July 28, 2014

Hi, GLSEN community. My name is Lucy, and I’ll be working behind the scenes as a Communications Intern. As a self-identified feminist, and a queer woman with a girlfriend (and two cats) I love dearly, I look forward to bringing my pun-loving, nerd-grrrl feminism to GLSEN!

From a young age, my teacher mother instilled a deep appreciation of education, and its critical role in advocating for social change.  Though she likely never would’ve placed her twenty-something-year-old daughter as a zinester or a feminist calendar art coordinator, I do know that she accepted my awkwardly rehearsed coming out monologue with a knowing eye roll and a: Well, yeah. I still expect grandchildren, you know. And for that, I count myself lucky. 

But I haven’t always been that lucky, and neither have been my closest loved ones. When you factor in that 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted, and another 1 in 3 women are currently restricting their caloric intake on a diet (regardless of body type or BMI), it becomes exceedingly clear women are bombarded by various levels of demeaning emotional and physical attacks that suggest ‘we aren’t good enough.’ My interest in combating these messages, particularly aimed at young girls, prompted me to join a Peer Health Advocacy Program in college (where I specialized in lesbian health) and, upon seeing there was no such resource, to start my own feminist group. And you know who my greatest allies were? The LGBTQ community. From our very first meeting over coffee to our more trying campaigns to stage the first student-run burlesque show the campus had ever seen (which was a huge success, in case you were curious), the preexisting LGBT student group supported my feminist vision no matter how blurry or far-sighted it seemed at times. I am proud that both of my communities were able to harmonize effectively, but unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.

I’d like to keep pushing for intersectionality, not just among LGBTQ activists and feminist activists, but amongst overlapping boundaries of ethnicity and race, and amongst class lines and differently abled bodies. I come from a background of political protest for gendered and sexual equality, but nowhere was intersectionality better expressed than in the international zine community. At around sixteen, a beautiful girl gave me a mixtape. It was on my bed, bent over a handwritten love note that I first heard Bikini Kill, and a world of teen grrrl angst, heart-and-soul-felt punk music, and cut n’ paste zines opened itself up to me. It was through writing zines and trading them across the world—oftentimes receiving in turn a stapled publication scrawled in a language I could barely identify without the aid of an online translator—that my suburban experience was livened up by a chorus of uniquely different voices.  Intersectionality means questioning and embracing the intersecting lines of our shared and unique oppressions, and addressing one another with a respectful awareness of such differences. A white man may appear to hold a great degree of social privilege, but if he is also transgender, differently-abled, and working-class, it is just as important to consider his intersectional lines of oppression as it is his dominance. In short: nothing is that easy. The feminist and LGBTQ rights movement have become unlikely bedfellows, but here I am! Just as the lesbian and the gay, and the bisexual and the transgender communities have had their own intersectional conflicts of identity, feminists and LGBTQ activists have plenty to be gained from working alongside one another and cohesion.

I look forward to working together, both as a GLSEN intern, and down the long road ahead of my personal brand of queer sexual health activism, peppered by my feminist upbringing. The feminist in me is excited to meet the lesbian and queer activist in me, and the other way around. GLSEN perfectly marries my own passion for youth activism and education, and it’s a happy marriage. I’d love to see more happy marriages now, too. But before we can do anything, we need to support and advocate for our most vulnerable and most potentially powerful population: our marginalized youth.

July 09, 2014

On Sunday, June 29, GLSEN staff, chapter leaders, volunteers, donors and students marched in the NYC Pride Parade to celebrate our work on behalf of LGBT students everywhere. GLSEN's contingent made its way from midtown Manhattan down to Christopher Street. We paused there, for a few minutes, in front of The Stonewall Inn before making our way to the end of the parade route. Forty-five years ago, the riots there marked the beginning of what many consider the modern movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in the United States. That moment served as a chance to reflect on the huge progress made so far in rights for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and on the progress we have made together as GLSEN since 1990.

In that moment, that feeling of gratitude extended to every individual that participated in GLSEN pride marches across the country. Through the distribution and promotion of materials during tabling or marching efforts we informed constituents of our programs. Those #GLSENproud signs we waved in the air helped educators, students, parents and advocates know that they have allies working on their behalf.

