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04/19/2007


NBA to Donate Proceeds from Jason Collins Jerseys to LGBT Groups

Collins

The NBA will donate proceeds from sales of Jason Collins jerseys to LGBT causes, specifically GLSEN and the Matthew Shepard Foundation, the Guardian reports:

The league said on Friday that donations would total no less than $100,000, and it will also auction off Collins’s autographed, game-worn jerseys to benefit the same organisations.

Collins says he is thrilled to help the organisations that “work tirelessly to ensure LGBT youth get the resources and assistance they need to be successful in life”.


Southern California High Schooler Honored By GLSEN, Steps Up As LGBT Leader: VIDEO

Lailaalshamma

Laila Al-Shamma, a 17-year-old student from Encinitas, California, has been honored with the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network's 2013 Student Advocate of the Year award, and her story is a rather inspiring one. Al-Shamma came out to her family at the age of 13 but feared the ridicule that awaited should friends, peers, and teachers find out. However, she still got involved with La Costa Canyon High School's Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) as a straight ally, serving in leadership positions before finally feeling moved to come out in her junior year after another GSA member committed suicide. Al-Shamma reportedly whipped her school's GSA into shape, offering support and services since her freshman year. Now, others are recognizing just how vital her voice has been throughout her high school community.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports:

“Laila is an inspiring example of how students can positively change their school community for generations to come,” said Eliza Byard, GLSEN’s executive director. “She has a promising future ahead and I am confident her leadership will continue to inspire those around her.”

...

“Growing up, Laila was always taking charge of situations and making things happen,” Maria Al-Shamma said. “She likes to solve problems.”

Under the teen’s guidance, the chapter began posting fliers, holding weekly meetings, working closely with school staff and holding positive campus outreach events. Club membership grew from 5 active members to 30.

Chapter adviser Carissa Mattison said before Al-Shamma came along, the group was a safe hangout for teens but not an active voice for change. Al-Shamma’s leadership skills, maturity and approachable personality made all the difference in how the group was perceived by staff and students.

Al-Shamma eventually came out in a column for the school's newspaper.

It was a bold step for Al-Shamma, an active and popular student on campus. The soon-to-graduate senior is the drum major for the school marching band, a trombonist in the pep and jazz bands and a member of the school academic team.

“I thought it was time to show everyone that it’s OK to be gay and that being gay doesn’t mean you have issues,” she said. “I am gay and I take AP classes and I have a lot of friends. I’m just like anyone else.”

Al-Shamma said she braced for a backlash after the article was published, but instead received “zero negative feedback.” In fact, last month her fellow students voted her homecoming queen.

Congratulations to Laila, and an even bigger extension of praise for the positive communities she, and students like her, are building in schools around the country! 

Watch Al-Shamma's speech at the GLSEN awards gala, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Southern California High Schooler Honored By GLSEN, Steps Up As LGBT Leader: VIDEO" »


Jim Parsons And Partner Todd Spiewak Accept GLSEN's Inspiration Award, Discuss Relationship: VIDEO

Jimandtodd

Big Bang Theory actor and Emmy-winner Jim Parsons and his longtime partner, graphic designer Todd Spiewak, went public this weekend for a GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) award ceremony. The two won the organization's Inspiration Award, and they walked the red carpet together for the first time. Parsons has thanked Spiewak in speeches at other awards shows, but they have never made such a public appearance.

The two men were classy and humble as they discussed their relationship, their dogs, and the true activists of the LGBTQ community. The award was presented to them by Mayim Bialik, Parson's Big Bang co-star.  

E! Online reports:

On stage, Parsons said the true inspirations of the world are people like GLSEN's student ambassadors and writer and gay activist Larry Kramer...

"I've never considered myself an activist," Parsons said. "I've never considered my relationship with Todd to be an act of activism. Rather simply, it's an act of love, coffee in the morning, going to work, washing the clothes, taking the dogs [out]—a regular life, boring love.

Parsons corrected himself, saying that even if the award is simply a display of he and Todd's inspiration to others, they would be nowhere without their friends and family.  

"...We are both surrounded by so many people who make our lives better and easier, friends we've had for many years and friends we've made since living in L.A."

In the audience were Spiewak's parents, who Parsons thanked "for being such an important part of our lives—and our dog's lives."

Congratulations to Jim and Todd!  

Lionsgate Studios (which produces The Hunger Games) and Designing Women creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason were also honored at the GLSEN ceremony.  

