We're excited to announce a Call for Nominations for our GSA of the Year Award! Do you know a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) or a similar student group that has accomplished amazing things to advance or address LGBT issues in their school this year? We want to hear about them!
The GLSEN GSA of the Year Award recognizes and celebrates a GSA for its outstanding work and commitment to advocating and organizing around LGBT issues in their school. You can nominate the GSA at your school or another GSA who has done great work that you want to bring to national attention.
GSAs are student-led clubs that help to ensure middle and high schools offer a safe and affirming environment for all students. GLSEN has supported GSAs for more than 20 years, and more than 4,000 GSAs are currently registered with GLSEN.
All nominations are due by 11:59pm ET on Friday, February 21, 2014. Only K-12 schools located in the United States are eligible.
Last summer, I had the pleasure of attending a month-long program at a state university where I attended a few classes led by college professors and interacted with 400 artistic and beautiful other high school students from across the state. One of the classes offered was Peace & Conflict Resolution, which analyzed peace on the individual, small group, and societal levels. As an educational activity, the members of the class configured hundreds upon hundreds of notes that had sweet and kind messages and littered these bright rays of delight across the campus. They could be found on every door, every wall, every light pole and every step. The classmates carried with them pads of the adorable niceties and passed them out randomly to passing students, giving each of us a sense of fulfillment and joy as we unraveled the awaited exclamations ranging from “You make a difference- don’t forget it!” to “Are you America’s Next Top Model? I think so!”
Having witnessed the outburst of euphoria and increase in the level of politeness and good will in the human reactions around me that directly resulted from this experience, my GSA will be performing an equivalent action this year during No Name Calling Week. Everyone deserves to come to a school covered in positivity, love, and acceptance. Why not make that mission literal?! It is nice to be reminded that we are beautiful, funny, smart, creative, and maybe even the next President of the United States of America; we ought to recognize that it can only help our self-esteems to be told that we are worth it. At the bottom of each note, the GSA will post its logo and club information. Hopefully, we can not only spring a fountain of happiness and paying that happiness forward but a growth in the size and impact of our GSA, as well!
But why wait until No Name Calling Week to start being generous with your complimentary behavior? You can do it every day! It might even cause a chain reaction which may ultimately convince an endangered student that they are worth the affection and praise they may not be getting from peers or from home.
A simple action could make someone’s day, week, month, year, or lifetime.
Liam is a senior, and is a GLSEN media ambassador.
We recently put a call out to students, asking what their experience was like organizing and participating in No Name-Calling Week. Here’s what Kai had to share about that:
When I was in high school we hosted No Name-Calling Week twice (my junior and senior year). To prepare we would hang up informational posters about the week and artwork from members of our GSA. During the week we would challenge the students to see how long they could go without calling each other names.
My school had two lunches and we would table at both. We would provide information about our GSA, GLSEN and No Name-Calling Week, and other GLSEN programs such as the Day of Silence, Ally Week, and ThinkB4YouSpeak. We would also share information about other organizations such as The Trevor Project and local LGBT organizations.
On the last day of the week we would hold an assembly and show the film "Bullied" which is about Jamie Nabozny. Follow the film showing we would have a discussion based on the reference guide from the movie as well as questions we came up with in our previous GSA meetings. The film is about 48 minutes long and our classes were about 75 minutes long so it worked out beautifully.
With everything we did we definitely got both students and faculty more aware of the negative effects of name-calling. We would see students standing up for each other more and educating their friends about it too
Whether you’re in elementary, middle or high school, we have many ways for you to participate in No Name-Calling Week. Click through to find out more.
Kai is the former Jump-Start Student Coordinator of GLSEN Southern Maine. Since graduating, Kai is now living in Florida where Kai hopes to pursue a degree in psychology.
With merely hours until we bid 2013 adieu, we thought it important to check back in on all the amazing things that happened over the last 365 days. Here are some of our favorite highlights of the year.
GLSEN starts the year off in whirlwind of change as we settle back into our home in lower Manhattan after over 2 months of being displaced.
