Last September, I started working at GLSEN as an MSW intern in the Education and Youth Programs department. I graduated from NYU in May and was excited to continue working here this summer to assist in creating new resources for students this year! As today is my last day with GLSEN, I thought it would be fitting to reflect on my time here and wrap things up in a blog since I started my internship last year by writing a blog.
I came into social work because of the broad range of work you can do around social issues, but I wasn't sure exactly how I saw myself fitting into this work. At my previous internship, I worked one-on-one with youth and in groups, and really loved working with people directly. However, I felt really frustrated by the macro level issues and systems that I started to realize my clients were up against. I came to GLSEN eager to work on these larger issues, but I didn't know how to do that yet exactly, and I wasn't sure what to expect during the next year.
Jumping into a completely macro-level field placement, I learned all kinds of ways to create change within existing systems and structures. There were really awesome opportunities here. I developed my skills in creating tools and resources for students and Chapters to transform their schools, and I got to be involved with the development of GLSEN's programs as well as planning campaigns. I even got to do some research stuff here, which involved coding and analyzing data from GLSEN’s GSA Census - for me, that was one of the coolest things I could ever do!
But what I also learned at GLSEN is what it’s like to work in a space that’s really trans-affirming, which fortunately coincided perfectly with a time in my life where I really needed that sort of space. When I came here, I had recently started to understand my own non-binary gender, which was sometimes a hard journey to be on when the majority of people and spaces don’t create room for you to be yourself. But people at GLSEN didn't make assumptions about my gender, and I didn't experience dysphoria or anxiety from how the physical space was set up, from things like gendered bathrooms since GLSEN made sure they had an all gender bathroom in the office. My first day here, more people than I can count asked my pronouns, and everyone respected my process and checked in about pronouns sometimes and it wasn't a big deal. I could come to work and focus on the things I needed to do since the work environment gave me room to be me.
Now, I have a deeper understanding of the systems and issues people face, and how to make things better now as we all work together towards a future where these issues don’t even exist. As I continue on my journey, I’ve decided to combine my clinical and macro level skills and experiences in a position where I’ll be working directly with youth in NYC. Being able to be in a space like GLSEN, where no assumptions were made and I felt safe, I’m now inspired and excited to create that space in my new role. I know that if I can help one youth feel like they are able to truly be themselves, then I know I’m doing my job in breaking down those big macro issues many trans and gender nonconforming youth face in society today. Just over a year after starting my journey here, I feel prepared, grounded, and excited about this next chapter, and will carry with me not only the skills I learned at GLSEN, but the values and the mission in everything I do!
GLSEN strongly believes that change should come from the community who is most impacted by an issue. The Transgender Student Rights advisory committee is one way students who are experiencing the issues around gender identity and gender expression can create change first hand, in their schools. The 2013-2014 advisory committee recently chose their successors, and we’re excited to work with the new members throughout the next year as they advise our work and programming around trans issues in schools. The committee consists of ten bright and strong leaders who bring diverse perspectives and experiences around the issues facing trans and gender nonconforming students around the country. Without further adieu, we’d like to introduce you to some of the members of our 2014-2015 Transgender Student Rights advisory committee!
Be sure to follow Transgender Student Rights on Facebook, Tumblr, and/or Twitter to stay connected with the latest news, tools, and resources for creating safe schools for trans and gender nonconforming youth.
Katie: Hello everyone! I’m Katie, and I’m very excited to collaborate with everyone on the Transgender Student Rights committee! This fall, I will be a freshman at Garner Magnet High School in Garner, North Carolina. I’ve been very involved in LGBTQ activism since I was 11 and entered the world of musical theatre. My other passions include singing, playing piano, Demi Lovato, Ellen DeGeneres, The Fosters, Psychology, and reading. I prefer she/her/hers pronouns.
Aiden: Aiden is a 16 year old transgender, mixed-race student from Michigan. His pronouns are he/him. He is passionate about social activism and dedicated to the improvement of school environments for other trans students, and is looking forward to working with the rest of the Transgender Student Rights advisory committee to achieve this goal.
Sarah: I am 17 and attend North Carolina School of Science and Math, where I am a senior. I'm very passionate about LGBTQ activism, as well as physics, psychology, advanced math, and the arts. I hope to make a positive change in my community and in more widespread ways. I use she/her pronouns.
Fay: Hello everybody! My name is Fay and I'm a nonbinary 16 year old from New Jersey. I'm a junior in high school and I love cats. I'm passionate about activism for LGTBQ+ rights and I'm really excited to have a chance to make a difference this year! Besides this, I enjoy writing, reading, and I love ridiculous bands. My pronouns are xe/xyr/xem.
Morgan: Hello all! I'm a nonbinary 15 year old from Riverside, California, and I'll be starting college in the Fall of 2014 to study physics and astronomy! I'm out and proud and love standing alongside all the wonderful people in the LGBTQ community. I fill up my sketchbooks faster than I can buy them, have too many books and no room for them, and really, really love space. My pronouns are they/them/theirs.
Cynthia: Hey! My name is Cynthia, and I’m going into my senior year of high school in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. Outside of Transgender Student Rights, LGBTQ, and other advocacy, I love singing, writing, hiking, and talking to people; as Larry King once said, “you never learn anything while you’re talking”. Lastly, I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of this, so I thank GLSEN greatly for this opportunity.
Olly: Hey y’all! I’m a gender queer pansexual from Taunton, MA. I’m currently entering my junior year at Taunton High School. Within my school, I’m a hard worker who’s part of many clubs, my favorite being GSA. Being the president of my school’s GSA doesn’t stop when the last bell rings. One of my passions is advocating for LGBTQ rights. I often attend conferences, pride parades, speakings, as well as my own leadership. Massachusetts’ Department of Secondary and Elementary Education with a partnership with the Safe Schools Program has a state-wide GSA which I am a part of, and within that I'm part of the southeast region, representing my town. PFLAG (or parents and families of lesbian and gays) is another group I work with, doing speakings and sharing my story. When I’m not going LGBTQ work, I usually have my nose in a good book or am listening to some classic rock.
Ash: Hi I’m Ash and I’m a junior in Davis, California. I’m agender (neutrosis!) and my pronouns are xe/xim/xir. I really feel education about the MOGAI community is so, so important and really want to make sure that those in the community feel safe and comfortable with being who they are. I always like to keep up to date on social issues but when I’m not doing that, I’m doing my favorite subject math or some other studying. I’m excited to help other trans students feel safe and help their schools be more educated to further the former.