It was our honor to culminate an amazing year of GLSEN work with those who share a deep passion for safe schools. Our chanting voices helped spread the message that we need more supportive educators, more GSAs in schools and more inclusive policies and curriculum in schools now! Thank you to all who participated for your efforts to continue to raise awareness of the importance of creating safe schools for all students.

July 09, 2014

RICHMOND – JUNE 12, 2014 - Richmond lost a local hero when John Leppo, Chair of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s Richmond chapter, passed away. John had been battling health problems for much of the past year and succumbed to his ailments on June 9 at 3:15pm.

John Leppo joined the GLSEN Richmond board in 2001 as Membership Chair and quickly assumed a leadership role in 2002 when he was voted Co-Chair. Over his 12+ years of leadership, John was involved in local safe schools policy issues and state-wide legislative efforts and instrumental in the expansion of Gay-Straight Alliances clubs across Richmond.“He worked tirelessly … to raise money for us. He continued to set up booths at every community event he could find. He was unstoppable in his efforts to keep GLSEN Richmond’s important work for our LGBT youth going,” said Trish Boland, Co-Founder, GLSEN Richmond.

In 2001, John helped coordinate the first Richmond-area Safe Schools Coalition Summit. The event was held to build relationships with ally organizations in the community and to increase awareness of LGBT youth issues in education. His involvement in the coalition shaped a GLSEN Richmond program that monitored legislative bills filed in the Virginia House and Senate that could have a negative impact on GSA clubs and their activities.

The Safe Schools Coalition (less formal as the years went on) continued its work throughout the years and this past legislative session defeated a pair of bills -- House Bill 493 and Senate Bill 236 – that would have been detrimental to Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) programs in Virginia schools. The broad coalition of supporters included GLSEN Northern Virginia, GLSEN National, The LGBT Caucus of the VA Democratic Party, VA ACLU, Equality Virginia, The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, University of Richmond Law School faculty, and others. This year’s success mirrors similar legislative efforts during the 2005, 2006, and 2007 Legislative Sessions when the coalition previously defeated anti-GSA legislative bills.

In addition to his policy advocacy, John helped to start the first Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club in the Richmond area which formed at Maggie L. Walker High School. Over the course of his 12 years of safe schools advocacy, John assisted in the formation, sustainability and networking of 32 GSA clubs in high schools across Central Virginia. Most recently, GLSEN Richmond held the 12th Annual GSA Summit. The event had the second largest turnout in chapter history

GLSEN Richmond is proud to have worked with a pioneer in the LGBT rights movement. All of us – GSA advisors, current and former GSA students, community partners and constituents – owe John our gratitude. We have benefited from his tenacity and commitment to creating safe spaces for LGBT youth in schools regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. With heavy hearts, we mourn the loss of our friend, colleague and leader. A memorial will be held by John's family at Virginia Commonwealth University, Student Commons - Salon 1& 2 on Friday June 20th at 3PM. All are welcome to attend.In lieu of flowers John's family would request donations go to GLSEN Richmond.

ABOUT GLSEN Richmond

Each year, GLSEN Richmond monitors legislative bills filed in the VA House and Senate to identify bills that are potentially detrimental to GSA clubs and their activities. GLSEN Richmond worked with coalitions during the 2005, 2006, and 2007 Legislative Sessions to defeat previous anti-GSA legislative bills.

April 02, 2014

GLSEN Baltimoreis distributing materials to local GSAs that are participating in Day of Silence. There will also be a DOS march around the Washington Monument in downtown Baltimore followed by a picnic and story sharing as part of an official 'Breaking the Silence.' The focus of the story share will be on Kay Halle, former Co-chair who recently passed.

GLSEN Greater Cincinnati will hold their Prom April12th. This year’s theme is “Night of Noise.”  GLSEN Greater Cincinnati Prom includes dancing, DJ, snacks and soda for LGBTQPIA youth and their allies in a safe, supportive space. Saturday, April 12, 2014, 7:00 pm – Midnight. Amberley Ballroom, Mayerson JCC, 8485 Ridge Rd, Cincinnati, OH 45236

GLSEN Greater Kansas City we will be having Breaking the Silence/Night of Noise activities for the first time at the Like Me Lighthouse on April 11. The Rally will be at Mill Creek Park in front of the JC Nichols Fountain. The rally will start about 4:00 and continue to the Breaking the Silence Pizza party.

