Make 2012 a Safer Year for LGBT Students

For the past few weeks we’ve been introducing our new college lesbianage and showing you the wonderful experiences that can come with a new year. But what if you aren’t enjoying your college years or haven’t even gotten to them yet? What if you’re still sitting in homeroom hoping no one will call you out for passing your girlfriend a love note or throw you against a locker for wearing a rainbow pin? What if you’re locked behind your bedroom door, surfing the internet, counting down the days until you finally get to escape?

As thrilling and hopeful as those final high school years can be, they can also be a cacophany of fluctuating hormones, building sexual confusion, overwhelming college applications, stressful first relationships (or lack thereof), escalating time commitments and general anxiousness. When it seems like life is attacking you from every single direction it’s easy to miss how close you are to reaching your goal. The past few academic years have shown how tough high school life can be, but luckily there are people out there listening that are able to help. Whether it’s educators, fellow students, companies or just people that have been there, there are tons of initiatives trying to ensure that 2012-2013 will be a success.

If You’re a Graduate, Be a Role Model

Live Out Loud is promoting its Homecoming Project with new PSAs for 2012. The Homecoming Project puts queer adults that have survived high school in the lives and reach of questioning LGBT students. Much like It Gets Better, the organizers want to reassure students that those feelings, doubts and anxieties aren’t abnormal and more importantly are manageable. Mentors sign up to return to their high school and tell students the possibilities that lay beyond their classroom doors. Everyday queers are invited to speak their truth and send the message that life goes on, because they themselves lived it. Even though they invite professionals to show that you can be LGBT and successful, they also want college students to show current students that grabbing their diploma is within their grasp even when it may not seem that way.

If You’re a Friend, Lend an Ear

The Trevor Project is re-promoting its ongoing campaigns with new media, merchandise and mentors for Suicide Prevention Month. They want to open up lines of communication for the youth that need it most. Something as simple as a note can someone realize they aren’t as isolated as they imagine. By having friends, family and loved ones remind teens that they’re surrounded by people that care, hopefully more kids will make it to their graduation instead of their funeral this coming year. The Trevor Project has designated September 27th as The Trevor Project Day, urging friends and allies of bullied teens to simply ask them to, “Talk to Me.” Everyone’s invited to join their note gallery and show others just how easy it to give a lifesaving message.

If You’re an Organizer, Make a Plan

The Queer Youth Fund announced its 2012 grant winners earlier this year and announced its guidelines for 2013. The Liberty Hill Foundation’s Queer Youth Fund awards $100,000 multi-year grants to North American organizations that are striving to make a difference for LGBTQ people that are under the age of 25. If you have ever imagined a better future for queer youth and think you have a plan, why not apply? If you want to be eligible for a 2013 grant, simply submit a letter of intent by October 15th. This year the five causes that won over the Liberty Hill Foundation were the Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center, the Gay & Lesbian Community Services Center of Orange County, the Idaho Human Rights Education Center, the Life Foundation, Inc and Out Now, Inc. You can help start a change too!

If You’ve Got Money, Make a Donation

If you happen to be incredibly wealthy and eager to fund LGBT causes, George Clooney has offered up a date with himself to help raise funds for GLSEN. If you’ve always daydreamed about grabbing a bite with Danny Ocean while ensuring that queer high school students find safe spaces and learn to stand up against discrimination, this is your opportunity. The price tag is projected to surpass $20,000, so if that’s too steep for you, you could always donate a manageable amount or your time instead.

If You’re a Student, Take a Stand

It’s always easy to forget that youth can make the greatest difference in their own lives. GLSEN has a guide for students to start their own Gay-Straight Alliance if someone hasn’t started one already. It all has to start somewhere, so if you’re brave and strong enough, why not make make a difference for everyone around you?

It doesn’t take much to show compassion and guidance to queer youth, but it really does make a ton of difference.

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Hailing from Vancouver, Kristen's still trying to figure out how to survive Montreal's Real Legitimate Canadian Winter. So far she's discovered that warm socks, giant toques and Tabby kittens all play a role in her survival. Her ultimate goal is to rank higher than KStew in the "Kristen + Autostraddle" Google Search competition.

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  1. I had no bloody idea that I was a secret gaymo in high school (though the signs were so obviously there), but in my new city I’ve signed up for a volunteer program where we go to Jr and High schools to talk to students about homophobic language and promoting acceptance in the classrooms. The most rewarding parts of those afternoons is when students as young as 12 come up to us to thank us and talk to us about their own budding sexualities. Those kids are so, so brave to even stand up and say “I think I’m gay. What do I do?”

