May 03, 2013

Gabe, one of our student ambassadors from Texas, recorded a special message to GLSEN donors. We thought you might want to see it. Want to make a year-end donation to help support students across the country like Gabe? You can do so here.

On behalf of all the GLSEN Student Ambassadors I want to take a moment to say thank you. I am so thankful for all the blessings and support I currently have in my life — even more so because it wasn’t always this way for me. First and foremost, I am unbelievably grateful for my two dads who love me, support me and accept me for who I am. I wish that everyone could know the feeling of a loving and supportive home. I am so appreciative of the safe and affirming school I attend; despite all of the progress we have made, I know that too many students go to school filled with fear and dread. And I am thankful for you, and for your support of GLSEN. You have made a profound impact on my life and the lives of so many LGBT and allied students. Because of you, more students like me can go to school knowing that they’ll be accepted for who they truly are. On behalf of all the LGBT students in schools and homes across the country, please accept a very big and enthusiastic THANK YOU! Without donor support, GLSEN couldn’t make schools better and safer for all students. Thank you, Gabe GLSEN Student Ambassador

May 03, 2013

Today it’s hard for me to imagine life before GLSEN. I never felt safe. I used to be sick with fear going to school every day. There was a group of students who used to follow me as I walked down the hallway shoving me into lockers. It seemed like every morning they got more and more aggressive. Even worse, during a football game, one threatened to kill me. Luckily, I found GLSEN. GLSEN helped me realize that no one has the right to bully and harass me. I’m a good person … an out and PROUD gay kid! GLSEN gives me hope! Thanks to GLSEN, I am learning to tell my story and become an advocate for change. But we can’t change our schools without your support. Please help this amazing organization continue its vital work on behalf of LGBT and allied students.

I am just one of hundreds of thousands of LGBT students across the nation who are helped by GLSEN every day. Without GLSEN … and without you … I know I wouldn’t be where I am today. By supporting GLSEN, you are investing in the future — in students who learn to survive, thrive and lead — students like me! Thank you. Jeremy Jeremy is a second-year GLSEN Media Ambassador and is in the 10th grade in Fargo, North Dakota. 

May 03, 2013

Loan T is a junior in high school and a GLSEN Student Ambassador. Check out this video he created for Day of Silence. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"46","attributes":{"class":"media-image","typeof":"foaf:Image","height":"339","width":"500","style":""}}]] PS Are you participating in Day of Silence this year? Don't forget to register your participation

May 03, 2013

This post is by GLSEN Student Ambassador Amelia I will never forget the day when someone at school ran by me and yelled an anti-gay slur. I was numb, unable to comprehend what was said. My mind flirted with the idea that somehow, it was my fault, that by being proud of who I am, I deserved this. For the rest of the day, I didn't say a single word to anyone. I was too ashamed at how guilty I felt. When I finally told a friend a week later, she was shocked not only by the cruel words I'd heard, but also by how long I'd stayed silent. I told her that somehow, I felt like I’d brought those words on myself. If I had done something differently, that person wouldn't have yelled that anti-gay slur. This story may seem like it’s crafted simply to fit with Day of Silence, but it’s not. It's a true story of the shame one feels after hearing insults thrown at them, and the silence that follows. This experience is why I’m choosing to participate in Day of Silence, not just because I want to make a point that this bullying needs to stop, but also so I can stand with other victims of anti-LGBT name-calling. I hope you will stand with me. If you'd like to help GLSEN support students like Amelia through Day of Silence and other programs, you can make a tax-deductible donation today.

May 03, 2013

This post is written by Thomas N, a GLSEN Student Ambassador It’s that time of year again, that’s right, the Day of Silence is just around the corner. What does this mean exactly? It means it’s time for you to bring some swag to your school; it’s time to get creative and pull out those shirt designs, accessories, glitter- you name it. The opportunities you can take with this event are endless. Being a male cheerleader, I used to face a lot of bullying and harassment throughout my community, in and outside of school. You know the old saying, “Stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That’s a lie. Words can do so much damage to a person. I know from personal experience that the bullying I faced caused me to silence myself because I was scared of what could happen if I showed my true colors.

