>My name is Joey Kemmerling, and I am a junior at Council Rock High School North in Newtown, Pennsylvania. I am also a GLSEN Ambassador, speaking out against the anti-LGBT bullying I have endured for four years.
I’m writing to tell you that students like me desperately need people like you — people willing to support the essential work of GLSEN, so they are not alone in their struggles.
When I came out to a few friends in the eighth grade one day, the entire school knew about it by the next morning. Nearly every day since, I’ve been subjected to snickering, name-calling, threats, shunning and outright hate from my peers. From my teachers, I got virtually nothing — no support, and certainly no intervention. One school administrator’s “solution” was to ask me to be “a little less gay.” I have since graduated to my local high school, and while the teachers are more accepting, the administration is not.
I decided to become a little more the person I am. And your support for GLSEN and its programs made a huge difference. I took a leadership role in my school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. I set up a Facebook page and web site (theequalityproject.net) where students and our allies can support one another and organize for positive change. (Guess what — the site is blocked on my school’s computers, even though “God Hates Fags” is still accessible.)
I created an assembly presentation about bullying and my own experience, and have presented it to schools and groups all over my area. And I have worked with GLSEN to get the word out to Congress, state legislators, the media, parents groups and the public at large about just how huge and dangerous anti-gay bullying is in our country. I honestly believe most people have no idea how many kids suffer, and how much that suffering destroys their spirits, their grades and their faith in the future.
In addition to thanking you for being a part of GLSEN, I want to ask you to support GLSEN once again. As we look at our lives and the things that matter most to us, solutions to the epidemic of bullying are high on my list. I hope they are for you, too. If so, GLSEN needs your help.
The bullying in my school hasn’t stopped. But I’m much more able to deal with it, because of my own resolve and hope, and because of the extraordinary support I have received from GLSEN.
In closing, I wish you a happy holiday season and a safe new year — for all of us.
Council Rock High School
North Newtown, Pennsylvania
P.S. When I first contacted GLSEN, I wasn’t sure that a national organization like it would take the time to help someone like me. But it was just the opposite. The entire GLSEN team at its New York headquarters took me under their wing, and gave me the support and encouragement I needed to stand up for myself. Today, I’m proud to be a GLSEN Ambassador, spreading the word about the crisis of bullying. I’m also spreading the word about how much GLSEN is counting on your special support today. Please give generously by clicking here. Thank you.
>This morning I heard about another horrific loss: Brandon Bitner of Mount Pleasant Mills, Pa., took his own life last Friday after enduring relentless bullying at school. He was only 14 years old. My heart goes out to his family for their unimaginable loss.
Our nation has learned more about suicide in the past two months than we could ever have wanted to know. And the country's attention has turned to the national public health crisis of bullying in our schools, and the daily torment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people. Suicide is tragically complicated—the result of a range of factors and stresses in a young person's life—and not every target of bullies is driven to ultimate despair. But we must harness the current public attention on the issue to make sure schools are safe and affirming places for all students, for students like Brandon.
Adult prejudices and preconceptions about LGBT people currently stand in the way of effective action. Anti-LGBT bias and bullying is NOT an issue with two sides—it is a horrible intrusion of societal bias into the lives of children. It teaches horrendous lessons to all involved—target, bully and bystander—and takes a toll on young lives, even among those that survive it.
Enough is enough. All that remains is to act. No more debate. There are steps to be taken that we know will make a positive difference in the lives of young people RIGHT NOW.
• Call on President Obama to champion these bills and on the Department of Education to do all in their power to implement the bills’ principles: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
Help make schools safe for LGBT students
• Teachers and school staff can make a difference— visible adult support can go a long way in decreasing the feelings of isolation that can lead to despair. Check out GLSEN’s tools and tips for educators.
• Any of us can let the young people in our lives know that we love them no matter what. Join GLSEN’s Safe Space Campaign to ensure that LGBT students can identify at least one supportive adult in their school. Click here to watch campaign PSAs.
• Have you or someone you know experienced LGBT-based bullying, harassment, or discrimination in school? Find out how LGBT students can claim their rights.
GLSEN Executive Director
>GLSEN is pleased to announce that Google has joined that Safe Schools Movement as the newest GLSEN National Corporate partner, and released the following blog posting today in support of our work.
