School started a month ago in my district. Students’ alarms started ringing sooner than they did during the summer, bringing life and smiles to lonely bathroom mirrors. Toaster pastries and cereal began to fill bellies once again in the familiar morning routine as students began their days.
However, I wasn’t so thrilled about school because I was all too familiar with the unsafe feeling of being openly gay in a rural area. I knew that this would be my last year and my community has a lot of growing to do through policies, community involvement, and setting up and maintaining safe zones within my school. With that thought in mind, I also know that I am leaving behind a changed school and an improved atmosphere because of my GSA and through allies I have gained, who will advocate on behalf of all of my LGBTQ peers.
The GLSEN Middle Tennessee chapter has already started planning and hosting events around days of action such as Ally Week. To kick things off, GLSEN Middle TN co-hosted an Ally Week Photo Shoot Campaign on September 11 with the Music City Sisters and Out & About Nashville, which celebrates 11 years in October as Middle Tennessee's leader in LGBT news. The event was for supportive community members to show their support for Tennessee students and proclaim their commitment to being an ally!
Those who couldn’t make it to the event don’t have to miss out on the fun, though. GLSEN Middle TN also encourages everyone who wants to participate to print off an Ally Week sign and post it on the GLSEN Middle TN Facebook page, post it on Instagram with the hashtag #AllyWeek2013, tweet their photo to @OutandAboutNash and @GLSENMiddleTN, or email it directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The photos from the campaign will be featured in the October 2013 edition of Out and About Nashville and support our next Ally Week event, which will be held during Ally Week on October 24! GLSEN Middle TN will be co-hosting their next event with the Nashville GLBT Chamber of Commerce.
GLSEN Middle TN is thankful for all of its sponsors and co-hosts, without whom events like these would be nearly impossible. There will be more events on the agenda for the coming year, which I am looking forward to participating in and helping to organize! By engaging the public in initiatives like Ally Week and other days of action, GLSEN Middle TN is able to make an impact on the greater community and change schools in Tennessee.
Though I am leaving for college in the coming year, opening myself to new opportunities, and gaining more knowledge alongside GLSEN, I couldn’t be happier to look around and see the community that I will be leaving progressing in the right direction. Middle Tennessee is on a path to safer and more inclusive schools and I am happy to be a part of the great work GLSEN is doing in my area.
Andrew Lawless is a GLSEN Student Ambassador and GLSEN Middle Tennessee leader.
Students and educators across the country are checking their schools to Spot the Sticker, but do Safe Space stickers and posters make a difference? Can these stickers and posters really help make schools better for LGBT students?
Here in GLSEN’s research department, we’ve been asking both educators and LGBT students about the Safe Space stickers and posters. Our 2011 National School Climate Survey compared the experiences of LGBT students who had seen a Safe Space sticker or poster at school to those who had not. LGBT students with Safe Space sticker or poster at school were…
- Able to identify more supportive school staff members.
- More comfortable talking with their teachers about LGBT issues.
- More likely to have positive conversations about LGBT issues with their teachers.
Educators can do many things to make schools safer for LGBT students: serving as GSA advisors, incorporating LGBT-related issues into their classes, and intervening when they see anti-LGBT behavior at school. Even an action as simple as displaying a Safe Space sticker or poster can send a strong message to LGBT students about where to find caring adult allies at school.
After I posted the posters and stickers, my students started to ask me about it. It also made a statement to them that my classroom promotes respect.
Middle school teacher, California
As part of our ongoing evaluation of the Safe Space Kit, we asked educators across the country about how they used their Safe Space Kits, and if they thought displaying the posters and stickers made a difference in their classrooms. Many educators told us that they thought that Safe Space stickers and posters were useful tools for encouraging respect in their classrooms and opening dialogue about LGBT issues with their students. (See above and below for educator quotes.)
A majority of teachers at my school put the stickers on their doors, showing that the staff is unified in making out school an open and accepting place.
