June 26, 2012
Meet Communications Intern Carlo Steinman
I thought I’d just write a little note to introduce myself. I’m Carlo Steinman, and I’ll be GLSEN’s Communications Intern for the summer. You’ll probably be seeing me around the blog a lot. A little bit about me: I’m 19, born and raised here in NYC, and I’m a rising second-year at the University of Chicago. If you’ll bear with me, I’d like to share my experience from high school and how it motivated me to work for GLSEN.
At the end of 11th grade, I came out to my classmates. I was the first person to be out at my small, all-boys’ school in almost 10 years. I was never bullied for my sexual orientation—before or after I came out—but there was a significant undercurrent of homophobia among the student body. Even with many out faculty members, it was common to hear students remarking, “That test was so gay,” and almost every comment included the casual disclaimer “no homo.” Combine that with the zealously heterosexual, macho-man persona that an all-boys’ school can create among adolescents, and you’ve got an unwelcoming, although not unsafe, environment for a gay teenager. Even so, I was well aware how good I had it. That there had never been any hateful words or actions towards me convinced me that I needed to take the next step and try to eliminate homophobia completely from the school.
On Day of Silence my senior year, I wrote a letter to the few other members of the community who I knew privately to be gay or bisexual. In it, I detailed what I thought our course of action should be. The silence portion of Day of Silence is great, since it brings attention, but dialogue needs to follow. I said that—in a community small enough that I frequently had a meaningful conversation with every student in the high school each week—we needed to become more visible. Nobody, if they thought about it, had a problem with LGBT people, they just weren’t thinking. If we could become more visible, they would be less homophobic. The people who read the letter agreed and later that day one of them sent an incredibly moving email to the entire student body in which he came out. A few minutes later, he was followed by another.
The response, an outpouring of support, was immediate. In the weeks that followed, we held a question-and-answer session where we shared our experiences and answered questions from students and faculty concerned about how they could make the school more inclusive and tolerant. I wrote an Op-Ed for the student newspaper. We re-formed the GSA, which had been practically non-existent, taking it from a group that met maybe once a year with four participants to one with weekly meetings attended by more than 20 students.
Looking back on my experiences, I recognize just how lucky I had it. I was at a small, loving school in one of the most liberal areas of the country. I was never bullied because of my sexual orientation. Still, it took until my 12th year at the school to finally feel comfortable being out, being myself, around the people I’d known since I was five. That’s why GLSEN’s work is so important to me. Even at my school, there was homophobia that made my experience there uncomfortable and forced me to live a lie. Many schools are much worse, and many LGBT youth have it much harder than I did. I’m excited to work with GLSEN to help teach children to respect all people, so that LGBT students can finally feel safe and comfortable being themselves in their schools.