I see the Day of Silence as not just an event, but also a day of opportunities; a day to create a change in the community by standing side by side and taking a vow of silence.

The Day of Silence has got to be one of my favorite times of the year because of the endless opportunities that come with it. For me, I see it as a holiday and that’s why I try to get everyone at my school involved. A successful event in the past I’m doing again this year is a Day of Silence art expression contest, where students submit original pieces of art that symbolize the silencing effects bullying and harassment have on LGBT student on a daily basis. Another way to engage a large number of students is to ask participants to wear necklaces with Day of Silence signs attached or order Day of Silence wristbands so teachers know who is participating. It’s a fun, easy and clear way to remind students to stay silent! I truly love the Day of Silence and believe every school should host the event. If you haven’t done so yet, be sure to register your participation at the DayofSilence.org and get some tips on how to get it organized at your school! Thomas, N. Renton, WA GLSEN Student Ambassador

April 30, 2013

This entry is by Student Ambassador Brandon S. A week ago I was invited to speak on a panel after a screening of Lee Hirsh's new movie Bully. I remember how a few days before I was invited a headline caught my eye while I was flipping through articles in my phone. "Motion Picture Accreditation Association: Don't let the bullies win! Give 'bully' a PG-13 instead of an R rating." I researched the issue, Bully was given an R rating for "language", about 3 instances when students cursed while bullying another student, which is completely appropriate for a movie ABOUT bullying. As an GLSEN Media Ambassador, I realized that the film could reach the most people that needed to see it, youth who are bullied or people who bully others that don't feel comfortable telling their parents about their situation, if it was rated PG-13. I was confident about my knowledge on how Bully would help students and adult allies across the country address and fight bullying, but I was nonetheless nervous to be on a panel with Eliza Byard, GLSENs executive director, congressmen Mike Honda, a leader in the Japanese American (JA) community and the director himself, Lee Hirsh, but confidence came to envelop me as I remembered my ambassador training with GLSEN just a few months before, and the opportunity afforded to me to represent youth issues on a forum with community leaders I admired.

The conversation on the panel ranged from youth empowerment to changing culture in America, from what we can do in terms of policy to help educators educate the nations youth on respect. I even got to bring up how bully culture is only perpetuated by things like zero tolerance policies that assign disciplinary action to incidents without involving counseling into the required courses of action. These policies only punish youth--often times everyone involved--without taking into account what is happening with the youth, not attempting to educate but rather just punishing the youth. How does this help teaching people who bully that bullying is wrong? It was an amazing experience, I got a lot of feedback from people who appreciated the issues I brought up, and I met Kathy Griffin!!! I felt empowered, as a Media Ambassador, as a member of GLSEN, as a youth who wants to make a difference and is. None of which would have been possible without GLSEN providing the oppurtunity for youth like me to empower ourselves and represent the organization. Thank you GLSEN! Applications for 2012 - 2013 will be available in early April. If you are a middle or high school student and are interested in being a Student Media Ambassador, visit www.glsen.org soon. Photo credit Sarah Taylor

March 19, 2012

This article is written by 2012 GLSEN Student Ambassador Chase S.

The passion and drive of student leaders in my region has inspired me throughout the past several months in my work with GLSEN Southeast MI. Since November 2010, I have been working with our local GLSEN Chapter to develop a comprehensive youth program that addresses advocacy as well as educational and social needs throughout the state.

To locate student leaders, we sent out applications across the entire metro Detroit area. These applications were distributed at the local LGBT community center, local LGBT inclusive organizations/centers, all Southeast MI high schools, and at our GSA Alliance Meetings, where GSA leaders from across Michigan come together for a monthly discussion/event forum.

Since summer 2011, our youth outreach has been rapidly expanding and has already left an impact on Michigan’s school climate for LGBT students in a profound way. That same summer our Chapter had the amazing opportunity to attend Camp GLSEN, which provided extensive training on oppression, LGBT issues, facilitation and implementing youth leadership initiatives. Thanks to this national training we were able to provide a 10-hour student leadership for a team of 17 high-school age leaders broken up into five committees based on their own skills and interests: a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Leadership team, curriculum design team, a presentation team, event planning team and a networking and technology team.

