November 25, 2013

The Path to Advocacy

Tommy Bricco GLSENI’m Tommy Bricco, an intern in GLSEN’s Research Department, and I wanted to introduce myself to the broader GLSEN community. I’m thrilled and excited to be a part of GLSEN’s phenomenal team of leaders and advocates who are making such a tremendous impact in educational arenas throughout the country for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) young people. Two months ago I started assisting the Research Department with preparing the data for the 2013 National School Climate Survey report. Having had minimal experience working with education research, I was unsure about what I could expect in my position. However, I quickly realized that my work is more than just crunching data for the next report. Working with data affords me an opportunity to see patterns in LGBTQ students’ stories and to hear these young people’s voices come through in their responses.

Working at GLSEN has also given me the chance to reflect on my own journey as an LGBTQ activist. My story began when I was nine years old. As a young kid in a school, I found myself more comfortable playing with the girls on the playground rather than playing with the boys. One afternoon an adult came out of the school, pointed at me, and with a smirk on his face asked, “Who is the new girl at school?” This was the first time that I seriously thought about who I was as a young person. What did he mean? Was he actually insinuating that I was a girl? Was I doing something wrong? This was the first time I was acutely aware that the pressure to conform to traditional “gender norms” would be something I would have to face in life.

Moving forward from this experience, I knew that the way this adult made me feel was wrong, and I didn’t want another young person to have to go through the anxiety and stress associated with gender stereotyping. However, this was not the last time that I was exposed to anti-LGBT behavior. From little league baseball teams to the hallways of my public schools, homophobia seemed to be everywhere in my community. Since beginning my internship here at GLSEN, I am even more convinced that there is much work to be done to ensure LGBTQ young people have safe, inclusive learning environments.

Despite exposure to anti-LGBT behavior in my community, I was fortunate to have a mother who believed in acceptance, understanding, and love for all people. It was this type of love and influence that allowed me to accept myself and recognize the importance of valuing the differences inherent in humanity. In addition to my mother, many of my teachers gave me the confidence to draw on my experiences and work towards providing equal education opportunities for LGBTQ youth.

Once I got to college, I began to fully embrace my identity as a gay man. In addition, I began developing my passion to advocate for culturally-sustaining curricula and school environments for underrepresented populations of students, primarily for students of color and LGBTQ students. This passion led me to the New York University graduate program in Education, Leadership, Politics and Advocacy which I will complete this December. I’m so grateful to have been given this opportunity at GLSEN to help make positive changes in the lives of LGBTQ young people. To me, GLSEN is a place that helps provide, build and sustain the spaces for young people to speak up and make their voices heard. I look forward to contributing to research that local advocates can use to ensure safe schools for all students, and I know that together we can make a change.

Find Your Chapter