September 12, 2014

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!

September 15, 2014

GLSEN Chapters are community-based groups of people who work to bring GLSEN’s programs and visions to their communities. They are supported in their work by the GLSEN national offices in New York City and Washington, DC. There are currently almost 40 GLSEN Chapters serving communities large and small around the country. 

Chapter leaders are a diverse range of people from students to parents, teachers to administrators, and any other local community members who have an interest in ensuring safe schools for all. All Chapters work within GLSEN’s mission, vision, and policy platform but no two Chapters have exactly the same list of projects. Local programs include professional development for educators, GSA support and networking, student leadership development, community outreach and local, state and federal safe schools legislative advocacy. GLSEN Chapters are the backbone of our organization and all board members dedicate an exorbitant amount of energy to help us realize our mission to ensure all students in every school are respected and affirmed regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. We are grateful for their leadership, devotion, passion and commitment to our organization. Below are some highlights of the accomplishments of GLSEN's Chapter network during FY14 (July '13 - June '14).

Last year, Chapters:

  • On average, supported over 600 high school Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) and 3,800 high school students each quarter of FY14
  • On average, supported 25 middle school GSAs and 420 middle school students each quarter of FY14
  • Sent 15,000 school and GSA representatives e-mail packages alerting them of GLSEN's Ally Week activities and resources
  • Sent 16,000 school and GSA representatives e-mail packages alerting them of GLSEN's Day of Silence activities and resources
  • Distributed GLSEN's Day of SIlence resources to 3,750 students and 656 educators in support of their Day of Silence activities. 701 Student attended Chapter Day of Silence Events.
  • Conducted 273 trainings on LGBT issues in education. These trainings reached 4,242 school personnel, 3,951 students and 905 community members

For a complete list of existing GLSEN Chapters please visit

September 24, 2014

During GLSEN’s 25 Days for Safer Schools back-to-school campaign, we’ll release a GLSEN resource every school day that students, educators, and other supporters can use to help make their schools safer for all students. We’re also getting ready to celebrate our 25th anniversary next year!

This week we’re focused on students. Compared to their peers at schools without Gay Straight Alliances, LGBT students who attend schools with a GSA:

  • Heard fewer homophobic remarks and negative remarks about gender expression
  • Were less likely to feel unsafe because of their sexual orientation
  • Experienced less severe victimization related to their sexual orientation or gender expression

Here’s what we’ll be looking at this week:

Each Friday, we’ll post a summary of the previous week’s resources at Stay tuned for this week’s resources, and don’t forget to follow the conversation online using the hashtag #GLSENbacktoschool!

September 03, 2014


Last month, our newest GLSEN Student Ambassadors traveled to Los Angeles for the annual Ambassadors Summit. We asked them to reflect on their experiences; the following is a compilation of their responses.

As many of you may know, we spent five days is Los Angeles in August. Some of us had known about GLSEN since first Googling questions about our own identities in middle school and had used it as a resource since, but none of us realized just how important this experience would be to each one of us.

Because the 12 of us had never met prior to the LA Summit, one would’ve thought we’d have been terrified and nervous around each other. But as soon as we met, we immediately felt at home—like it was a big family reunion.

Each day we did something new. After introductory activities and laying out the Summit, we took action. The first morning led us to KABC-TV, where we toured the station and learned the processes and facets of media production. Workshops were given by the executive directors, writers, and anchors. Among this, we learned the values of “being a voice for the voiceless” and heard testimonials from two truly remarkable examples of women in the industry.

On Thursday we went to the Los Angeles LGBT Center. First we met Tyler Oakley (insert screaming), a YouTube icon/internet sensation/fabulous human being. Speaking with Tyler was just marvelous. (And it is true his hair is just as fantastic in person.) Next we Skyped with Noah Michelson, the editor of the Huffington Post Gay Voices. Noah was also incredible. He was very passionate about LGBT issues and spoke to us about the various limits that LGBT content faces in the media.

We also met Autumn Sandeen, a trans activist who inspired some of us to the point of tears with her story. Learning from her experiences opened our eyes to see that being who you are is worth fighting for. Next on the roster of influential idols was NBA player Jason Collins, who we also spoke to on Skype. With some athletes in the group, we could relate to his fears of coming out, and the struggle he faced upon going public. Jason did say though that his family acted as a great support group, giving him the confidence to come out as an LGBT athlete.