With 17 students, five adult committee advisors and two program coordinators (including myself), it can be difficult to coordinate 24 unique schedules so we opted to use multiple means of communication: a Facebook group, a Google doc, emails, phone calls/texting, Skype meetings and more. These multiple forms of communication have allowed us to reach everyone by their most comfortable means (for example, some students love talking but hate writing and oftentimes don't reply to emails, so we always make a point to follow-up via phone call for important emails and sometimes we use Skype or collaborative Google Docs to have "meetings" when not all group members can be present).

These teams have been collaborating seamlessly and have offered a whirlpool of energy and life experiences. We expect a lot of our student leaders to continue creating change in their communities so it has been our goal to engage youth in service learning as much as possible. This means that students are not just providing their time and energy in a community service setting, but they are also receiving beneficial experience and skills in return. Our students are slowly becoming more confident and outspoken leaders as we push their capabilities in a meaningful way.

Most importantly, we are providing a social and educational venue that allows students to experience personal growth at their own pace. We hope that our project, dubbed the Breaking the Silence Initiative, will not only change our community, but will make a life-long impact on every student who we have had the pleasure to work with on our Jump Start Student Leadership Team this year and for many years to come.

Want to make sure students like Chase are supported? A donation today of any amount helps GLSEN continue our work to make schools safe for students regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

March 12, 2012

This post is by GLSEN Student Ambassador Carly

As many LGBT students and their allies across the country know, starting a Gay-Straight-Alliance is no easy task. When trying to establish a school GSA, students may face opposition from their school administration, their peers, or even the community at large. The situation gets even grimmer for students at private schools or middle schools, which usually have no legal obligation to let such GSA's form.

And yet, as an ally who attends a public K-8 school, I know that the need for GSA's—and the need for a safe place for all students—at such schools can be just as great as the need for them at public high-schools. Like many students, I wanted to do something to address this issue. Unfortunately, my administration has so far refused to do anything in relation to LGBT-bullying. So I decided to take a different route. I started a community Gay-Straight Alliance for all the students in my town.

Just like starting a GSA in a school, the road to starting a community GSA can be a little bumpy. However, it is a viable alternative for students at middle or private schools, who's administrators say “no” to GSA's. So in this blog post, I'd like to share a little bit about how I started a GSA, and how students in similar situations as me can do so themselves.

1. Think About Your Goals For Starting a GSA

It's important to keep in mind what exactly you hope to accomplish by starting a gay-straight alliance in your community. Usually, this can be fairly simple. For me, the goals in starting my GSA were to provide a safe place in my community for LGBT youth, educate the community about LGBT-bullying, and advocating for policy changes in the town's schools.

 

2. Get The Details Worked Out

Unlike school GSA's, which usually come with classrooms for after-school use and a faculty adviser or two, community GSA's often have to start from scratch—with many logistics to be worked out. If possible, the best thing to do is to find another organization or group in your community that could give you guidance in ironing out these details—as well as either giving you a meeting space, or helping you find one. I would suggest checking out any anti-bullying, LGBT, or HIV/AIDS organizations, or groups that are known for working on these issues. In my case, when I first got the idea for my GSA, I thought we might have to meet at my house. I was concerned that this would keep kids I didn't know from joining the club, and make it seem less public and accessible. So I talked to the open-and-affirming church I attend, which not only gave our club meeting space but also some guidance in planning our first meeting.

However, it is not always possible to find a group that can help you, especially in a small town. In that case, a good alternative is an organization that offers public meeting space to any group, such as a public library. Even if they can't help you with other logistics, they can at least offer you a meeting space. You can then, perhaps, turn to individuals who you know who may be able to help you.

 

3. Find Some Friends To Be Members

To have a club, you need members! I started with talking to a few friends of mine who I thought would be supportive, and asked them to be join. My club still only has six members (including my sister and I), who are all my friends, but I'm hoping now that we have a solid base we can begin recruiting more people we don't know.

