of you!
(There might be some extra love if you click on the gif!)
Just over a week ago, youth across the United States and around the world came together in a non-violent protest with a 19-year history. What once started as a class project has become an international movement in which students take a vow of silence in order to highlight the experiences of LGBT youth and to call on their school educators, administrators, and decision makers to ensure safe schools for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
Read more below about how the Day of Silence came to be, and join the hundreds of thousands of students who have come together to rise up and make a difference.
Thank you for helping us make the Day of Silence what it is today!
Visit dayofsilence.org to learn more.
Hundreds of thousands of participants across the country have taken a vow of silence today to highlight the impacts of anti-LGBT bullying & harassment on youth. As the day comes to a close, we wanted to suggest some actions you can take to break the silence in the coming days, weeks and months.
If you have a minute:
If you have an hour:
If you have an afternoon:
People often ask me how I “knew” I was transgender. Some of my fellow trans folks have told me a few stories from childhood that answer this question- their parents once catching them wearing makeup, never wanting to play with dolls, etc. But the majority of transgender friends I have will tell me something different.
I was assigned female at birth. I grew up wanting to be a princess. I had (and have) a glorious collection of teddy bears. The first indication that I was queer came when, at eleven, I suddenly proclaimed that I was a lesbian. What followed was months of confused teachers and parents and my sixth grade self trying to wade through it all with my pride intact.
I ended up on a forum for queer youth sometime that winter. I forget the name of it now. It was only when I was filling out my profile that I discovered the function to customize my gender. I could be a boy, a girl, or genderfluid. It wasn't the most cohesive set of options but the inclusion of that one word - genderfluid - piqued my interest.
A few hours later I had searched through the deepest corners of the internet to find out everything I could about genderfluidity, but also general knowledge about transness and gender variance. I had known the acronym LGBT for years, I had heard the word “transgender”, but I hadn't dwelled on it for more than a moment.
After that day researching transgender identities, I could never look at myself the same way. I had never thought that I was unhappy as a girl, but I didn't think I was supposed to be happy with it- I thought I just was a girl and that was what life was going to be for me. I was always going to be called a girl and she and my birth name and I had no choice in the matter. Seeing the vague option for being anything but a boy or a girl awoke a desire in me I had never felt before, a desire to be the person I wanted to be.
That’s why when I heard of Facebook’s new gender options, I had to reread the news release several times before it sunk in. It was real, and it wasn't just three options like on that dinky site from five years ago, it was fifty. Fifty identities with which a person making their profile can align themselves. Fifty different opportunities for someone to feel at home in their gender presentation, when they had never had that option before.
I am ecstatic, not only for all the trans people who can now properly list their gender on this popular social network, but for all the people across the United States who have yet to find that term that encompasses who they are and get to be exposed to these choices and start asking- who am I?
There are issues, yes, with the roll out of these new gender options for Facebook. The othering of trans people; the minimal pronoun options beyond “he”,”she” and “they”; and the inherent risk of identifying oneself as trans on such a public platform, are just a few. But this step Facebook has taken is momentous, and a beautiful start. Even within many transgender communities the inclusion of non-binary people is ignored, and I expect that the options will be expanded as time goes on and become more comprehensive for all types of people.
Aiden is a member of the Transgender Student Rights Advisory Committee.
We're excited to announce a Call for Nominations for our GSA of the Year Award! Do you know a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) or a similar student group that has accomplished amazing things to advance or address LGBT issues in their school this year? We want to hear about them!
The GLSEN GSA of the Year Award recognizes and celebrates a GSA for its outstanding work and commitment to advocating and organizing around LGBT issues in their school. You can nominate the GSA at your school or another GSA who has done great work that you want to bring to national attention.
GSAs are student-led clubs that help to ensure middle and high schools offer a safe and affirming environment for all students. GLSEN has supported GSAs for more than 20 years, and more than 4,000 GSAs are currently registered with GLSEN.
All nominations are due by 11:59pm ET on Friday, February 21, 2014. Only K-12 schools located in the United States are eligible.
