October 21, 2010

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President Barack Obama has just issued a video message speaking directly to young people, offering reassurance and hope to those suffering because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, or simply because of being different. The President’s empathy and concern, so clearly and directly expressed, is an historic contribution to the outpouring of support for LGBT youth we have seen over the past few weeks.

We thank President Obama for this critical message. LGBT youth everywhere must hear his words loud and clear: “There are people out there who love you and care about you just the way you are.” We also appreciate the steps that the Administration has taken to address the needs of LGBT young people and reduce bullying and harassment through work done in various federal agencies, including the CDC and the Departments of Education, Justice, and Health and Human Services.

Now our attention will turn to those additional concrete ways in which the President himself has the power to make things better, for today and for the future. Sustained federal leadership on these issues is absolutely essential to reassert the fundamental culture of respect that must prevail in our schools. We need the President’s clear endorsement of the vital principles embodied in the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act. GLSEN will continue to work closely with the Administration to achieve this goal and to forge further progress at the agency level.

As the current crisis tragically illustrates, far too many school districts have not taken the actions needed to protect all students. And the tenor of public debate in this country stands in the way of effective local action and finding common ground. At times like these, on the difficult issues that really matter, Presidential leadership is paramount.

The President himself says in his message that, on an individual level, young people will find that their “differences are a source of pride and a source of strength,” and that, as a society, “the freedom to not fit in… to be true to ourselves, that’s the freedom that enriches all of us, that’s what America is all about.” These are exactly the ideals that are currently under siege. Whether it is from the schoolyard bully singling out a vulnerable classmate, or from a major-party candidate spewing anti-LGBT vitriol, the young people whom the President seeks to reach face a barrage of negative messages that can drive them to alienation and despair. They need his words, delivered now in this message, and they also need his actions.

Eliza Byard

GLSEN Executive Director

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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.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

Sample Message


Subject: I appreciate your support of LGBT youth

Message:

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.

Sincerely,

October 21, 2010

>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 info@allyweek.org.

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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.

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October 20, 2010

>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 info@allyweek.org.

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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!

October 19, 2010

>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 info@allyweek.org.

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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.

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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.

October 18, 2010

>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 info@allyweek.org.

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October 17, 2010

>We want to make sure that everyone knows about Ally Week, so we’re having an #AllyWeek Twitter Contest! The contest ends at 5:00 PM ET (2:00 PM PT) Friday, October 22. Five Winners will get an Ally Week T-shirt, wristband, and two great films you can show to your GSA: Brother Outsider and Out in the Silence!

Each time you tweet about Ally Week can get you closer to winning! Here are the rules!

  1. All tweets must have the #AllyWeek hash tag to be counted.
  2. Tweets that consist of only "#allyweek" and nothing else will only be accepted once an hour.

    Example: dayofsilence: #allyweek #allyweek #allyweek = 1PT

  3. Tweets containing Ally Week, not the number of times you mention Ally Week within your tweets.

    Example: dayofsilence: OMG I just got 47 more pledges for Ally Week! Ally Week is so great, I love Ally Week! #allyweek = 1PT

  4. Tweets must be ABOUT ally week:

    Doesn’t count: dayofsilence: It’s gloomy outside and looks like it might rain, and I’m worried soccer practice will be cancelled #allyweek. = 0PT
    Counts: dayofsilence: It’s gloomy outside and looks like it might rain, and I’m worried that our #allyweek activity will be cancelled. = 1PT

  5. You can only retweet another’s Ally Week post only once.

If you have any questions or ideas, or if you want to tell us what you’re planning for your Ally Week please email us at info@allyweek.org.

October 17, 2010

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Ally Week is almost here!

Ally Week, October 18-22, is a week for students to organize events that serve to identify, support and celebrate Allies to LGBT youth. Whether you’ve been planning for weeks or are just getting started now, there are plenty of things you can do for Ally Week!