Friday morning, we headed to see some of the sights in Hollywood and then traveled to the Jim Henson Studios, which was something that many of us wanted to do since we were very young. We were given workshops not only on puppeteering, but on building confidence in networking our individual creativity.

By Saturday, we had all formed immeasurable bonds with each other that will last for years and years to come; met a few stars; interviewed with even more famous faces; tasted some delicious meals, sweated in the California heat; got stuck in LA traffic; and even struck down a few pins at the bowling alley.

The GLSEN 2014 Media Summit brought a dozen queer youth together, who all want to make the world a better place, and a whole host of GLSEN staff and supporters who want to work with us to make that change happen.

Here are a few more thoughts from individual GLSEN Ambassadors reflecting on the Summit:

I am now proud to say that I use my training to talk to my growing GSA and plan on speaking with other schools. GLSEN gave me my confidence and my voice back. --Christin

The GLSEN Student Ambassador Media Summit can be summed up as the most amazing introduction to Ambassadorship one can be given. I am so incredibly honored to be able to share the title with the eleven other students, and be a part of the GLSEN family. --Peter

The most significant trait of the Summit was the atmosphere; it was full of energy, hope, and will to fight for a better future. The positive atmosphere helped me find the motivation to actually do more with my school’s GSA, and in turn, do more to fight for queer rights. --Bek

The Media Summit was incredible; I learned so much, and I got to meet so many great people from all different backgrounds with different experiences who all wanted the same thing as I do… I will never forget them or the experiences we shared. --Emma

Never before have I grown so much as a person in such a short time period as during this Summit. I’d like to thank GLSEN for giving me this amazing opportunity and can’t wait to use my new found skills to spread my story and give support to students across the globe. --Mark

After coming home from the Summit, I can’t describe how much the Summit has done for me and how much I will commit to my Student Ambassadorship for this school year. The group and I will be staying in touch and working toward the safety of schools in our own communities and inspiring others to follow suit. --Casey

My expectations of the Summit were nothing compared to all that I experienced. The solidarity that I felt from meeting so many inspirational and successful LGBT individuals was extremely refreshing. I can say though that my time in Los Angeles will never be forgotten, and I hope that one day I might return. --Gil

September 02, 2014

GLSEN Student Ambassadors

Bek JakolaPrior to July 29th, 2014, I had never been further west than Denver, CO, and I only had a mild interest in visiting the rest of the western half of our country. Most of my travel dreams have been focused on history-laden places: Paris, Moscow, Shanghai, Johannesburg, etc. But I can truly say that the five days I spent out in Los Angeles completely changed my whole outlook on life.

The GLSEN 2014 Media Summit brought 11 new queer youth into my life, who all want to make the world a better place, and a whole host of GLSEN staff and supporters who want to work with us to make that change happen. As a group, we learned things as simple as the definition of pansexual (sexual attraction to all genders) to the complex battle going on in the Capitol right now over various pieces of legislation to make schools safer. We met and talked to queer advocates who have been working for years, fighting for LGBT rights, and younger advocates like Tyler Oakley, the YouTuber, and Jason Collins, the NBA star. But to me, the most significant trait of the summit was the atmosphere; it was full of energy, hope, and will to fight for a better future.

Before the summit, the inequality that the queer community faces angered me, but aside from small, not really noticeable actions in my community, I didn’t really know what I could do with my anger. Since I have returned to my little Virginia town, I have found the motivation to take my anger and channel it into actions. In the past week alone, I have laid out possible actions my school’s GSA for the next six months, from ways to get my school to talk about LGBT history, planned fundraisers, Valentine’s Day events for queer students, and possible announcements for Trans Day of Remembrance, and even had time to make some mac and cheese. And it’s all because of the Summit. The positive atmosphere helped me find the motivation to actually do more with my school’s GSA, and in turn, do more to fight for queer rights. It may be a small step, but it is a step in a direction that I am more than willing to fight for.

Bek is a high school senior and a GLSEN Student Ambassador.