Last summer, I had the pleasure of attending a month-long program at a state university where I attended a few classes led by college professors and interacted with 400 artistic and beautiful other high school students from across the state. One of the classes offered was Peace & Conflict Resolution, which analyzed peace on the individual, small group, and societal levels. As an educational activity, the members of the class configured hundreds upon hundreds of notes that had sweet and kind messages and littered these bright rays of delight across the campus. They could be found on every door, every wall, every light pole and every step. The classmates carried with them pads of the adorable niceties and passed them out randomly to passing students, giving each of us a sense of fulfillment and joy as we unraveled the awaited exclamations ranging from “You make a difference- don’t forget it!” to “Are you America’s Next Top Model? I think so!”
Having witnessed the outburst of euphoria and increase in the level of politeness and good will in the human reactions around me that directly resulted from this experience, my GSA will be performing an equivalent action this year during No Name Calling Week. Everyone deserves to come to a school covered in positivity, love, and acceptance. Why not make that mission literal?! It is nice to be reminded that we are beautiful, funny, smart, creative, and maybe even the next President of the United States of America; we ought to recognize that it can only help our self-esteems to be told that we are worth it. At the bottom of each note, the GSA will post its logo and club information. Hopefully, we can not only spring a fountain of happiness and paying that happiness forward but a growth in the size and impact of our GSA, as well!
But why wait until No Name Calling Week to start being generous with your complimentary behavior? You can do it every day! It might even cause a chain reaction which may ultimately convince an endangered student that they are worth the affection and praise they may not be getting from peers or from home.
A simple action could make someone’s day, week, month, year, or lifetime.
Liam is a senior, and is a GLSEN media ambassador.
We recently put a call out to students, asking what their experience was like organizing and participating in No Name-Calling Week. Here’s what Kai had to share about that:
When I was in high school we hosted No Name-Calling Week twice (my junior and senior year). To prepare we would hang up informational posters about the week and artwork from members of our GSA. During the week we would challenge the students to see how long they could go without calling each other names.
My school had two lunches and we would table at both. We would provide information about our GSA, GLSEN and No Name-Calling Week, and other GLSEN programs such as the Day of Silence, Ally Week, and ThinkB4YouSpeak. We would also share information about other organizations such as The Trevor Project and local LGBT organizations.
On the last day of the week we would hold an assembly and show the film "Bullied" which is about Jamie Nabozny. Follow the film showing we would have a discussion based on the reference guide from the movie as well as questions we came up with in our previous GSA meetings. The film is about 48 minutes long and our classes were about 75 minutes long so it worked out beautifully.
With everything we did we definitely got both students and faculty more aware of the negative effects of name-calling. We would see students standing up for each other more and educating their friends about it too
Whether you’re in elementary, middle or high school, we have many ways for you to participate in No Name-Calling Week. Click through to find out more.
Kai is the former Jump-Start Student Coordinator of GLSEN Southern Maine. Since graduating, Kai is now living in Florida where Kai hopes to pursue a degree in psychology.
With merely hours until we bid 2013 adieu, we thought it important to check back in on all the amazing things that happened over the last 365 days. Here are some of our favorite highlights of the year.
GLSEN starts the year off in whirlwind of change as we settle back into our home in lower Manhattan after over 2 months of being displaced.
No Name-Calling Week is celebrated for the 10th time! Thousands of teachers and students participate in the national week of action. Art galleries filled with messages of hope, resiliency, and love are organized in schools across the country. (more)
GLSEN Middle Tennessee’s Jump-Start team discusses their experiences with bullying and harassment in school with Fun. This eventually leads to a GLSEN & The Ally Coalition partnership during Fun.’s nationwide tour. (more)
GLSEN’s Research Department releases the first ever research brief examining LGBT student experiences in school sports and physical education entitled The Experiences of LGBT Students in School Athletics. (more)
GLSEN Greater Cincinnati is barred from participating in the Cincinnati St. Patrick’s Day Parade. With thousands of petition supporters and outspoken ally organizations, the Cincinnati community rallies behind the Chapter and GLSEN’s mission; city council members withdrew from the parade and local organizations walked with signs supporting GLSEN Cincinnati and youth. (more)
GLSEN releases a YouTube video to set the record straight on the meaning and impact of the Day of Silence. Whose side are you on? soars on Facebook and YouTube with over 45,000 views.
