>Talking Points Memo, one of the most-read online news sources, has a story up about the anti-gay smear campaign against GLSEN Founder Kevin Jennings, who was appointed to Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education for the Department’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.
GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard's quote says it all:
"Up until today, I had been simply saying this is the same old stuff we've been dealing with for years, and we here at GLSEN have become very practiced at ignoring this kind of effort to slander us," said Byard, "And so we really hadn't taken action before this time. And it got to a point where there was so much energy online and in our own constituency to say we can't let this stand."
Sign the petition to support Kevin Jennings here.
>A message from GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard:
Kevin Jennings, GLSEN's Founder and former Executive Director, begins his post at the Department of Education next week. The anti-gay industry is trying to discredit Kevin's remarkable record of achievement in order to thwart crucial progress on school safety. Don't let them!
Please raise your voice in support and share this action with others.
Thank you very much!
Eliza Byard, PhD
>As we've mentioned in previous posts (here and here), President Obama told GLSEN student leader Conrad Honicker that Conrad's shoes were the "coolest shoes to ever set foot in the White House" when Conrad and his parents got a chance to meet with Obama and Michelle Obama before Monday's LGBT Pride reception at the White House.
>GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard on attending Monday's LGBT Pride reception at the White House, before which GLSEN student leader Conrad Honicker and his parents got to meet President Obama and the First Lady ptivately:
The reception was clearly a watershed event, even as there remains so much to be done to advance full equality for LGBT people and safer schools for all. But there was something even more remarkable about the day, above and beyond the event itself. Yesterday, GLSEN student organizer Conrad Honicker and his family had an opportunity to meet privately with the President and Mrs. Obama for a few moments before the President entered to make his remarks.
Along with a small group of other organizations’ constituents (a PFLAG mother and her son, a pair of gay dads and their children with the Family Equality Council, and an older lesbian couple who are members of SAGE), Conrad and his parents were taken aside to meet with the President and Mrs. Obama. They had a few moments to tell their stories and ask for the President and First Lady’s help in making schools safer for all students affected by anti-LGBT bias and harassment in school. And, as Conrad told me afterwards, shaking slightly with excitement as he spoke, the President told Conrad that his pointy silver wingtips were, without a doubt, “The coolest shoes that have ever set foot in the White House.”
Shoes and all, Conrad and his parents were tremendous advocates for GLSEN. Over the course of the reception, they and I spoke with other key Administration representatives, including David Axelrod, Senior Advisor to the President, and various members of the Office of Public Engagement. I got to speak with Mrs. Obama immediately after the President’s remarks, to reinforce the ask that Conrad had made, and mention the Safe Schools Improvement Act once again.
>GLSEN student leader Conrad Honicker and his parents had an opportunity to speak with President Obama and the First Lady directly before Monday's LGBT Pride event at the White House.
Conrad blogged about his experience and was nice enough to vlog about it in the GLSEN office today.
Excerpts from his blog:
After lunch we casually walked to the White House with a group called [Senior Action] in a Gay Environment (SAGE), and met up with the rest of the reception outside the gates by the East Room. There we mingled in the heat with rich gay people and prominent gay rights activist. Notably, I was introduced to Gene Robinson - one my dearest heros. He was fabulous!
When in the White House we mingled some more before being ushered into the "Green Room" (which is green), and lined up to meet the President. At this point I was forcing myself to breathe; "I'm on a mission!" I kept thinking to myself. On entry into the room, I heard Obama's poignant and comforting voice greet me. His handshake was firm. Instantly, "Hello Mr. President! Thank you for being a visible ally for teens like me." No real response, and then:
"Those are THE coolest shoes that have ever been in the White House!"
No time to think about compliments from the President. He wasn't listening so I moved to Michelle who I feel I might have fallen into her embrace (which makes sense because this was called a "clutch"). I told her how important it was for her and her husband to stand up and be allies, and she commented that it was far more important that I keep doing the work I was doing, and I said, "Yes, but it makes the difference it you were visible!"
Snap. Picture taken. My clarion call to action was over in less than 45 seconds. My parents and I delivered our message and huddled outside the room giggling like children.
Finally, Michelle and Barack were off - no more mingling for them. I smiled and waves and mouthed, "Thank you!" to Michelle, and without missing a beat, she opened her arms for a hug, and beckoned me to her; I swiftly fell into her arms, and whispered one last time, "Thank you for being an ally - it means the world to me!"
>The episode aired last night. Jonathan works with GLSEN and has done amazing work raising awareness of the need to make schools safe for all students.
The GLSEN Respect Awards - Los Angeles are October 9. GLSEN is honoring HBO, David Bohnett, Shonda Rhimes and our Student of the Year.
ET's web story on Jonathan is here.
>Today, a GLSEN student advocate and his parents spoke directly to the President and First Lady, asking for their support for all students around the country who are afraid to go to school each day.
Just months ago, Conrad Honicker faced death threats from classmates at West High School in Knoxville, TN, for being out and for being an advocate for change. Today, he and his parents stood in the White House's Blue Room with the President and Mrs. Obama, asking them to be a visible allies for LGBT students.
>In the Life's latest episode, airing on PBS stations across the country, takes a look at the LGBT movement 40 years after Stonewall. In the segment below, In the Life examines what it's like to be an LGBT youth today. As GLSEN founder Kevin Jennings says in the piece, "2009 is the best of times and the worst of times to be an LGBT youth."
If you're interested in research on what LGBT youth experience in school, check out GLSEN's 2007 National School Climate Survey.