High school teacher, Colorado
When I was a teacher I used to spend hours prior to the first day of school working to create a visually appealing classroom for my students with spectacularly colorful bulletin boards, displays of former students’ work, inspirational quotes and of course - my classroom expectations. I held the belief that my students would learn something from simply walking into my classroom and I wanted my students to learn in a safe, comfortable and attractive learning environment. As the back to school season approached, I am certain that teachers once again participated in this late summer ritual holding the same belief.
Educators know that classroom environment matters and that their students benefit and learn about many things from the displays they choose to put up in their rooms and in the hallways of their school. GLSEN recognizes this too and for the last three years we have worked to provide educators everywhere with a tool to use in their classroom or office that is designed to help students learn something simple – that that classroom or office is a space in which all students will be safe to be who they are, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
Educators who have put these stickers/posters up help students know where in school this will absolutely be the case. Because of supportive educators like you it’s working! LGBT students who can “spot" a sticker (or poster) are more likely to be able to identify many supportive staff in their schools.
This year we’re asking students everywhere to help us “spot the sticker” in schools by sharing an image of the sticker. We want to include educators in this activity too.
To learn how to participate in this campaign, go to glsen.org/spotthesticker.
If you don't have a sticker or poster or want to learn more about its meaning, you can learn more and even download the sticker for free.
All of us at GLSEN wish you and your students a safe and successful school year and thank you for the important role you play in the lives of young people.
As a high school student, going back to school can be both stressful and exciting. You don't know what to expect, but in your head you make a whole bunch of assumptions, some negative and some positive. Being a gay high school student and going back to school, the only thing you truly want is to have a great year with people who accept and love you for who you are.
I attend a high school that just opened about a year ago, and in addition to the school a new club was born: a Gay-Straight Alliance. My GSA started with three people and we are gradually building up week by week. Our main goal is to bring more awareness about LGBT issues and, of course, create an alliance between our gay and straight students in hopes we can create a safe environment for all our students.
I personally would like to see more encouragement from teachers. I have always been told by my teachers to get good grades and excel academically, but I am never told to be myself and to embrace who I am as a gay student. I would like to see more teachers inspiring students who are LGBT to be themselves, giving them a sense of security and giving them a friend, someone who they can come to for whatever reason.
On the other hand, there are numerous things students can do to make back-to-school pleasant and stress-free for LGBT students. Instead of following the crowd and automatically ignoring the students who are different from them, students can do the simplest of things, like not making insulting comments about one’s actions or appearance (thinking before they speak) or asking students who are alone at lunch if they would like to sit with them. The most effective thing they could do is smile when they see an LGBT student. Little heartwarming gestures can be the best way to start off a new school year.
As this is my last year being a high school student, there are a few things I want to achieve before the school year is over. Mainly, I would like to set a foundation at my school: a legacy where people are not ashamed to be who they are, but in reality are more than happy embracing their sexuality. I also really hope I can achieve a lot with my GSA club this year, most importantly by informing the students of issues faced by the LGBT community in hopes they will be inspired to help us make a difference. The ultimate and last thing I hope to achieve this school year is to find and apply to a college which has an amazing GSA. After high school is done, I want to continue to be a representative, an advocate, and a voice for my fellow LGBT community.
In conclusion, being a gay high school student might come to an end, but my future being an LGBT representative is soon to begin.
Dustin Gallegos is a GLSEN Student Ambassador.
When I was bullied for a few years, I didn't feel safe at school. I was unhappy, sad, and uncomfortable. I would try pretending to be sick to not go to school. In one year, I missed 95 days of school for fear of being bullied.
I thought that when I started in a new grade in an upper-level school, everything would change. I would have friends, sit at a lunch table with friends, and be able to socialize and gossip about favorite pets and favorite boy bands. But when I started sixth grade, it didn't change at all. I was still bullied. Everyone except two people—one who is a lesbian, and another who was gay—wouldn't talk to me.