GLSEN Hudson Valley will be hosting a Breaking the Silence Dance in collaboration with the Kingston High School GSA and the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center on April 11th from 7-10pm. This will be the 4th year we have held the dance. We have on average 30-40 youth participating.

GLSEN Middle Tennessee's Jump-Start Student Leadership Team, in collaboration with community partners, will host a Day of Silence kick off at OutCentral (1709 Church Street, Nashville, TN) on Sunday, April 6th. We invite student leaders from LGBTQ-inclusive youth-led organizations to attend at no cost! The morning event will feature tools that GSAs and individuals can use to commemorate Day of Silence in their own schools. After lunch, students will facilitate a panel of "out" individuals and activists from different walks of life.

GLSEN New York City launched their Day of Silence Fund for GSAs. The fund was open to GSAs seeking financial assistance in support of their Day of Silence organizing. Students or faculty/staff from any school in the 5 boroughs were invited to apply for up to $100 to use towards their efforts. Awarded schools include a new school that supports students who are over age and under credited: Professional Pathways High School. In addition, Mount Olive High School, Midwood High School, Susan E. Wagner High School, East Side Middle School - M114, Abraham Lincoln High School, Plainedge High School and East Brooklyn Community High School all received grants.

GLSEN New York Capital Region has organized the annual Breaking the Silence Rally at the EGG since April of 2002. This event, free of charge to participants, gives our LGBT youth and their allies an opportunity to come together and break their vow of silence as a group. Once the silence is broken, an open mic program encourages everyone to come up on stage and share their experiences. The event takes place Friday, April 11at 4:00pm - 10:00pm at the Empire State Plaza Concourse in Albany.

GLSEN Northern Virginia will hold a Breaking the Silence event at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington. They expect 80-100 students and it is a dinner, open mic, and dance! 

GLSEN Phoenix is participating in the Phoenix Pride Parade on Saturday April 5 from 9:30am-12. They are inviting people to march with them to show our strength in the cause for safe schools for all students and will be promoting DOS at the event by encouraging them to “take a vow.” Bottled water and buttons provided. GLSEN shirts for sale. They have an official registration for marching with them in the parade

GLSEN Pittsburgh held a series of workshops on March 20th (Westmoreland County) and March 21st (Allegheny County) to help students brainstorm activities in support of Day of Silence. The last workshop made it to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  

GLSEN Richmond: So far, seven high schools in Virginia are participating in the 2014 Day of Silence program.  They are Appomatox Regional Governor’s School, The Collegiate School, Freeman HS, Louisa HS, Matoaca HS, Powhatan HS, and York High School. GLSEN Richmond is supporting High Schools by providing GLSEN swag for their school organizing.

GLSEN San Diego is awarding 19 of their local GSAs a $75 gift certificate for the GLSEN store so that they can put it towards purchasing DOS materials.

GLSEN Southern Nevada is hosting a Day of Silence Breaking the Silence Rally at the The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada located at 401 S. Maryland Pkwy Las Vegas, NV 89101

GLSEN Tucson will be tabling during opening night of a local high schools performance of The Leramie Project.  Appropriately enough, the first performance is on Day of Silence! The chapter plans on having some GSA students there to talk about DOS and will provide resources for interested community members. 

GLSEN Washington State is planning a Breaking the Silence Beach Party! The event is a chance for LGBT youth to celebrate their accomplishments, mingle and share stories. It will take place at Alki Beach Shelter - across from Pegasus Pizza.

March 26, 2014

Maine may be the first state to achieve marriage equality by popular vote, but that is only part of the story. Southern and coastal Maine tends to be more progressive than inland, northern and eastern parts of the state. The statewide marriage equality vote was heavily carried by those more progressive areas, where the state population is concentrated. In other areas the vote was definitely negative, in keeping with the generally conservative and religious populations there. The work that the Downeast Maine chapter of GLSEN does is mostly in that part of the state.

We learned a few years ago that students in a high school in a very rural conservative area were attempting to start a GSA, and were experiencing strong reluctance from the administration. Although other clubs could be started with only the blessing of the administrators, the GSA for some reason required the Board's approval, and it was hard to get the matter on their agenda. Months became two years, but the ninth-grade boy who initiated the idea was persistent.