  2. LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS. I worked hard as a member of my college’s GSA, and I just started work as a case manager for a new mentoring program for LGBTQ youth with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware. Anyone in the Delaware area know someone who wants to be a mentor or knows a kid who needs one, check out Big Brothers Big Sisters! This is only the second BBBS mentoring program in the country geared specifically towards LGBTQ youth.

  3. I am a teacher in a Midwest suburban high school. I wish my kids had access to things like this. We have anti-bullying rules, but it gets tricky when the bully claims they are just “practicing their free speech” or some other bullshit. It also doesn’t help when it’s unsafe for teachers to be out. Last year I had a student come out to me, and I wanted more than anything to be able to tell her I understood, but it would have cost me my job.

  4. Where will these PSA appear I wonder? I’d be curious to know if they’ll ever be aired on prime-time television or will they only be seen on LOGO and the internet?

    • The youtube campaign looks more geared toward social media and getting the word out. Unsure if they’ll be able to get screen time, but word of mouth can be equally strong.

  5. SO LOVE this article. I have been working hard to get a GSA going at my college for about a year, but it’s been difficult. We can not seem to get funding at all, so we loose the few members we get. We have done bake sales, I’ve tried applying for local grants…and it’s just not working. I’m sad because there are a select few of students who are die hard members of the club, but the school board has informed me if we can’t keep a minimum of 10 students they will shut the club down. If anyone on the thread has ideas of fundraising or resources for grants I would be eternally grateful. It makes me sick to think these kids won’t have a place to feel comfortable and meet people within their own community.

    • Do you have any city-wide pride organizations that have a large presence? Sometimes it’s easier to start at the top and ask them to help out. For all you know, some of them are alumni and would have wanted a GSA when they were there

      Some friends of mine started an online poster campaign aimed at de-stigmatizing queerness for minority communities. They had a mentorship program through the city, so see if there’s anything for student led initiatives?

      I’ve also seen a lot of GSA fundraisers on indiegogo, kickstarter and the like, so if you feel like you can stand out, go global.

  6. This made me tear up. Things like these just serve to show me how terrible my high school is with LGBT stuff…the fact that I organized a Breaking the Silence discussion in April was a victory. Tried to start a GSA? Check. Shut down by the administration? Check. The idea that these programs exist makes me both really happy that they do and really sad that I’ve never heard of them. In any case, I’m just glad kids somewhere are getting that sense of community I never had outside the Internet.

    “What if you’re locked behind your bedroom door, surfing the internet, counting down the days until you finally get to escape?” yuuuuuuuuup. Can’t wait to jump ship on this place ASAP.

  7. I am just four short, blissful days away from getting the hell out of high school. So, so close. My high school, a private Anglican all-girls (sadly the all girls aspect wasn’t as much of an advantage as you might think!) school, was errm, less than fabulous. By the time we all got to year 12, the rumour mill had settled down somewhat and the students were by and large not a problem. Teachers on the whole did not make homophobic comments or anything like that and sex ed was pretty good thanks to the school counsellor that taught it. Blessings upon our school counsellor. Walking out of sex ed in year 10, where she’d talked about using dental dams the same way she talked about using condoms, was the first time that I’d ever considered that letting myself accept how I was feeling did not necessarily make me a disgusting person. So yup. Teachers, students, fine.

    School admin. Not so great. Their plan of action is to not mention it. At all. Because apparently to mention same sex attraction is to admit that there is a problem at our school. And of course there isn’t. Not that a year 12 lesbian student committed suicide earlier this year. Not that I know a bi friend who has attempted suicide several times, including once on school property. Not that every other SSA student I know of, including myself, has a history of self harm, among other things. Nup. We have no problem. Every single effort we’ve made has been shut down. Posters? Not allowed. GSA? Not allowed. Gay and Lesbian Liason Officer to speak at assembly? Not allowed. Diversity event? Not allowed. Same sex partners at formal (equivalent to prom)? Not allowed. Eventually the school conceded that if we went and outed ourselves to the principle, we MAY be allowed to display some general diversity material, as long as it didn’t specifically mention sexuality.

    The only time I have ever heard gay people mentioned publicly at our school was when the school chaplain was having one of the religious assemblies. Our chaplain is actually pretty cool and she was reading out questions about God that people had submitted and tried to answer them. One question was “why does God hate gay people?” She answered in a completely impartial way about how different churches had different beliefs, in no way placing herself on either side of the debate. The principle was sitting in on the assembly. When the assembly was repeated the next week for the Year 7-9 students the assembly was exactly the same, minus the gay question.

    I don’t know where else to go and what else to do with this to make it better for other SSA students at my school. All I know is I am less than a week away from making my escape.

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