September 03, 2014

GLSEN Back to School

During GLSEN’s 25 Days for Safer Schools back-to-school campaign, we’ll release a GLSEN resource every school day that students, educators, and other supporters can use to help make their schools safer for all students. We’re also getting ready to celebrate our 25th anniversary next year!

This week we’re focused on curriculum. What kind of impact can LGBT-inclusive curricula have? Bigger than you may think!

GLSEN’s research has found that when LGBT students learned about LGBT people, history, and events in their classes, they felt safer at school, experienced less harassment, and felt more connected to their school communities. Read our brief about the impact of LGBT curricular inclusion here.

Here’s what we’ll be looking at this week:

Each Friday, we’ll post a summary of the previous week’s resources at Stay tuned for this week’s resources, and don’t forget to follow the conversation online using the hashtag #GLSENbacktoschool!

August 27, 2014

Back to School with GLSEN

Happy back-to-school season! Today, we kicked off GLSEN’s 25 Days for Safer Schools, a back-to-school campaign to get our supporters excited about the many educational resources GLSEN has to offer.

Every day for the next 25 school days, we’ll release a GLSEN resource that students, educators, and other supporters can use to help make their schools safer for all students. We’re also getting ready to celebrate our 25th anniversary next year!

This week, we’re focused on educators. GLSEN research shows that supportive educators can and do make a real difference in the lives of LGBT youth:

  • LGBT middle and high school students with many supportive educators felt safer at school and missed fewer days of school because of feeling unsafe.
  • When their teachers included LGBT people, history, and events in their curricula, LGBT students said they felt safer at school.
  • 8 out of 10 elementary school teachers agreed that they have an obligation to ensure a safe and supportive learning environment for students who may not conform to traditional gender norms.

Here's what we'll be looking at this week:

Each Friday, we’ll post a summary of the previous week’s resources at Stay tuned for this week’s resources, and don’t forget to follow the conversation online using the hashtag #GLSENbacktoschool! 

August 25, 2014

It’s been a whirlwind week for one Newton, Massachusetts family, led by same-sex parents Amy and Oona. Daughter Olivia is presently in the running to win $50,000 for a college scholarship from the #Matchmade Contest—an online video-share competition that connects kids to an education. And days before she learned of the good news, she met another same-sex couple during a family trip to Ecuador that gave a whole new meaning to her chance for success. We spoke with her Olivia’s mother, Newton educator Amy Kelly about her daughter’s awakening to LGBT issues, this ambitious girl’s future and past in education, and what she hopes to accomplish with your vote for the #Matchmade Scholarship.

Olivia had always known her mother was lesbian, and never had trouble accepting her mother’s identity. Together, they have established a strong support system, and when mother Amy met Oona in 2011 through’s dating website, their family happily got a little bigger. By the third date, Amy and Oona had fallen in love, but it was just as important to the couple that their own children feel loved in the new family dynamic. A week after the proposal, “they actually proposed to us. They wanted to know if we wanted to be a family,” chimes in Olivia and her step-sister Lucia. “Of course we said yes.

But for all of Olivia’s understanding and open-mindedness, Amy wasn’t always so lucky to find support. Throughout her own Rhode Island childhood, there was a distinct lack of LGBT-inclusion. None of her classmates were openly gay. Even after leaving her small high school with a graduating class of barely thirty to attend big-city schools Columbia and Boston College, Amy remained closeted. It was during her tenure student teaching in Newton (where she has now been a principal for seven years in a remarkably progressive responsive school district) that she felt comfortable enough to come out. She was 22.

And now at 14, her daughter wants to make life easier for women like her mother. Newton, Massachusetts may be seen as something of a “gay Mecca,” but as Olivia found during a family trip to Ecuador, their happy family home is an exception, rather than the rule. Amy’s wife Oona, a therapist, made a special connection with two closeted Californian lesbians, and for the first time, Olivia witnessed the oppression hundreds of thousands of LGBT persons across America experience on a daily basis. It was a startling and life-changing experience for the teenager, and she has decided to take the opportunity’s viral competition has given her to spread awareness of LGBT diversity; more than anything, she is inspired to show the country how powerful a supportive, loving family can be, no matter who your mothers are, or how many you have.