No Name-Calling Week is celebrated for the 10th time! Thousands of teachers and students participate in the national week of action. Art galleries filled with messages of hope, resiliency, and love are organized in schools across the country. (more)
GLSEN Middle Tennessee’s Jump-Start team discusses their experiences with bullying and harassment in school with Fun. This eventually leads to a GLSEN & The Ally Coalition partnership during Fun.’s nationwide tour. (more)
GLSEN’s Research Department releases the first ever research brief examining LGBT student experiences in school sports and physical education entitled The Experiences of LGBT Students in School Athletics. (more)
GLSEN Greater Cincinnati is barred from participating in the Cincinnati St. Patrick’s Day Parade. With thousands of petition supporters and outspoken ally organizations, the Cincinnati community rallies behind the Chapter and GLSEN’s mission; city council members withdrew from the parade and local organizations walked with signs supporting GLSEN Cincinnati and youth. (more)
GLSEN releases a YouTube video to set the record straight on the meaning and impact of the Day of Silence. Whose side are you on? soars on Facebook and YouTube with over 45,000 views.
Jason Collins makes his first public appearance since coming out at GLSEN’s Respect Awards in New York City. He receives the 2013 GLSEN Courage Award. (more)
The Respect Awards in New York also has a splash of aloha as Farrington High School alumni Janet Mock presents her alma mater with this year’s GSA of the Year Award. (more)
The U.S. Department of Education announces that, for the first time, it would include a mandatory question about allegations of harassment based on sexual orientation on its Civil Rights Data Collection survey. This represents the first time the Department has asked about sexual orientation on any of its surveys. The Department will make the data collection optional for the 2014-2015 school year and mandatory beginning in the 2015-2016 school year. (more)
The GLSEN Research department releases its first ever report on the experiences of LGBT youth online, Out Online. This report documents that LGBT students not only face greater harassment but also find greater peer support and access to health information. (more)
Transgender Student Rights is officially entrusted to GLSEN to help further its growth. This student-founded organization was created specifically to advocate for the needs of transgender and gender nonconforming students. (more)
GLSEN’s Executive Director, Eliza Byard, speaks at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Her speech on those sacred steps honors the March on Washington, Bayard Rustin, and the responsibility we all have to lift up the voices of young people. (more)
Two Student Ambassadors, Liam & Paulina, represent GLSEN at the NY Times sponsored “Out Youth” panel. During this panel members of the audience were able to ask questions regarding the state of LGBT youth. The other organizations represented included the Trevor Project, the Human Rights Campaign and the True Colors Fund.
Laila Al-Shamma receives GLSEN’s 2013 Student Advocate of the Year award. Her amazing work in her school and for her GSA brings her to the Respect Awards in Los Angeles where she gives one of the most inspiring speeches of the night.
Ally Week turns 9! This year we challenged ourselves not only to identify new allies and celebrate existing allies, but to ask ourselves how we can all become better allies to one another. (more)
GLSEN grows to 38 local Chapters in 25 states! (find your local chapter here)
After many discussions, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi signs on as a cosponsor to GLSEN’s top-priority federal legislation, the Safe Schools Improvement Act. Traditionally, House leadership rarely cosponsors legislation. Pelosi’s support of SSIA elevates the importance of the legislation and is key to getting other members of leadership on board. (more)
GLSEN Media Ambassador, Ashton is featured on Upworthy as he brings attention to why the safe schools movement is important to him. (more)
We did it! A Safe Space Kit in every school! (more)
From all of us at GLSEN we want to wish you a Happy New Year!
Here's to a fun, fierce, and fab 2014!
Dear Ms. Svenson,
I was stunned to hear your recent comments about transgender students during a school board meeting. Your suggestion that transgender students be castrated before using a restroom that aligns with their gender identity is inhumane, inappropriate, and potentially dangerous to the students in your school district.
In the 2011 National School Climate Survey, GLSEN found that more than three-quarters of transgender students experienced verbal harassment based on their gender expression or gender identity. In addition, 3 of 10 transgender students report having been physically harassed as well. By publicly suggesting that transgender students should be castrated, you are reinforcing this dangerous and unjust trend.
As a fellow school board member, I know that this role has many responsibilities. Chief among them is to act in the best interests of the students. However, your comments suggest a prejudice against transgender and gender non-conforming students, rather than a stance designed to help the students in your district.
Your responsibility to act in the best interests of your students includes ALL of your students, including transgender and gender non-conforming students. Whatever your personal views may be, they need to stay away from your role as a public official. You should know that when you speak publicly, your words can ripple throughout your school community, and could lead to even more bullying and harassment against transgender students. Your comments dehumanize transgender and gender non-conforming students, and they could endanger students in your district.