  • MAKE SURE TO REGISTER your participation in Ally Week so we can have an accurate number of how many people participated. Click here to register!
  • Spread the word on Facebook! Change your status to one of the following:
    • I’m proud to be an Ally to LGBT youth! Celebrate Ally Week, Oct 18-22. Learn more at allyweek.org
    • Be an Ally. Be the Change. Celebrate Ally Week, Oct 18-22. Learn more at allyweek.org

  • Spread the word on Twitter! Tweet about your Ally Week experience using the #AllyWeek hash tag to spread the word! And see about the #AllyWeek Twitter Contest below!
  • Don’t have anything planned? You can still participate! Check out the Ally Week Action guide or 10 Things You Can Do for Ally Week, both available at AllyWeek.org/action.
  • Be visible! Yellow is the official AW color, so if everyone participating wears yellow you'll be sure to stand out. And don’t forget t-shirts, buttons, stickers, face-paint—these are all ways you can help draw attention to your action.
  • Be respectful! Ally Week is about ending anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in school. To do this, it's important to treat people with respect. There are likely people at your school who will try to challenge your activities or your beliefs. Treat these people not as they treat you but with the same respect you hope to be treated with. Remember, Ally Week is a peaceful action!

If you have any questions or ideas, or if you want to tell us what you’re planning for your Ally Week please email us at info@allyweek.org

October 07, 2010

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New Ally Week Resource!

Ally Week, Oct 18-22, is coming soon and we keep rolling out NEW resources to help you plan effective action! And don't forget to register your participation in Ally Week. Click here to register!

Allied Clubs Meting Guide
One of the best ways to increase the Allies at your school is by building coalitions with other student clubs. Strong alliances with other clubs and student groups can be instrumental in identifying a number of Allies of the LGBT safe-schools movement. This guide provides step-by-step instructions on how to have your own meeting to build a coalition of allied clubs in your school. Check it out right here.

And keep watching Twitter and Facebook for more up-to-date information about Ally Week!

October 05, 2010

>Back-to-school time conjures up images of bright yellow school buses, fresh pencils and notebooks, and green schoolyards to play in at recess. But this picturesque ideal ignores a sobering truth: America’s schools are not safe places for all students. According to GLSEN’s 2009 National School Climate Survey, 61.1% of LGBT students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and nearly one in five were physically assaulted (e.g., punched, kicked, injured with a weapon) because of their sexual orientation.

Tragic events in recent weeks remind us that there is so much work left to do in order to make schools safe and affirming places for all students. October 5th is National Safe Schools Day – an opportunity to spread awareness of the situation of our schools and work together to change the school environments that fail to protect our youth.

Across the country today – from Michigan to Massachusetts, from California to Arkansas – activists are organizing a variety of events to champion this important cause. The Safe Schools Action Network is hosting a rallies in various cities, including Washington, DC, to support local safe schools campaigns.

Can't be in our nation’s capital for the rally? There’s plenty of work you can do in your own community! Check out GLSEN’s guide on making a positive difference in the wake of multiple tragedies across the country in the past few weeks.

Celebrate National Safe Schools Day on October 5th by taking action to make America’s schools respectful, affirming, and safe places for all students.

October 01, 2010

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For the past eighteen months, GLSEN has worked closely with federal agencies, including the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services and Justice, and with Congress to enlist their help in combatting the impact of anti-LGBT bias and bullying in our schools.

From meetings with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit to endless visits in the halls of Congress, GLSEN has been there day in and day out to ensure that our issues were represented and our voices were heard. And now, in a time of crisis, we were in a position to make our voice heard once again, calling for Secretary Duncan to speak out in support of LGBT youth.

Today, he answered that call. There remains much more to be done. We must ensure passage of the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act. We must make sure that the federal government collects data that allows us to track progress in this crucial fight. And we must ensure that all federal engagement with schools continues to reflect the fact that young LGBT lives matter.Thank you for standing with us.

Said Duncan:

This week, we sadly lost two young men who took their own lives for one unacceptable reason: they were being bullied and harassed because they were openly gay or believed to be gay. These unnecessary tragedies come on the heels of at least three other young people taking their own lives because the trauma of being bullied and harassed for their actual or perceived sexual orientation was too much to bear.

This is a moment where every one of us — parents, teachers, students, elected officials, and all people of conscience — needs to stand up and speak out against intolerance in all its forms. Whether it’s students harassing other students because of ethnicity, disability or religion; or an adult, public official harassing the President of the University of Michigan student body because he is gay, it is time we as a country said enough. No more. This must stop.

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