Olivia has her eyes set on California to pursue an environmental engineering degree. She has been “very interested in environmental issues for as long as I can remember,” laughs Olivia’s mother. And as soon as she enters her new school, she will be able to take a green engineering track to put her on the right path. But she doesn’t just want to change the world for the greener, she wants to change it for the better for LGBT families.

It’s youth like Olivia, with ambition and a loving family to support their endeavors, that we at GLSEN hope to see change the landscape of LGBT family life. Far from every family in America looks like this, and we support youth no matter what your family looks like—but hopefully one day, we’ll see more loving, diverse families.  And we hope you’ll take a minute to share her video so that she, in turn, can share a message of inclusion and acceptance…and be able to afford attending the college of her dreams.

To vote for Olivia, watch her video and share via Facebook or Twitter:


August 20, 2014

Dr. Laura Taylor, Assistant Superintendent
for Champaign Unit 4 Schools

As the new school year gets underway, I am reminded of the students, families, and educators who forge a supportive path in hopes that all students will feel loved and honored as they walk through the doors of schools in the United States. I have been blessed to encounter numerous people who individually and collectively work toward not only making schools safe for LGBT students, but also towards making LGBT youth and families a true part of school communities. I am in awe of the bravery and courage I have witnessed and look forward to a day when such bravery will no longer be necessary.

But for now, it is necessary. As an ally and advocate I believe each new school year brings with it an opportunity to educate others and transform school cultures to those of true inclusivity.


In the Champaign Unit 4 School District we will start our year by distributing videos we created of brave people who share their LGBT experiences, others who share their experiences as immigrants in our community, and others delving into the additional labor of being a black male in our town and in our schools.

Educators have the means to make a difference in the lives of LGBT youth and families. We have the resolve and with the support of GLSEN we have the resources. Be brave.

- Dr. Laura Taylor – GLSEN Educator of the Year 2014


Laura Taylor Presentation Screenshot

Check out Dr. Taylor's presentation for Champaign Unit 4 School District: Social Justice Seminar - Additional Labor: LGBT Youth, Families, and Staff by clicking the image above.


August 19, 2014

NBC Entertainment’s ROBERT GREENBLATT to receive Chairman’s Award;

Dancing with the Stars’ DEREK HOUGH to be honored with Inspiration Award


Los Angeles – GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network), the nation’s leading education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students, today announced honorees for its upcoming GLSEN Respect Awards - Los Angeles event to be held Friday, Oct. 17, at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel.


“We are thrilled to announce the honorees for the 2014 GLSEN Respect Awards - Los Angeles, which has become one of the city’s premier events thanks to a deep commitment from our partners in the entertainment industry to help GLSEN realize our vision of a world where every child learns to respect and accept all people," said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard. "We are proud to recognize Danny Moder & Julia Roberts, whose inspiring work on HBO’s The Normal Heart has brought renewed attention to an important moment – and an on-going crisis – in LGBT and American history; Robert Greenblatt, who, as the only gay broadcast television chairman, is a role model for LGBT youth; and Derek Hough, who has brought the same grace he displays on Dancing with the Stars to his efforts to fight bullying.”


Danny Moder & Julia Roberts will receive the Humanitarian Award for their commitment to, and support of, numerous philanthropic endeavors and humanitarian causes, including GLSEN, UNICEF, Heal the Bay, Stand Up To Cancer, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, and many others. They bring a sense of stewardship, responsibility and consciousness to their humanitarian efforts and serve as wonderful role models. Both Danny and Julia are current Emmy Award nominees for their important work (he as Director of Photography, she as Supporting Actress) on the powerful HBO movie, The Normal Heart, which depicts the early days of the AIDS epidemic in New York City.


This year’s Chairman’s Award will be presented to Robert Greenblatt, Chairman of NBC Entertainment. For more than two decades, Bob’s career as an award-winning producer and executive have brought us memorable and critically-acclaimed programming, including many characters and storylines that have been groundbreaking for the LGBTQ community. During his tenure at Fox Broadcasting in the 1990s, he was behind such iconic shows as The X- Files, Melrose Place, Party of Five, Ally McBeal, and King of the Hill. While there, he also developed the pilots of The Sopranos and Dawson’s Creek. As President of Entertainment at Showtime, Bob elevated that pay TV network to HBO standards by shepherding a number of popular and award-winning hits, including The L Word, Dexter, Weeds, Nurse Jackie, Californication, The Big C, Shameless and The Tudors.


