“Young people in Gay-Straight Alliance clubs withstood intense hostility during the Prop 8 battle, and we are glad that Californians can finally celebrate all loving families and close this painful chapter of the state’s history. Yet lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth across the country continue to face unsafe and underfunded school environments that threaten their ability to graduate. While celebrating today’s decision, GSA Network will continue to push for change — whether in the classroom or the voting booth or the halls of Congress — so that all young people have a chance to succeed.”— Carolyn Laub, Executive Director, Gay-Straight Alliance Network
LGBTQ students and students with disabilities face some of the highest rates of bullying. They’re also disproportionately suspended and expelled from school, along with students of color, showing that punitive discipline is not the solution to bullying and often hurts the youth it seeks to protect. Excluded from history, tormented by classmates and disproportionately kicked out of school, LGBT students and people with disabilities are often taught at school to feel worthless.
With the enactment of California’s FAIR Education Act, students can learn that these marginalized groups have actually made incredible contributions to this country’s history. They can learn that an openly gay man, Bayard Rustin, played a key role in the African-American Civil Rights movement—but that because of his identity, he was kept out of the spotlight and out of the history books. Students can learn that Americans with disabilities courageously fought for rights and protections under U.S. law, marking an important chapter in legislative history.
The FAIR Education Act gives California a tremendous advantage in the struggle to curb bullying. We just need to use it.
"As reported in The Salt Lake Tribune, on the day David committed suicide, Bennion alerted his mother, Phuong Tran, to let her know that her son had been suspended. When Tran rushed to the school, she was told by the principal that the reason for David’s suspension was because they found a condom in his backpack. When asked why a condom should justify suspension, she was told that they would discuss it further the following Tuesday.
Apparently, Bennion exists in a universe where the search of an Asian-Pacific Islander American (APIA) student’s body and personal property is warranted, and where a condom on campus is seen as a sign of criminal behavior rather than mature responsibility (not to mention that many public schools freely give out condoms to students to encourage safe-sex practices). Whereas David’s Vietnamese family unconditionally embraced him when he came out as gay, Bennion and Granite turned its back on David as he endured anti-gay bullying–and used the condom to punitively construct David’s sexuality as a threat to the school.”
Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, a member of the National Association of GSA Networks, doing amazing work:
“A student had been relentlessly targeted by other students around sexual orientation,” she said. “It was reported to school leaders repeatedly and they did nothing. The student thought his safety was in danger and he brought mace to school and he was expelled. Had the school actively addressed the bullying situation and ensured safety for that student, the student would never have been expelled.”
Mauro Ortega, 16, a CPS student who identifies as LGBT and is a member of VOYCE, spoke after the press conference about his own experience with bullying and unfair discipline.
“Back when I was younger, I used to be bullied a lot by certain students and this continued for about two years and I’d always tell the teacher, ‘He’s bothering me, he’s picking on me,’” he said. “The teachers talked to him and his mother but he still wouldn’t stop and so it came to a day when I was in a class … and we were in woodworking together and we were partners. He was picking on me and he hit me on the head with a piece of plywood and it snapped and I told him to stop and he started pushing me and we got into an altercation.”
“I think [being an LGBT student] was a really big motivation of it,” he added. However, Ortega was arrested even after he tried to explain what had happened.
“Some teachers notice, and they take action, some don’t notice until you ask them for help, but I think it was around a 75% percent chance that … I was being helped,” he said.
Five teenagers sat around a table and shared their stories of the trials and tribulations that went with passing through high school as an LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) youth.
One had to transfer schools because of bullying without any administrative help; another almost dropped out of high school altogether. Each story they told had one common, underlying theme: that the school system had failed them, but they chose to rise above it and succeed in spite of it.
The entire time they talked there was an unprecedented silence over the crowd. I go to high school, I have attended assemblies, and never in all of my life in school have I seen such attention, respect, and quiet from such a large group of teenagers. I think it was then that I really understood just how powerful the YES event was, and how relevant it was to all of these kids’ lives.
