April 26th, 2019,
Dear Middle Schoolers:
We are writing to you because as high schoolers, we understand how difficult and sometimes overwhelming it can be to be our authentic selves at school. School is one of the main places we grow and develop our different identities but it is hard to do so when everyone around consistently makes it clear the identities we identify with, aren’t accepted or understood. Because of this, it is crucial that students understand the complexities of identities and gain empathy towards the differences between them. When this is accomplished, not only will students accept the differences, they will also embrace them. Although there are many identities that shape who we are, in this proposal we will specifically be raising awareness towards the LGBTQ+ community because according to a survey done by the Human Rights Campaign, “92% of LGBT youth say they hear negative messages about being LGBT. The top sources are school, the internet, and their peers” (Human Rights Campaign). How will LGBTQ+ learn and grow when they are too busy trying to survive the hallways?
In this proposal, we will communicate how empathy and understanding the uniqueness in everyone’s identities, can help prevent the harm towards LGBTQ youth and raise empathy. We are focusing on middle schoolers because if the violence ends with this generation, it won’t continue with future ones. According to Zoe who is a member of GLSEN, a campaign to promote safe schools, “Each ally, simply by existing, is thereby encouraging others to become allies, too. Starting with one sole ally, more soon appear, and then there is a whole group who supports us… By supporting us and letting us show our true colors without judgement and by responding with acceptance and love, you make us feel freer to be who we were born to be” (Championing LGBTQ Issues in K-12 Education since 1990). How will you be an ally?
Rights and health has become a greater issue these past couple of years especially for the LGBTQ+ community. The discrimination this community is facing has gotten out of hand. BeyondBlue is a website that includes the impact of discrimination on the LGBTQ+ community, respect, and the personal stories of people coming out. BeyondBlue explains “People can often feel pressured to fit in with society’s conventional ideas of being male or female. Those who don’t fit the mould can be subjected to ridicule, intimidation and even physical abuse” ( Beyond Blue ). The LGBTQ+ community often feels like they should fit into the binary which is why we’re writing to you. Middle schoolers have trouble with showing their true selves because they feel like there’s only two corresponding binaries which are taught/known as being male or female. Others aren’t their true selves because they have the fear of being rejected by families and friends. As high-schoolers we want you middle schoolers to open up and not be afraid to show who your true self is. We want you to be allies and be empathetic towards the LGBTQ+ community whether it’s outside or inside of school. If we create a change it will reduce the harm and discrimination the LGBTQ+ community faces and will be left behind when entering high school. Additionally, the health of everyone is very important. NAMI is an organization that lets their audience know what the LGBTQ+ community goes through. NAMI states “ This fear of coming out and being discriminated against for sexual orientation and gender identities, can lead to depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, thoughts of suicide and substance abuse ” ( NAMI ). The issue is some people are in fear of coming out because they are a target of being discriminated/dehumanized. This fear affects their mental health which can lead to them having depression, ptsd, and suicidal thoughts. As high-schoolers we see peers going through difficult times because of the oppression and depression they deal with. We want to raise awareness and build empathy for the ones who are going through it because we want them to be in a safe community.
For a change to be made and these issues to reduce we have to step up! A way of creating a change is building a community/community organizing. The Oakland LGBTQ Center is an organization in Oakland that serves and supports the LGBTQ community. The Oakland LGBTQ Center says “The Oakland LGBTQ Community Center’s model of service delivery is ‘wellness first’ and provides social, educational, and holistic health-related programs, services and activities” ( Oaklanfd LGBTQ Community Center ). Community organizing helps make a change by bringing the community together to fight as one. This community center has been open since 2017 but has been organized for over 20 years. We want to teach you middle schoolers to strengthen and organizing the community you’re apart of with the people around you. Society is unaware on this issue of wanting to make a change but we need to wake up and create a community that will help wake the world up. Next, educating youth about the LGBTQ community is very important because not every person is informed about these types of topics so when we teach them something new it will be engaging to them and enabling to want know more. One way youth can get educated to know more about this topic is by creating/attending a GSA. The GSA network informs everyone about a GSA and it’s benefits. The GSA Network explains “All of these GSAs can make a direct impact for LGBTQ+ youth and help improve school climates. Many GSAs begin as social or support GSAs and over time students are motivated to use their collective voice and power to create real changes in school through anti-slur campaigns, days of LGBTQ+ sensitivity or awareness, teacher trainings, and even speak to school district officials about what they need to live authentically and thrive in school ” ( What IS A GSA? ). GSA stands for Gay-Straight Alliance. A GSA is a safe and open space for others to come in and not feel like they’re in a harmful space. Not all middle schools have a GSA so we encourage the ones that don’t have one to create one! Having a GSA opens up a safe environment for the ones who feel like they don’t have a space to feel comfortable at. This type of of space also builds up empathy because the ones who are going through all of this discrimination, oppression, and harm will see who are their allies and how they know that other people are there for them.