The only place where I felt safe and could eat my lunch was the library. I could talk to the librarian and help students check out books and show them where to find books.
Then in seventh grade, we got a new librarian, one who is a strong supporter of GLSEN and the LGBT community. I still hung out in the library and helped with the students. Then a few weeks later, she put up a Safe Space poster on her bulletin board. As soon as I saw that poster, I knew I was safe in the library.
When school started this year, I walked past the principal's office; I noticed that he also had a Safe Space sticker on his window. I was surprised that he had a sticker on his window. When I saw that poster and sticker, I finally knew I was safe at school. Safe to be myself, safe to come out about my sexuality. Perfectly safe. I could be free.
Katarina “Kat” S. is an eighth-grader at the Creative and Performing Media Arts School (CPMA) in San Diego, California.
Today, GLSEN announced the launch of its #SpotTheSticker campaign, an endeavor to recognize, highlight and celebrate the thousands of schools where LGBT students can feel safe, affirmed and respected.
The GLSEN Safe Space sticker and poster are important components of the Safe Space Kit, a resource guide for educators to become better allies to LGBT students. Three years ago, GLSEN launched the Safe Space Campaign, with the goal of putting a Safe Space Kit in every middle and high school in the country – all 60,000 of them. As we prepare to wrap up the Safe Space Campaign this October, we’re celebrating by spreading the word about the huge number of educators and community members who show support for LGBT students.
Participating in the #SpotTheSticker campaign is easy, and anyone can do it. First, find a Safe Space sticker or poster at school, at work, at your local community center, or anywhere else. Then, just snap a picture. You can take a photo of the sticker alone, a selfie with the sticker in the background, your GSA posing with the sticker—be creative! Finally, upload the picture to glsen.org/spotthesticker and share it on social media using the hashtag #SpotTheSticker. It’s that simple: just spot it, snap it and share it!
When you take and share a photo, you encourage educators to put up their own Safe Space stickers and posters, sending a message of support to LGBT youth across the country. You’ll also be spreading the word about the value of GLSEN’s Safe Space Kit. GLSEN research has shown that having visible allies at school improves LGBT students’ academic achievement, aspirations for the future and personal well-being. By participating in the #SpotTheSticker campaign, you can help show educators nationwide just how important it is to support LGBT youth.
For more information about #SpotTheSticker, check out glsen.org/spotthesticker and follow the hashtag #SpotTheSticker on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. We can’t wait to see where you find stickers!
The 10th Anniversary of No Name-Calling Week (January 20-24, 2014) is rapidly approaching! Are you thinking of joining the thousands of educators who participate in No Name-Calling Week each year by establishing a No Name-Calling Week in your school? but you aren't sure where to start? Well, you're in the right place. Today we will be focusing on two of the most useful resources; the Planning Guide and the Student Survey.
The Planning Guide contains detailed information on how to plan and execute No Name-Calling Week. The guide helps you to reflect on your school community, establish goals and objectives, and implement a week that helps to build awareness about name-calling and bullying in your school.
The Student Survey is a tool that you can use to assess your school’s climate and the experiences of your students. Knowing the details of your students’ experiences with name-calling and bullying allows you to have a baseline for measuring the impact of your No Name-Calling week programming.
On our website, you will find many useful items that can help you plan, promote, and carry out many different kinds of No Name-Calling Week events and activities. Keep us updated on your planning and progress. We would love to hear what you have planned; click here to let us know what you are doing to celebrate kindness this No Name-Calling Week!
Andy Marra, Public Relations Manager
Media that would like to request credentials for the Respect Awards Red Carpet press line
should contact Slate PR Taryn Black at email@example.com or 310-461-0111
LOS ANGELES, CA – Sept. 4, 2013 – GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, today announced it will honor Emmy® and Golden Globe® award-winning producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason; Academy ® and Emmy® award-winning global entertainment company Lionsgate; Emmy® and Golden Globe® award-winning actor Jim Parsons and his partner, art director Todd Spiewak; and the 2013 Student Advocate of the Year at the 9th annual GLSEN Respect Awards – Los Angeles presented by Target, The Walt Disney Company and Wells Fargo, to take place at The Beverly Hills Hotel on Friday, Oct. 18.