Remember that a lot of people aren't familiar with what GSA's are, or what they do, so a good place to start in recruiting members is to explain these things. Even more importantly, explain why starting a GSA is important to you. And finally, it doesn't hurt to offer pizza or some similar treat at your first meeting (that's what I did. I also called it a kick off just to get people excited!)

 

4. Plan and Hold Your First Meeting

You've done all this hard work, and now it's time to have your first meeting! For this I suggest checking out GLSEN's Jump-Start Guide for GSA's. Most of the ideas in this guide work for community GSA's as well as regular GSA's.

At our first meeting, we went around and introduced ourselves (with our names, grades, schools, and preferred gender pronouns—which we decided to say even though all of us already knew each other). Then we talked our goals for the club, and what we saw ourselves doing in the future to meet those goals. Another important thing we did is elect club officers. Unlike in a school GSA, the club members in a community GSA are generally responsible for scheduling, planning, and executing all club meetings and activities, with some adult supervision. This can be a positive thing—as you have much more freedom with your club. But it also means you need dedicated members and officers to help you run the club. In our GSA, we agreed upon having a president to run meetings, a vice president to assist the president, two co-secretaries/co-treasurers, and a membership chair to keep track of members and recruit new ones.

 

5. Keep holding meetings and planning new ways to get involved in your community!

Hopefully your GSA will be able to expand and keep finding ways to make an impact on the issue of LGBT-bullying and harassment!

For more help on starting a GSA and organizing advocacy activities, I suggest checking out these sites, which have really helped me:

Do Something: an organization helping youth get involved in many issues affecting the world (including LGBT ones)

The Make It Safe Project: This organization is created by another GLSEN ambassador, and distributes LGBT-themed books to GSA's, as well as having lots of information on GSA's on their page.

March 05, 2012

This post is by GLSEN Student Ambassador Amelia

I am a GLSEN Student Ambassador and the founder and president of The Make It Safe Project. The Make It Safe Project donates LGBT-themed books to schools and youth homeless shelters nationwide. The idea started when I went to my school's library in search of books about being LGBT and discovered that there were almost no books on the subject. I then talked to my fellow GLSEN Student Ambassadors and they described similar situations at their schools. I added youth homeless shelters to my donation program when I found out that roughly 40% of homeless youth nationwide identify as LGBT.

The Make It Safe Project officially launched in the November of 2011. Since then, many wonderful people have donated, shared their stories, and requested books. Each box of books The Make It Safe Project sends includes ten books, a mix of fiction and nonfiction.

One of the things I enjoy the most about the project is I have gotten the opportunity to talk to teens across the country who are doing whatever they can in their own communities to make them accepting. Currently, I have sent nearly twenty book boxes to schools and youth homeless shelters in Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington.

Following GLSEN's message that everyone can be involved in creating positive change, The Make It Safe Project is not just about large donations (though they are wonderful, of course). The goal is for everyone to be able to take part in whatever way they can. While each book box costs $100 to put together and send, donations of $10 still play a huge role in changing the lives of thousands of LGBT teens.

Many have asked me if The Make It Safe Project is a "solo project." While I am the founder and president of The Make It Safe Project, I would not call it a solo project. Every person who has taken part--whether they have donated, posted the link on their Facebook page, or shared their stories on the website--is part of the team. We are all working toward equality for all.

I would like to thank GLSEN for inspiring me to make positive change for LGBT teens. GLSEN taught me that anyone can make a difference, and gave me the courage to begin a project that has now reached thousands of teens across the country.

November 20, 2011

Student Media Ambassador Chase S. talks about Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR)

To me, TDOR means a lot of things. First and foremost, it puts the spotlight on a community that is often neglected. As a person who identifies as gender non-conforming/genderqueer, I find that oftentimes transgender and gender non conforming people are marginalized by the media and ocasionally even the LGB community. It also serves as a tribute to all those who were victimized simply because of their identities. TDOR is a solemn day, for me, but also an important one, because it serves as a reminder that the fight for equality is far from over.

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