My memories of high school are filled with power. Shouting at a podium in front of the Nebraska State Capitol demanding equity for LGBTQ folks. Celebrating in the halls of my high school after my friend Jordy informed me that the anti-bullying bill for which we had just lobbied made it out of committee. Having my theater teacher tell me, “I heard you’re coming out. I wanted to let you know that we love and support you.”
My memories of high school are also filled with friends’ stories of being followed into bathrooms, on the way home, in school hallways by people yelling slurs and threats that still make me cringe. One friend telling me in a quiet, disassociated voice, “I wish I wasn’t gay.” Hearing politician after politician demean me and my community repeatedly and with vitriol.
While these memories were being created, GLSEN gave me the opportunity to become part of a national student leadership team called JumpStart. GLSEN taught me and many other high school students how to start GSAs, press interaction skills and how to become leaders. I learned the word oppression, and most importantly, how to organize around its eradication. GLSEN gave me a foundation upon which much of my commitment towards social justice was built. For that, I am beyond grateful.
After graduating from Wesleyan University, I am now about to begin my second year at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, studying Public Policy and Non-Profit Management. I’ve realized that work to end racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia and so many other societal institutions that hurt people requires approaches from every direction. I’m particularly interested in how policy and research can be used to reduce the number of trans* people, people of color, and queer youth entangled in the criminal justice system.
While working at GLSEN this summer, I’ve been able to put my super-nerdy love for research to work towards safer schools. I’ve been conducting local outreach for the 2013 National School Climate Survey. I’ve also been working with GLSEN Research Assistant Maddy Boesen on further documenting the experience of LGBTQ high school athletes. We know that, overall, high school students who participate in interscholastic athletics have positive outcomes regarding GPAs and feelings of school connectedness. We’re curious if these and others outcomes hold true for LGBTQ high school athletes.
I am thrilled to be working with GLSEN this summer and to continue working towards safe schools for all students.