The GLSEN Respect Awards, held annually in Los Angeles and New York, showcase the work of organizations, 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.
“GLSEN is the leading national education organization working to end bullying and create safe schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity, and we are proud to honor supporters who are committed to a world where young people learn to value and respect all people,” said Dr. Eliza Byard, GLSEN’s Executive Director. “This year, we are pleased to recognize Lionsgate, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, Jim Parsons & Todd Spiewak, and our 2013 Student Advocate of the Year, all of whom share our passion and commitment of making sure that every student is able to succeed in school and reach their full potential.”
This year, GLSEN is proud to announce honorees in the following Respect Awards categories:
Lifetime Achievement Award: Linda Bloodworth-Thomason
Linda Bloodworth Thomason is an award winning producer and writer known for creating television series with often Southern and always strong, memorable, female characters. In 1983, she formed a production company with her husband, director Harry Thomason, and together they have produced more than three hundred and fifty episodes for television. A former high school English teacher in Watts, Linda is also an award winning writer, who has been nominated for numerous Emmys, from MASH to the critically acclaimed series, Designing Women, to the Emmy and Golden Globe winning, Evening Shade. As a close friend and supporter of President Clinton, Linda wrote and directed all three of this Democratic Convention films, including the iconic Man from Hope, as well as the 2008 Democratic Convention film for then Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. She is currently adapting her New York Times bestselling novel Liberating Paris, which explores the new South’s struggle with racial and marriage inequality, for the large screen. Linda is a strong supporter of the LGBT community. In 1987, her Designing Women script, Killing All the Right People, was the first American television show to address the AIDS crisis. Recently, she wrote and directed the same sex love story, Bridegroom, a documentary which won the audience prize at the 2013 TriBeca Film Festival. A staunch supporter of women, Linda established the Designing Women Foundation, which has provided over a hundred and fifty college scholarships to impoverished women in the rural South.
Chairman’s Award: Lionsgate
Lionsgate is a leading global entertainment company with a strong and diversified presence in motion picture production and distribution, television programming and syndication, home entertainment, family entertainment, digital distribution, new channel platforms and international distribution and sales. Its feature film business has been fueled by such recent successes as the blockbuster first installment of The Hunger Games franchise, The Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn – Part 2, Now You See Me, Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain, Tyler Perry’s Temptation, Warm Bodies, Perks of Being A Wallflower, The Expendables 2, The Possession, Sinister, The Cabin in the Woods, Mud and Arbitrage. Lionsgate currently has 28 television shows on 20 different networks including iconic brands such as the multiple Emmy®-award-winning Mad Men and recent hits such as Orange is the New Black, Anger Management and Nashville. Lionsgate handles a prestigious and prolific library of approximately 15,000 motion picture and television titles. The Lionsgate and Summit brands remain synonymous with original, daring, quality entertainment in markets around the world.
Inspiration Award: Jim Parsons & Todd Spiewak
Jim Parsons and Todd Spiewak love the opportunity to support causes they believe in and, of course, GLSEN is one of their favorites. Living in Los Angeles with their dogs, Otis and Rufus, Jim’s work on the CBS show The Big Bang Theory, has earned him two Emmys® and a Golden Globe®. Parsons has also been featured in films such as Garden State and The Muppets. He will next be seen in the upcoming HBO film The Normal Heart with Mark Ruffalo and Julia Roberts and is currently in production on the animated film Home. He has always loved working in the theater and recently appeared on Broadway for the Roundabout Theater in Harvey, and in the stage production of The Normal Heart.