After doing research, our plan as upstanders is to enlighten and encourage middle schoolers to empathize in order to create a safer space by organizing a presentation and activity. The presentation will explain important terms relating to the LGBTQ community. For example, non binary, gender and sexuality spectrum, the difference between gender and sex, and what each letter in “LGBTQ+” means. When youth understand the real meaning of these words, they’ll have the knowledge to debunk the degrading terms that crowd and hover the school hallways that make it hard for LGBTQ students to flourish. Once they have this information, the middle schoolers will participate in a “Step Forward” activity where they’ll be asked a yes or no question that they will answer by taking a step forward, or staying in the same place depending on what they think. The questions will be about topics like LGBTQ history and resources but also questions that will challenge them to think about what role they play in the current environment of their school. This will enable middle school students to acknowledge their privilege but also their power in creating a welcoming environment for all identities. In order to evaluate whether our organizing and activity was effective, we will have the students take a survey at the end of this activity to see what they learned. Because all middle school students won’t participate in this presentation and activity, a pamphlet/booklet will be created that will have information like how to create a GSA, hotlines that provide emotional support, websites if interested in learning more, LGBTQ focused books, and much more that will also be included in the presentation. We hope our plan is effective and impactful by making people more aware, bringing the community together to end the violence towards LGBTQ youth, and developing leaders. We are confident in this plan because by asking questions, we start a conversation that is often avoided and about issues that are sometimes unacknowledged.
If you would like to know more about our proposal or are looking for ways to support, follow us at @everythingrainbowoakland_ on instagram with the hashtags #wordshavepower and
Judith and Imelda
“Beyondblue.” On People in the LGBTI Community, www.beyondblue.org.au/who-does-it-affect/lesbian-gay-bi-trans-and-intersex-lgbti-people/the-impact-of-discrimination.
Beyond blue is a website that includes people’s personal stories of coming out . This source is reliable because it has many statistics that help our topic of LGBTG discrimination. This source includes a “Get Support” section that helps the LGBTQ community out whenever they feel like they don’t have the support.
“Championing LGBTQ Issues in K-12 Education since 1990.” GLSEN, www.glsen.org/.
This website gives resources to schools to help create safer spaces for LGBTQ youth. There is resources specifically for students, and educators and also latest news on laws and policies impacting the LGBTQ community. There is information on GSA’s and different clubs that can be started at schools. Their vision is to create safer schools.
“What Is a GSA.” GSA Network, gsanetwork.org/what-is-a-gsa/.
This website gives information on what a GSA is, provides resources for GSA’s at schools, offers to train people to facilitate, and how to create a GSA at school. A weakness this website has is that the author/owner is unknown so we can’t evaluate their credibility. The goal of the GSA network is to provide resources and encourage youth to education their peers and organize within their schools. Its strength is that they provide direct quotes from actual LGBTQ youth.
This website gives information on campaigns going on everywhere fighting for human rights. There is statistics, stories, and blogs. Stories and blogs are written from experts and people with real life experiences. Statistics are taken from surveys done by the Human Rights Campaign itself that is taken by hundreds of people.
“NAMI.” NAMI, www.nami.org/Find-Support/LGBTQ.
NAMI is an organization that provides statistics from the LGBTQ community. This organization explains the experiences of LGBTQ youth and they give out resources to the ones who need it.
“Oakland LGBTQ Community Center | Oakland, CA.” Oaklandlgbtqcenter, www.oaklandlgbtqcenter.org/.
This website includes support resources, community building activity, and hotlines. One strength about this website is how it includes smaller “websites” that lead you to learn more about their organization. One addition this website could include is people’s personal stories on coming out because it lets the viewers/audience see how they felt coming out and how this organization helped them. This source is credible because The Oakland LGBTQ Community Center is a place open up to anyone from the community.