We believe the Internet can provide a safe space and resources for youth who are struggling with their identity and looking for help. And we’ve been happy to see products like YouTube being used to deliver messages of hope. There are many organizations out there doing an extraordinary job providing resources for LGBTQ youth, and we wanted to highlight a few as part of GLSEN’s National Ally Week: Trevor Project, GroundSpark’s Respect for All Project, the YouTube “It Gets Better” project and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. GLSEN’s Safe Space campaign page provides resources and support for educators, policy makers, community leaders and students to take action to make a positive difference. We recently made a $50,000 donation to the Trevor Project, in support of the Levi’s Challenge Grant announced on The Ellen DeGeneres Show—they will be matching up to $50,000 dollars in donations to the Trevor Project. We’ve also donated to GroundSpark and GLSEN. We hope that other companies and individuals will
consider doing the same.
This announcement comes on the heels of a significant financial commitment from Deutsche Bank. They join the ranks of longterm partners like Cisco, Wells Fargo and IBM who are making a positive impact in the lives of students nationwide. GLSEN commends the brave and bold stance these corporations are taking. We are seeing an outpouring of support from all walks of life — from the cast of Modern Family to the single mother of three in Springfield, Mass. — from the It Gets Better Project to the President of the United States. Please join us in our efforts to put an end to bullying and harassment once and for all at http://my.glsen.org/.
Google employees' It Gets Better video:
>I am so humbled by the attention my story has received in the past week, and grateful for all of the personal words of encouragement. Rightly, the focus will soon move from my story to the opportunity to galvanize all the support and love into action for those young people who are currently struggling.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth need hope for the future and help today. That’s why GLSEN’s work is so important. And that's why I'm asking you to take action now.
Visible adult support - at home, in school, in the community - is one of the most important lines of defense for a young person in crisis. GLSEN's Safe Space Campaign is designed to build that crucial lifeline in schools.
I urge you to visit the Safe Space website to take part in this campaign and send a Safe Space Kit to the school you attended, or that your child attends, or another school that you care about. With a Safe Space sticker to make supportive adults visible to the students who need them but may be too afraid to ask, and a guide to improve school climate for LGBT students, the Safe Space Kit helps concerned adults make a difference.
As I shared in my words last week, adults cannot look aside as young people struggle. The issue of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment is personal for me and must end. Click below to watch a PSA I have filmed for GLSEN to help get the message out.
The good news is that there are things we can do to help. Please visit GLSEN's website to learn more. Thank you to all of those who are doing their best every day, and for taking action now.
Councilman Joel Burns
Fort Worth, Texas
P.S. Join me in taking action; visit GLSEN's Safe Space Campaign website and send a Safe Space Kit to your local school today. I also would love for you to keep in touch with me; please visit joelburns.com.
>All during Ally Week we'll be highlighting stories about allies as part of the Ally Week story contest. We received this story of all-ages, school-wide Ally Week action from the Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School, an independent school in New York City, NY.
If you have an Ally Week story you want to share, email us at email@example.com.
LREI Students Take Action During Ally Week
Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School is an independent school in the West Village section of NYC. It was founded in the late 1920‘s by Elisabeth Irwin. She was committed to encouraging students to take action within their communities and they have been doing so for decades.
When teachers from the Four Year Old class through the High School spoke to students about Ally Week, many students were ready to take matters into their own hands. Students were encouraging their parents to grab an Ally Sticker on their way to work.
First Graders were generating a game plan for what to say when the time came for them to stand up for others. Leading up to Ally Week, our first graders talked about what it means to be an Ally, framing the conversation around what it means to be a friend. Some children push and tease and bully, our teachers explained, and sometimes they hurt other kids by ignoring them. Our teachers stressed the fact that kids can make a difference in situations like these. Being an Ally means speaking up!
The children brainstormed ways to stand up for their friends, then created speech bubbles. Specifically, these are scripts of what to say on the playground. The first graders also role played about what they learned and made cut-paper collages in art class.
An 8th grade student informed her 5th through 8th grade peers at their weekly Middle School Meeting that Facebook friends were encouraging people to wear purple on October 20. Purple represents Spirit on the LGBTQ flag and that’s what this youth wanted to promote at our school, spirit for all. Upon hearing this, another middle schooler realized that some students and faculty who may want to participate may not actually own an item of purple clothing. She was inspired to make purple ribbon pins which she then distributed on Wednesday, October 20.