Todd Spiewak has a BFA in Graphic Design from Boston University and has worked extensively in the field designing successful campaigns for clients including American Express, Barnes & Noble, HP, KitchenAid and The New York Times. Recently he and Jim formed their production company, That's Wonderful Productions, and Todd is now actively seeking homes for projects ranging from television series to movies to theater.
Student Advocate of the Year: To Be Announced Soon!
After a nationwide search, GLSEN will present the 2013 Student Advocate of the Year presented by AT&T. This award recognizes a student who has advanced LGBT equality in their school or community, working to ensure that all students are safe and free of bullying, name-calling and harassment.
Emmy®-nominated actress Kerry Washington, star of the hit ABC-TV series Scandal and feature films Django Unchained and Ray, and openly gay LA Galaxy soccer player Robbie Rogers will serve as Honorary Co-chairs for this year’s gala. They will be joined by a host committee that consists of an impressive lineup of supporters, including Betsy Beers (Executive Producer – Scandal; Grey’s Anatomy; Private Practice); Dan Berendsen (Creator/Executive Producer – Baby Daddy; The Nine Lives of Chloe King); Greg Berlanti (Executive Producer – Arrow; Brothers and Sisters, Golden Boy; Political Animals); Linda Bell Blue (Executive Producer, Entertainment Tonight); Matt Bomer (Actor - White Collar, Magic Mike); Kevin Brockman (Executive Vice President, Global Communications, Disney/ABC Television Group); Donald De Line (Film Producer – Pain & Gain; Green Lantern; I Love You, Man); Robert Greenblatt (Chairman, NBC Entertainment); Simon Halls (Partner, Slate PR); Dave Karger (Chief Correspondent, Fandango); Carlos Lopez (Events and Special Projects Manager, The A List); David Phoenix (Interior designer); Shonda Rhimes (Creator/Executive Producer – Scandal; Grey’s Anatomy; Private Practice); and Chip Sullivan (Head of Publicity, DreamWorks Studios).
To learn more about the GLSEN Respect Awards – Los Angeles, visit www.glsen.org/respectla13 or follow GLSEN on Twitter at @GLSEN and the hashtag #RespectLA. For more information about GLSEN Respect Awards sponsorships, advertising, tickets and contributions, contact Rachel Silander at firstname.lastname@example.org or 646.388.6582.
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/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, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.
My experience at the GLSEN Student Ambassadors Summit was truly one of the best times of my life. I met so many wonderful people whom I am honored to call friends. I also met so many influential people who have shaped my life for the better. Hearing so many inspiring stories gave me a brand new outlook on life.
I never expected to be one of the finalists, and once I was told I would be attending the Media Summit my jaw automatically fell to the floor. I was so excited and nervous at the same time. I tried so hard to keep it to myself, but I was filled with so much excitement I couldn't help but tell all my beloved friends and family, who encouraged me to go, knowing it would make me really happy. I didn't know what to expect, but I knew in my heart no matter the outcome I would leave the Summit filled with much contentment and a new mindset.
I learned so much while attending the Media Summit, but out of every experience I encountered, I will never forget my co-ambassadors. It’s surprising that people who were strangers just a couple of weeks ago became very good friends in a short amount of time. We all created strong friendships doing something that meant so much to us: giving a voice to the LGBT community, and advocating for safer schools. I learned so much from them: I learned that you can be successful regardless of your sexual orientation, and to not be afraid to be yourself because of what people might think.
My experience at the Media Summit really changed me. I was so inspired by everyone's coming-out stories that on the day of my return, I fully came out to my mom. In the past, I had told her I was bisexual in hopes that she could accept me more easily, but that was a lie. For a very long time I knew I was gay, but I didn't want to accept it. I lived in fear for many years. That all changed because of the Media Summit. I became more confident, I became happier, and I became a new person—one who now wants to make a change in this world.