Over the next year, a newly-formed PFLAG chapter in the area, together with the Downeast and Southern Maine GLSEN chapters, and with some lawyerly help from Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), collaborated to support the students. Students also initiated a social media campaign and gathered hundreds of "likes." Together we persuaded the school administrators that they had no legal right to deny the GSA's formation unless they disbanded all school clubs. We were pleased to learn then from the same administrators that they had been in favor of the GSA from the beginning, despite their having given no indication of that.

Now three years later the GSA is thriving. They have had several school-wide events, are well-known, and even carried a large banner in the school's Homecoming Parade last fall. We have been staying in close touch with them, and occasionally attending their meetings.

To date there has been no contagion to other schools in that part of the state, but our GLSEN chapters are working on it!

--Peter Rees is a member of GLSEN's Downeast Maine chapter. 

Connect with GLSEN Southern Maine or Downeast Maine  -  Get the Facts about GSAs  -  Find a GSA Advisor  -  Learn About LGBT Students in Rural and Small Towns

January 23, 2014

We have a vision for Albuquerque schools where each LGBTQ student feels valued and supported in their community. We want each student to thrive in a culture of affirming language, to see themselves positively reflected in curriculum. We want teachers and administrators to intentionally work to develop a climate of possibility that nurtures the enhancement of sense-of-self. We strive to create an educational climate where no one, students, teachers and administrators alike, should ever feel they leave something of themselves behind when they enter an Albuquerque classroom. 

Therefore, the creation of an active, thriving GLSEN Chapter seemed a natural and vital step toward the safety and success of students in the Albuquerque community. Our Chapter goal is transforming the current culture of silence in classrooms into a thriving culture of competence and accountability that creates a safe educational experience for all students. First year steps toward this primary goal are:

  1. Developing visibility and support in the schools via GLSEN National programs such as No Name Calling Week and Day of Silence 
  2. Cultivating community support and strengthening partnerships via monthly community dialogue forums with the goal that some participants will take on an active role within our GLSEN Chapter
  3. Outreach to local educators, counselors & administrators by means of a Know Your Rights educational workshop and by the distribution of local LGBTQ Community Resources

We are so excited for our community chapter kick-off event this spring in which we will collaborate with our local PFLAG to offer a day of community centered panels, keynote speakers, & strategic planning break-out sessions titled: Advocacy: How Students, Educators, Families, & Allies Can Advocate for Safe Classrooms. The momentum and energy of this kick-off will make GLSEN Albuquerque a visible and accessible local resource and will inspire our community to engage, take action, and advocate for safe classrooms for LGBTQ students. To get involved or to learn more about GLSEN Albuquerque email Albuquerque@chapters.glsen.org 

August 09, 2013

Society can break people. On the day I realized this, I was in a 6th grade classroom in Manhattan, Ks. It would be my first opportunity in life to look someone in the eyes and try to help them heal. I was a sparkly-eyed bilingual elementary education student teacher with dreams of changing the world in what I considered to be a diverse school. That’s when a 6th grade student, Francisco*, broke my heart.

The other students all filed out to the playground for recess with the lead teacher but as he often did, Francisco stayed behind to chat with me while I graded papers. Most of the time we’d chat a little in Spanish, his first language. He never wanted the other students to hear him speak Spanish, and insisted that everyone else call him Frank. I, however, was allowed to call him by his given name, “because it doesn’t sound ugly when you say it.”

This particular day he looked like he was hiding tears behind his smile.

“Miss, I don’t like being the only Mexican here,” he spoke softly.

I raised my eyes to his with a smile and asked, “Why not?”

“People here, they say bad things about Mexicans.” Tears welled and his long black lashes blinked them away. Francisco had recently moved from New Mexico where he’d lived in a predominantly Mexican- American community to a town in Kansas where he was, indeed, the only Hispanic kid in his grade.

“Francisco, let me tell you something. I want to be sure you hear me, because this is important.”

His eyes held mine so I continued with an earnest look, trying to hold back tears of my own, “Never be ashamed of who God made you to be. He made you special. It’s okay to be different, differences are to be embraced. Wouldn’t it be a boring world if we were all the same?”

“Yeah, but, no one else here speaks Spanish, and people look at us weird when my mom and I are at the store and she speaks to me in Spanish.”

With a smile to hide that my heart was breaking for him, I teased, “I speak Spanish. Am I no one?”

“But you are different, Miss. You like Mexicans.”