In your comments, you derided recent successes in Massachusetts and California to make schools safer and more welcoming to transgender and gender non-conforming students. As a school board member in Massachusetts, I implore you to give these policies a serious look, and consider taking a proactive approach to supporting transgender and gender non-conforming students. When we create healthier school environments, we’ll be in a much better place as school board members to accomplish what we originally set out to do: help students learn.
Alex Pratt is a co-founder of GLSEN’s Transgender Student Rights and a member of the Littleton School Committee.
Add your name in support of Alex's open letter to Katherine Svenson, the Delta County Colorado School Board Member.
This guest post is by one of our Student Ambassador alumni, Emet Tauber
Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, and event where once a year we come together to commemorate and honor the lives of transgender people who have been taken from us due to violence and transphobia.
This day is a solemn day to reflect on all that we have done and all that we still must do to make this world a safer place for transgender and gender non-conforming people. In the world of K-12 schools this means providing equal bathroom access, equal sporting access, the proper use of names and pronouns for every student, and the right of every student to express their gender how they want to. We have come a long way in the past few years, but we still have a long way to go.
The events of the past few weeks in California have reminded us just how cruel the world can be to people they don’t understand. As activists and representatives of the queer community, we must educate others on who we are and why transgender student rights are of the upmost importance.
Today is also a time in which we can and should step back in order to let individual voices be heard across our communities. We should recognize our relative privileges and let people who might not otherwise be heard, have their stories resonate from coast to coast, and classroom to classroom. Personally, tonight I will be speaking at Stetson University in Florida about the intersections of my identity as a Jew and as a person of trans* experience. In my remarks I will remind students of the Jewish value of menschlichkeit, being a good person and a good neighbor to those around you.
Tonight, be a mensch and support your fellow students in their time of reflection and sorrow over the loss of over 280 trans* identified people this year. I hope your day will be full of reflection and thought about how to take action for transgender people and gender non-conforming people everywhere.
Editor's Note: Trans* is often used to connote a diversity of identities under the "transgender umbrella." These identities include, but are not limited to: transgender, transsexual, transmasculine, transfeminine, genderqueer, agender, third gender, two-spirit and mahu. The usage originates from the search convention where an asterisk indicates a wildcard, where "include anything following"
Today kicks off Ally Week! You may be asking, why we love allies to LGBT youth. Here are some answers we got!
We love allies because:
1. Everyone can be an ally to someone else.
2. They use their privilege for good.
3. They choose to learn about other identities, power, privilege and forms of oppression.
4. They stand up for what's right even when it may not be popular.
5. They recognize our awesomeness.
6. They join us in solidarity.
7. Our allies are important in reaching equality.
8. They're part of our chosen family.
9. They restore our spirits when we feel down.
10. Their love and support make us feel warm inside.
11. They make safe spaces even safer.
12. They offer their voice where ours can't be heard.
13. They remind others to use appropriate language around or about us.
14. Together, we can make change happen!
Become an ally.
Organize Ally Week at your school.
Learn how to become an even better ally.
Throughout my time as an organizer, I have learned a few things about Organizing:
- Organizing is about connection
- Organizing is about stepping out of one’s comfort zone and into a place of action
- Organizing is about Community and allyship
A few weeks ago speakers upon speakers took to a simple podium, with a backdrop of the grandest scale, in order to honor a moment 50 years earlier that changed the course of this nation: the March on Washington. Community Leaders, including GLSEN’s own Eliza Byard, spoke about what the March meant to the movement. And over the roars of applause, I heard an overarching message of joining hands marching forward; this, I thought to myself, is allyship.
After about the third speech, I was taken back to those core organizing principles. I began to ask myself questions around allyship, around my privilege in the safer schools movement, and perhaps most of all, what can be done to join hands and move the movement forward. I thought about my work at GLSEN and our programs. I thought about Ally Week.
Ally Week is nearly upon us and this year we’re asking ourselves, “how can we become an even better ally?” The fact is, everyone, no matter who you are in the school community or community-at-large, can do something to become an even better ally to someone else. As a cisgender, male-identified, gay adult, I know my privilege provides me with access that I can, and must, use to move the movement forward; I can become an even better ally to LGBT youth, trans & gender non-conforming students, and differently-able bodied persons, to name a few. Ally Week is a week where we can create the time and space to ask ourselves insightful questions, join hands, and to march forward in solidarity toward our dream of safer schools for all!