”—A student journalist with the Santa Cruz Patch writes about GSA Network’s Youth Empowerment Summit: http://bit.ly/UOeAY9
We all know that high school and middle school can be tough for just about everyone. But for preteen and teenage lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth, those years can be especially difficult. Since its inception in 1998, the Gay-Straight Alliance Network (GSA Network) has been working with and “empowering youth activists to fight homophobia and transphobia in schools” by starting gay-straight alliance clubs, which are middle and high school student-run clubs composed of LGBTQ and straight students. These groups act as a support system — an affirming, welcoming environment to socialize and a venue for activism to combat anti-LGBT rhetoric.
Thanks, Huffington Post Gay Voices, for featuring us in your 30 Days of Holiday LGBT Giving!
On behalf of LGBTQ youth facing harsh discipline and school pushout, GSA Network has submitted written testimony for a hearing happening today before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights. The hearing is at 11 am PST and you can watch it here!
I remember the night of the 2008 Election when I looked at the bottom of the news feed and saw that Proposition 8 passed. My mom and dad commented on how happy they were that it passed, and I, being in the closet, was silently hurt and in shock. At school, all of my teachers talked about it, voicing their support of the proposition. It was as if everything changed for me. I was amidst a society that actually voted to classify me as a second-class citizen. The passage of Prop 8 made me feel wrong, immoral, and unsafe. It was a message from my state that I was not welcome or free to be who I was.
Now it is 4 years later, and after coming out to my parents, friends, and community, I have educated many on what it really means to be gay. My mom still tells me in tears about how much of a mistake she made voting Yes on Proposition 8. She regrets it every day of her life and longs for its repeal. Now as we both watch on the news court after court rule Prop 8 unconstitutional, we have a new hope that the Supreme Court next year will stand up for everyone and strike Prop 8 down in California. The Supreme Court’s decision can change my life forever.
“The next iteration of the LGBT movement has to be the anti-racist, gender justice, economic justice iteration of the movement”— Gay-Straight Alliance Network’s Geoffrey Winder at the Ford Foundation’s Out For Change event Read more about it: http://bit.ly/QLYRLm
But instead of locating the students who had threatened me, school leaders suspended me from school for trying to prevent the attack that I had told them I feared, and later expelling me. For months, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get my life back on track, but with the help of Mom and attorneys from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, I’ve enrolled in a charter school. I also filed a lawsuit against my former school so that other LGBT youth will not be left to face harassment and abuse alone, without support or protection from the adults around them.
I’ve been through a lot over the past year, but with Mom’s support, I’m rebuilding my inner strength, and even getting my spirit back.
Through it all, my mom taught me to have pride in myself, and if that pride comes from within, no one could ever knock me down.
”—Dynasty Young talks about his experience as a gay, gender non-conforming student who was bullied by students and then expelled by his school for protecting himself. Read his full piece at Indy Star: http://indy.st/REHrwv
Last week, two students at Celina High School celebrated “Twin Day” with T-shirts that read “Lesbian 1″ and “Lesbian 2,” but they were forced to remove them. In response, some 20 students went to school Tuesday wearing home-made T-shirts that read “I Support… [Rainbow] Express Yourself” and “Straight but Supportive,” a show of support organized by sophomore Jimmy Walter. Assistant Principal Phil Metz forced all the students to remove the shirts because they were “political,” and those who did not were given detention with the threat of suspension.
“…In Berlin three months ago[,] all of us are conscious of the fact that not only will it be Andy and my first public appearance in a long time, but it will also be the first time that I speak publicly since my transition. Parenthetically this is a word that has very complicated subject for me because of its complicity in a binary gender narrative that I am not particularly comfortable with. Yet I realize the moment I go on camera, that act will be subject to projections that are both personal and political…I am completely horrified by the “talk show,” the interrogation and confession format, the weeping, the tears of the host whose sympathy underscores the inherent tragedy of my life as a transgender person. And this moment fulfilling the cathartic arc of rejection to acceptance without ever interrogating the pathology of a society that refuses to acknowledge the spectrum of gender in the exact same blind way they have refused to see a spectrum of race or sexuality.”— Lana Wachowski, HRC speech (excerpted by Gawker)