>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.
>During last night's "Real Housewives of New Jersey" reunion show part 1 (viewable here), the wives discussed the use of the term 'that's so gay' by one of the husbands in an earlier episode.
We want to first commend Danielle and host Andy Cohen for pointing out what 83.1% of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) youth told us in the 2007 National School Climate Survey of more than 6,000 LGBT youth: 'That's so gay' is offensive.
The 83.1% of LGBT students said the term caused them to be bothered or distressed to some degree. Oh, and by the way, 99% of LGBT students had heard the term in school.
As the Housewives themselves pointed out: it's everywhere. But that doesn't make it OK to say.
GLSEN has partnered with the Ad Council to educate teens, many of whom use it without even realizing what they are saying (that gay=something bad), about just how offensive the term is. The campaign is called Think B4 You Speak and features TV PSAs with Hilary Duff and Wanda Sykes. The spots can be viewed at http://www.thinkb4youspeak.com/.
You may have seen them airing around the country (or referenced by Dane Cook in his stand-up routine).
So what's wrong with the term? Well, aside from the fact it's demeaning, such language is pervasive and fosters a hostile climate for LGBT students and those perceived to be LGBT. Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students said they'd been harassed at school in the past school year, and 60.8% said they feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.
To borrow from one of the TV spots:
Imagine if who you are were used as an insult. When you say "that's so gay" do you realize what you say? Knock it off!
Check out Andy Cohen's blog about the show.
>From our release:
NEW YORK - The North Carolina House today sent an anti-bullying bill with enumerated categories including sexual orientation and gender identity to Governor Bev Perdue.
If Perdue signs the law, North Carolina will become the eighth state to implement an anti-bullying law that includes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Oregon became the seventh state last week.
“This is a great leap forward for students in North Carolina, and we salute the legislature for taking this crucial step to ensure their safety and well-being,” GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. “We urge the governor to sign this bill into law to ensure that North Carolina schools are places where all students are free to learn.”
GLSEN commends the efforts of Equality North Carolina and all North Carolina advocates for bringing the state one step closer to making sure all students are safe in school.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, 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.