Really holding back the tears, I pressed on, “Francisco. You are special. I actually know very few people who can speak two languages, and that makes you MORE special than you apparently even know. Be PROUD that you can do that. Don’t hide it! Speak to your mom in Spanish in public and understand that the people who stare may just be jealous that you are smarter than they are.”

I said this last bit not exactly believing it, but wanting to. It was apparently enough for him though, because he lowered his eyes and said a quiet, “Thank you.”

“Now get on out to recess before you miss the whole thing,” I said cheerily. But as soon as he was out of the room, I lowered my head and cried. I cried for him, I cried for our narrow-minded ignorant society, I cried because I felt righteously angry, filled with a passion for changing the world, but not knowing how.

More than twelve years later, as a mom in her mid-30s, I keep reenacting that same conversation. This time I’m trying to find the words to help heal new friends. This time they are LGBT friends (yes, at least one of each of them!) I found that when speaking to people who our society treats unequally, people who are sometimes stared at and whispered about in public, that my words are continually echoing, “Never be ashamed of who God made you to be! YOU are special. It’s okay to be different, differences are to be embraced!”

However, when speaking these truths, that EVERY child should hear over and over, to people who are MUCH older than twelve and who have BELIEVED for SO long the negative things our society says about them, I see that it’s going to take more than just nice words from a straight, Spanish-speaking white woman to heal their pain. The words of love and acceptance spilling from my lips will only act as a soothing balm for an hour or two at best. The kind of healing they need, really, is going to take our society changing. For the first time since I stopped teaching to have a family of my own, I have found my passion again to change the world, starting with the children in my own community in Wichita, Ks. I will be their ally, their advocate and their mentor if needed. I will show kids how to embrace each other’s differences so that new generations can give hope to the ones who came before them. Will you join me in bringing GLSEN to our schools so that ALL kids can feel safe, respected and loved? 

Liz H.

July 03, 2013

Hello everyone! My name is Ari Himber. I am the new Community Initiatives intern at the GLSEN New York City office. I am entering my sophomore year at Baruch College where I am currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Affairs. I intend to devote much of my career to education.

I am motivated to work for GLSEN because I have had a lot of experience with bullying and oppression. I was harassed in the Orthodox Jewish high school I attended for being queer and an atheist, as well as for my political views; many of my close friends were similarly oppressed. I was the first "out" student in my school, and I had issues with both students and faculty on occasion because of it.

However, it was not just my own experience with bullies that motivates me – it is the systematic silencing that LGBTQ people face in the American education system. We learn about Martin Luther King but not Bayard Rustin; we read "A Streetcar Named Desire" but do not discuss that Tennessee Williams was queer. Obviously, this does not apply to every teacher and school – but it is a pervasive, oppressive means of denying LGBTQ people the role models they may look up to. Not every school has a Gay-Straight Alliance, a guidance counselor who is trained to help LGBTQ students and faculty, or an administration that is willing to step in and put a stop to the explicit bullying queer students face daily.

I am working for GLSEN because I believe in its mission: that we must value and respect all people and their contributions, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. My work in the Community Initiatives department at GLSEN will help advance this mission by helping to map out the organization’s chapter-work calendar so that the organization can more proactively support chapter work nation-wide. I will also be working on the constituent engagement database and reviewing the new GLSEN website for organizational clarity and consistency.

May 03, 2013

As a new staff member I have had the pleasure of experiencing the grunt work that goes into making Day of Silence possible. Part of this work includes answering hundreds of participant inquiries as to why we use silence on this day of action. We have a standard answer to this question: “taking a vow of silence helps to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools.” Standard answers are often not enough to satisfy participant curiosity. Part of the reason why our constituents take part in the Day of Silence is that this day is an empowering moment in what can sometimes feel like an oppressive society. To honor our participants experience I thought that sharing a more personal answer to the inquiry of why we commemorate this day with silence would be appropriate. On a personal level, I believe that silence is a gesture of respect.  My silence is an expression of my admiration for every LGBT person who has ever engaged in organizing which has led to the rights I have today. If we think broadly, moments of silence commemorate important events, history and influential individuals. This year’s Day of Silence, we will be joined by youth, allies, school administrators, staff, chapter leaders, donors and supporters who recognize that observing a vow of silence in honor of LGBT events, history and individuals is essential in making strides toward creating safe schools for students and moreover a safe society for all.

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