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.