Jason Collins makes his first public appearance since coming out at GLSEN’s Respect Awards in New York City. He receives the 2013 GLSEN Courage Award. (more)
The Respect Awards in New York also has a splash of aloha as Farrington High School alumni Janet Mock presents her alma mater with this year’s GSA of the Year Award. (more)
The U.S. Department of Education announces that, for the first time, it would include a mandatory question about allegations of harassment based on sexual orientation on its Civil Rights Data Collection survey. This represents the first time the Department has asked about sexual orientation on any of its surveys. The Department will make the data collection optional for the 2014-2015 school year and mandatory beginning in the 2015-2016 school year. (more)
The GLSEN Research department releases its first ever report on the experiences of LGBT youth online, Out Online. This report documents that LGBT students not only face greater harassment but also find greater peer support and access to health information. (more)
Transgender Student Rights is officially entrusted to GLSEN to help further its growth. This student-founded organization was created specifically to advocate for the needs of transgender and gender nonconforming students. (more)
GLSEN’s Executive Director, Eliza Byard, speaks at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Her speech on those sacred steps honors the March on Washington, Bayard Rustin, and the responsibility we all have to lift up the voices of young people. (more)
Two Student Ambassadors, Liam & Paulina, represent GLSEN at the NY Times sponsored “Out Youth” panel. During this panel members of the audience were able to ask questions regarding the state of LGBT youth. The other organizations represented included the Trevor Project, the Human Rights Campaign and the True Colors Fund.
Laila Al-Shamma receives GLSEN’s 2013 Student Advocate of the Year award. Her amazing work in her school and for her GSA brings her to the Respect Awards in Los Angeles where she gives one of the most inspiring speeches of the night.
Ally Week turns 9! This year we challenged ourselves not only to identify new allies and celebrate existing allies, but to ask ourselves how we can all become better allies to one another. (more)
GLSEN grows to 38 local Chapters in 25 states! (find your local chapter here)
After many discussions, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi signs on as a cosponsor to GLSEN’s top-priority federal legislation, the Safe Schools Improvement Act. Traditionally, House leadership rarely cosponsors legislation. Pelosi’s support of SSIA elevates the importance of the legislation and is key to getting other members of leadership on board. (more)
GLSEN Media Ambassador, Ashton is featured on Upworthy as he brings attention to why the safe schools movement is important to him. (more)
We did it! A Safe Space Kit in every school! (more)
From all of us at GLSEN we want to wish you a Happy New Year!
Here's to a fun, fierce, and fab 2014!
Dear Ms. Svenson,
I was stunned to hear your recent comments about transgender students during a school board meeting. Your suggestion that transgender students be castrated before using a restroom that aligns with their gender identity is inhumane, inappropriate, and potentially dangerous to the students in your school district.
In the 2011 National School Climate Survey, GLSEN found that more than three-quarters of transgender students experienced verbal harassment based on their gender expression or gender identity. In addition, 3 of 10 transgender students report having been physically harassed as well. By publicly suggesting that transgender students should be castrated, you are reinforcing this dangerous and unjust trend.
As a fellow school board member, I know that this role has many responsibilities. Chief among them is to act in the best interests of the students. However, your comments suggest a prejudice against transgender and gender non-conforming students, rather than a stance designed to help the students in your district.
Your responsibility to act in the best interests of your students includes ALL of your students, including transgender and gender non-conforming students. Whatever your personal views may be, they need to stay away from your role as a public official. You should know that when you speak publicly, your words can ripple throughout your school community, and could lead to even more bullying and harassment against transgender students. Your comments dehumanize transgender and gender non-conforming students, and they could endanger students in your district.
In your comments, you derided recent successes in Massachusetts and California to make schools safer and more welcoming to transgender and gender non-conforming students. As a school board member in Massachusetts, I implore you to give these policies a serious look, and consider taking a proactive approach to supporting transgender and gender non-conforming students. When we create healthier school environments, we’ll be in a much better place as school board members to accomplish what we originally set out to do: help students learn.
Alex Pratt is a co-founder of GLSEN’s Transgender Student Rights and a member of the Littleton School Committee.