Now at NBC, Bob has guided the venerable network back to #1 after 10 years of languishing in last place. NBC has its own important legacy of putting marginalized and under-served diverse communities on television; a tradition that continues with shows such as The Voice, The Blacklist, Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D, About A Boy, Grimm, Parenthood, Smash, The Sound of Music Live!, and many others. Bob has also executive produced over a dozen series, including one of HBO’s most popular shows of all time, Six Feet Under. That show, which featured a committed gay relationship at its core, won him a Golden Globe Award, a Peabody, The Producer’s Guild Award, and the GLAAD award. On Broadway, he is the producer of this year’s most award-winning musical A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder, for which he won the Tony, the Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, and the Drama League awards for Best Musical. He also produced the Tony-nominated musical adaptation of the film 9 To 5, which starred Allison Janney and featured a score by Dolly Parton.  


Emmy Award-winning and New York Times Best-Selling author Derek Hough, choreographer and the only-five time dancing champion on the hit ABC series Dancing with the Stars, will receive this year’s Inspiration Award. Not afraid to use his craft to give voice to those less fortunate, Derek’s new book, Taking the Lead: Lessons From a Life in Motion, epitomizes GLSEN’s commitment to storytelling and serves as a testament to the power of a strong work ethic, dedication to one’s craft, and a spirit of perseverance. His bravery in speaking out against bullying through the lens of personal experience has positioned him as an invaluable advocate and ally for youth.


GLSEN will also be presenting the Student Advocate of the Year Award. The nomination process is currently underway and an honoree will be announced soon.


With a deep belief that all students deserve a safe and affirming school environment where they can learn and grow, GLSEN has led the way on LGBT issues in K-12 education since 1990. Through pioneering original research, innovative program development, student leadership development, community organizing, and targeted state and federal advocacy, GLSEN has seen the impact of its work through the development of educational resources, direct engagement of youth and educators, and national programs like GLSEN’s Day of Silence (the country’s largest student-led event), No Name-Calling Week, Changing the Game and Think B4 You Speak. GLSEN programs and resources have been used in tens of thousands of classrooms and educational communities across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.


The GLSEN Respect Awards, introduced in 2004 and held annually in Los Angeles and New York, showcase the work of corporations, individuals, students and educators who have made a significant difference in the areas of diversity, inclusion and the Safe Schools movement, and who serve as exemplary role models. 


Previous GLSEN Respect Awards honorees have included: Jeffery and Marilyn Katzenberg; Bob and Harvey Weinstein; NBA player Jason Collins; MTV, accepted by CEO Judy McGrath; Disney-ABC Television, accepted by President Anne Sweeney; HBO, accepted by CEO Michael Lombardo; Darren Star; Shonda Rhimes; Michele and Rob Reiner; Andrew Tobias; the Honorable Richard Gephardt and his daughter, Chrissy; John Mack, CEO of Morgan Stanley; NBA executive Rick Welts; the National Education Association; Todd Spiewak and Jim Parsons; and Simon Halls and Matt Bomer, as well as student leaders and educators from around the country.


Honorary co-chairs for this year’s event are Marilyn and Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Todd Spiewak and Jim Parsons. The event is co-hosted by: Greg Berlanti and Robbie Rogers; Brad Bessey and Frank Sanchez; Kevin Brockman and Dan Berendsen; Jess Cagle; Donald De Line; Simon Halls and Matt Bomer; Patrick M. Herning; Dave Karger; Deena Katz; Kathy Kloves; George Kotsiopoulos and Kevin Williamso­n; Michael Lombardo and Sonny Ward; Carlos Lopez; Julia Sorkin; and Chip Sullivan.


For more information about the GLSEN Respect Awards – Los Angeles, please visit our event website. To purchase tickets and to donate to the event, please visit

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, policy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit



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