Now that the Media Summit is over, I will share my story in hopes of inspiring others. I will begin to blog, vlog, and anything possible to reach as many people as I can. I want to inspire people not to live in fear, but to embrace who they are. Thank you, GLSEN, for teaching me so many useful and wonderful skills, for making me realize how truly special I am, and for giving me a family.
Dustin G. is a GLSEN Student Ambassador.
My life was fatefully changed August 7, 2013.
That was the day I attended GLSEN’s Student Ambassador Summit as my inauguration into this esteemed program that was all I had wanted to be a part of for several years. As I sat for six hours of plane rides to glistening Los Angeles, my mind danced about, pondering how truly excited and humbled I was to be a part of GLSEN’s elite student team.
Questions poured over my brain: “Out of more than 500 applicants, why was I chosen to be one of just nine participants? Why am I valuable enough to be flown thousands of miles from Virginia to California for four wondrous days of learning and community? Do I really have a story to tell?”
By the time I arrived at the Summit, meeting the eight other students and the GLSEN staff helped me realize that I was chosen for a reason, whether or not that reason was abundantly clear to me; I did have a powerful story to tell.
The first day was a whirlwind of anxious and joyous interactions with staff and fellow Ambassadors, flooding me with expectations for the upcoming days. After we were interviewed about our experiences in school for an educational resource organization, I thought it couldn’t get any better. I was most certainly wrong.
The second day of the program was one of the most exhilarating of my life. En route to the KABC television station, I bonded with my compatriots and the adult GLSEN employees over a simple breakfast. More than any icebreaker or training session, this opened me up to being comfortable expressing myself and my experiences to a mostly foreign group.
At KABC, we met with distinguished TV news veterans and professionals who shared their stories of success, took us on eye-opening tours of their innovative facilities and even featured us on their own news report! Following some insightful interview training from the best in the business, each of the Ambassadors had the privilege of speaking a few lines for promotions of GLSEN’s Days of Action, like Day of Silence and Ally Week, as well as being interviewed about our personal experiences revolving around being LGBTQ* students in school, surviving bullying, and how we planned to engage and activate our schools and communities to make bullying stop.
A lot of my fellow Ambassadors were nervous about public speaking, but not me. I was predominantly worried that I wouldn’t have an adequate story to tell that could make any impact at all. However, as the GLSEN staff rolled introspective questions, I spoke from the heart and explored who I was and how I was honestly making a change. I found out why I was worthy enough to be a fundamental member of this team of “superstar students of GLSEN.”
The third day turned out to be the most entertaining of them all. On that Friday morning, the small GLSEN caravan traversed abysmal L.A. traffic to arrive at the West Coast HBO headquarters. An inspiring video chat unfolded with Noah Michelson, the editor of The Huffington Post’s Gay Voices section, who discussed at length his rise to fame and influence, demonstrating the power we had to make a difference for LGBTQ* people. Soon thereafter, my fellow Ambassadors and I were given the privilege to be the first youth to view an astoundingly moving and socially conscious documentary which will be coming out in the next few months, in addition to discussing the film with its producer. A discussion with the executive editor of The Advocate and Chief Correspondent of Fandango followed, inspiring us to reach for all that we could in our futures while staying true to our identities and our passions.
The fourth day went by in a blink. Suddenly, I was off to LAX, preparing for my flight home. It was a shame to have spent only four days with the supremely inspirational new members of the Student Media Ambassador team and the upbeat GLSEN staff. In those four days, I cried, I laughed (until I cried), I learned, I saw, I marveled, I inspired, I loved, I lived, I transformed, I gained.
But most of all, I was affirmed. I was affirmed that I was worthy of being in the presence of such impactful people and that I would be, if not already am, one of them. I was affirmed that I could make a change in my peers’ lives. I was affirmed that I was a porous sponge, soaking up all knowledge and beauty and experiences around me with eager ease, capable of sharing those same influences with those around me. I was affirmed that GLSEN is home to me.
Liam A. is a GLSEN Student Ambassador.