Third Graders, while on a farm trip for the week, learned about the different colors on the LGBT flag and made purple wrist bands with construction paper to wear on October 20. While looking around the Farm for tape, one student said, “Why don’t we use the Ally Stickers instead of tape,” and the idea spread.
Our goal is simple, start the year reminding students, families and faculty of the importance of being an Ally. Start when they are young and remind them every year. The rest of the year, practice, practice, practice. One day, when they hear LGBT bullying or slurs, when someone they know (or don’t know) is being teased for who they are, we want our students to know what to do. For LREI students, taking action is a part of their learning. It’s a part of their life.
Click here for information on how educators can support Ally Week.
GLSEN Executive Director
Please take a moment to thank President Obama for recognizing the challenges that LGBT youth face. Below is a link to the White House web site and a sample message you can send to the President—feel free to incorporate a personal message.
Subject: I appreciate your support of LGBT youth
Dear President Obama,
Thank you for your recent message to America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. Through the power of your voice you are giving hope to many youth who may experience bullying, harassment and discrimination in their schools, homes or communities. I appreciate your strong support for LGBT youth and encourage you to continue to do as much as you can to help improve the lives of all youth.
>All during Ally Week we'll be highlighting stories about allies as part of the Ally Week story contest. The Yulee High School GSA submitted this message and public service announcement video about bullying, the product of a class project.
If you have an Ally Week story you want to share, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Yulee High School in Yulee, Fl, the two-year-old GSA is sponsoring it's first Ally Week. When the word went out to the faculty about the event, TV Production teacher Ashely Guinn showed what having an Ally really means. Guinn divided her students into five groups and had each group create its own anti-bullying public service announcement video to be played for the whole school during morning announcements each day during Ally Week. This unsolicited action by a teacher Ally and her students captured the heart of what Ally Week is all about.
>All during Ally Week we'll be highlighting stories about allies as part of the Ally Week story contest. Claire from Bothell, WA, submitted this video about organizing a GSA in her school. If you have an Ally Week story you want to share, email us at email@example.com.
If you would like to start a GSA in your school, go to www.glsen.org/jumpstart and download the Jump Start Guide, with instructions on how you can organize your own student club!
>All during Ally Week we'll be highlighting stories about allies as part of the Ally Week story contest. Seventeen-year-old Adrien, a queer transmale student in Washburn, WI, has this story to tell about why allies are important to him. If you have an Ally Week story you want to share, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I realize that the school I attend is probably on the safe side, but without the safety net of the students and faculty that support me, I have no idea where I would be. As a queer, transmale student in a rural high school in northern Wisconsin, I will stand on the rooftops to scream how important allies are to me. During the second semester of my freshman year in high school, I began further exploring my gender identity, transitioning slowly from female to genderqueer to male.
In the years that have followed, I have taught, simply through my existence, the students and staff surrounding me about the fluidity of gender. The journey has not been easy. My mom has been my biggest ally. She has been my backbone, my support group, my cheerleader, and sometimes, the one thing that keeps me pushing through. The encouragement my allies give me is phenomenal. Some days, the only thing that makes the journey easier is the people that continue to hold me up.
When my mom and I were lobbying in Washington, D.C. with GLSEN for the Safe School Advocacy Summit in March of 2009, we both wore GLSEN pins. Every representative that we talked to, my mother would point at her pin and say, “Straight is the heart of GLSEN.” Allies can help our voices be heard.
I have a couple things to say to you allies out there. First and foremost, remember this: while you support your LGBT friends, try to be as proactive as you can be. If you hear someone saying “that’s so gay,” don’t just let it go unnoticed. Being a bystander can sometimes be as bad as being the bully. But most importantly, I want to say thank you. Without your support, some of us have a hard time pushing through. I appreciate everything you do, and so does my mom.
If you'd like more information on how you can be a better Ally to transgender and gender-nonconforming youth in schools, download the Ally Week guide: Be an Ally to Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Students.
>All during Ally Week we'll be highlighting stories about allies as part of the Ally Week story contest. Nowmee is a GLSEN Ambassador and made this fantastic video for Ally Week. Check it out! If you have an Ally Week story you want to share, email us at email@example.com.