Watch the couple's funny, self-effacing, and touching speech, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Jim Parsons And Partner Todd Spiewak Accept GLSEN's Inspiration Award, Discuss Relationship: VIDEO" »


LGBT 'Safe Space' Posters to Remain Down Following TN School Board's Review of Anti-Bullying Policy

TN Safe Space

You may recall last month's backlash facing middle Tennessee's Rutherford County Board of Education and its decision to remove all of GLSEN's 'Safe Space' posters from classrooms on the grounds that the poster's content was too 'political' and 'sexual' because it contained the words 'lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.'

With both the state and national American Civil Liberties Union having spoken out against the homophobic policy, the school board held a meeting Wednesday night to gage public opinion on the issue and discuss a potential review of the policy. The Daily News Journal reports board members told the standing-room-only crowd at the meeting that they will study the district's anti-bullying policy but took no further action

Odom"We have a desire to protect the interests of all students in our school system," said Don Odom (pictured), director of Rutherford County Schools. "Our staff attorney, Jeff Reed, will look at the policy to see if there are changes to be made in order to make (the policies) more inclusive."

The teacher from whose classroom the poster was removed, Allen Nichols, spoke at the meeting and said that the issue here is more than just anti-bullying resources for students. At stake are the free speech rights of students, a notion that senior Bethany Howard appreciated was being kept in mind.

"It means so much to me that Mr. Nichols has taken a stand for student speech," Howard said. "This is a very charged issue, and it's not often that someone takes a stand like he has. And I've never heard him talk about his personal beliefs on politics, religion or any social issues."

Others at the meeting, however, spoke out against Nichols and the poster. Penny Johnson, director for Parents for Truth in Education, said she thought the posters unfairly privileged one group of students over others.

"We have to treat all children from all aspects equally and fairly," said Johnson. "By putting a special poster up for specific group in that area, you're giving them special treatment regarding bullying."

Considering LGBT teens are disproportionately targeted for bullying in schools, I wouldn't exactly consider the poster "special treatment." 88% of LGBT students in Tennessee have been verbally harassed and 43% have been physically harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation, according to GLSEN's "2011 Tennessee State Snapshot"


GLSEN's Eliza Byard Speaks at 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington: AUDIO

Byard

GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard spoke earlier today at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. Byard addressed hailed gay civil rights hero Bayard Rustin and noted the work that still must be done against homophobia and toward full equality for all people.

Listen, AFTER THE JUMP...

(via good as you)

Continue reading "GLSEN's Eliza Byard Speaks at 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington: AUDIO" »


TN School Board Removes LGBT 'Safe Space' Posters From Campus, Claims They Were Too 'Sexual'

Screen Shot 2013-08-23 at 4.11.44 PMThe Rutherford County Board of Education in central Tennessee is under quite a bit of fire from the state and national American Civil Liberties Union after deciding to remove all of GLSEN's 'Safe Space' posters (pictured) from classrooms at its Central Magnet School. The reason? The school board claimed the poster's content was too 'political' and 'of an inappropriate sexual nature' because it contained the words 'lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.'

The ACLU, however, says the school board's claims are "obvious mischaracterization[s]" and "grossly misconstruing the nature of the poster." Additionally, the ACLU says that legal action may be required if steps are not taken to reverse the decision:

"Removal of these posters is a violation of the free speech rights of students and teachers," said Thomas H. Castelli, ACLU-TN Legal Director. "Permitting some student groups but not others to display posters amounts to unconstitutional, discriminatory censorship." 

GLSEN has also responded, stating that many students in Tennessee already feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, which can cause absenteeism, lowered academic achievement, and poorer psychological well-being.  88% of LGBT students in Tennessee have been verbally harassed and 43% have been physically harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation, according to GLSEN's "2011 Tennessee State Snapshot." 

"Removing a GLSEN Safe Space poster that promotes a positive learning environment free from harassment is alarming given that a majority of LGBT students in Tennessee report feeling unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation or gender identity," said Dr. Eliza Byard, GLSEN's Executive Director. "Every student deserves to feel safe in school and our Safe Space posters, a part of GLSEN's Safe Space Kit, play a vital role in conveying that very message. Students know they have an educator to turn to for support when they see our poster displayed in a school classroom or office."

The school board has yet to respond to the ACLU letter, which can be read here.

Tennessee is no stranger to silencing the voices of LGBT students and allies. The "Don't Say Gay" bill that was reintroduced in the Tennessee Senate earlier this year comes to mind...  


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