Do I have you inspired yet? If so, here’s my call to action (it comes in two parts - ask & act):
- Ask yourself, “how can I become an even better ally to ____________?”
- Take actions to better your allyship!
No matter if you have a minute, an hour, or an afternoon, we have actions you can do!
Know that whichever actions you choose, by stepping up and participating you are moving the movement forward.
Collectively, we are all working on becoming #BetterAllies.
As a new person here in the national office, I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself to you! I’m Kimmie, and I’m an intern with GLSEN’s Education & Youth Programs department. I’m a Social Work grad student at NYU, and people like you are the reason I am in this particular program and why I came up here all the way from North Carolina. Last year, my beloved home state of NC passed an amendment to our state constitution banning same-sex marriage. I had a multitude of thoughts leading up to voting day, but when the news came out that the law passed, my thoughts immediately went towards youth and I had many questions surrounding the message that this law was going to send to them. I thought “How are some youth who are struggling with their identities going to internalize this message from their government?” and then I thought, “I need them to know there is nothing wrong with who they are!”
There were many great things going on in my rural town growing up, but cultural, religious, or racial diversity was not one of them. In my family we had discussions about things and people that were different from us, but I never really saw these people first hand. I wondered, what does a lesbian look like? (Note: I now know there is no one way for any “kind” of person to present themselves or to feel). I thought all gay men looked like and acted like Jack on Will and Grace. Transgender folks? What did that even mean? My school didn’t have a GSA. If it did, I think things for me would have been a whole lot easier a whole lot sooner. I’m 25 now, and it took me until I was 22 to realize and embrace my sexual orientation. And to be honest, I’m still working on figuring out how I feel comfortable identifying in terms of gender. And that’s okay. What is amazing is that I feel like I’m now in a place where there is so much wiggle room to explore who I am. I found this room in the people I surrounded myself with, the books I read, the conversations I had with all kinds of people. And I want every single youth to have that room to dance around as they explore their identities. That is why I am here. I want to make sure every student sees a reflection of themselves in the world. I want you to know you’re not alone, and that your unique identities are totally legit and awesome and I want you to be connected to people who are so excited to be there with you on your journey.
This past weekend I had the privilege of participating in GLSEN’s TOT (Training of Trainers) program. GLSEN chapter members from the surrounding area were joined by our friends all the way from the Hawai’i chapter for a training that was designed to teach us how to facilitate workshops for K-12 educators to encourage and support their efforts in creating a safe space in their classroom and schools. I was so moved by the overwhelming feeling of motivation and love in the room this weekend. 20 people from across the United States were all gathered in this one room because we each care so much about making a difference in the lives of LGBT youth. A sense of community is really powerful. And a sense of community that exists because everyone feels so passionate about changing the world feels even more powerful. The big masterpiece painting wouldn’t be that big masterpiece without all the brushstrokes it took along the way. This movement is a process and it needs us all. I’m doing my part here. Hawai’i is doing what’s needed there. You’re doing what your school and community needs there. I think it’s amazing the difference you all are making in each other’s lives and I know you are making the world a better, brighter place for the future. Together we’re getting through this. We’re taking on something really big, but collectively we are even bigger.
Today GLSEN starts its Spot the Sticker campaign! This campaign is meant to highlight spaces in your school that are safe for LGBT students to find educator allies. Whether it’s an office, a classroom or even on an educator’s water bottle, it’s vital to have visual representation their space is safe!
Here's a story on why it’s important.
Before we had Safe Space stickers we were like:
When I found out there were educator allies at our school.
When my teacher agreed to put up a Safe Space sticker and show their classroom was a safe space for LGBT students.
Now my friends and I come to school like:
Sometimes people say things like, “that’s so gay” to which makes us feel like:
What I want to say is:
But we know where the school’s safe spaces are. We can go there, tell our educator ally, and ensure bullying & harassment has no place in our school.
Knowing we have a space that’s safe for LGBT students can go is important. Even though it’s only one step in the process of creating safer schools for all, one step in the right direction makes a difference.
But don't take our word for it...