Friday, October 29, 2010

UPDATE: McCance Steps Down From School Board

Clint McCance's story has been in the news all week, including on our blog yesterday. Last night Anderson Cooper publicly called McCance out, ripping into his decision to take to his Facebook page to say that he hopes that gay kids kill themselves.

After this segment aired last night, McCance stepped down from his position as vice president of the Midland school district.

You can watch Cooper's comments below:

Helpful Resource from Sylvia Rivera Law Project

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project - a New York City legal aid organization that serves transgender and gender non-conforming people - recently released a fact sheet and supplementary webpage on trans and gender non-conforming youth in schools. The new resource reviews important definitions that relate to the trans and gender non-conforming students, and expounds upon legal rights for those individuals living in New York State and specifically New York City. The fact sheet also reviews the obligations that school faculty, administrators and staff have to protect students from harassment and discrimination.

One very helpful aspect of this fact sheet is an outline that details a few ways in which schools can adopt policies to create an atmosphere that is not hostile to transgender and gender non-conforming students. The commonplace pattern in our society is often to speak about LGBT rights, without giving enough credence or attention to gender identity, and specifically transgender issues. Perhaps the most vulnerable period in the life of a person who is contemplating their particular gender identity and gender expression is when they are young adults, so it’s important to keep that in mind when discussing subject matter pertinent to the ways we can improve our schools for LGBT students.

Some of the recommendations made to school administrators and faculty is to create gender neutral restrooms, avoid perpetuating gender stereotypes, incorporate positive information about transgender issues into curricula, and to arrange for transgender awareness training for faculty, staff, and administrators from a qualified community-based trainer, which is one specific thing PFLAG can directly help with through Transgender Youth and Gender Variance training.

To learn more about the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, and to review these new resources, please click here.


This post was written by Eric VanDreason, the newest edition to PFLAG National’s Policy Team. To learn more about Eric and his role at the National Office, please visit our staff page here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Arkansas School Board Member McCance Likely to Keep Job After "Fags Should Die" Comment

Many of you may have heard of this story. No matter how many times I read it, it seems unreal that, given everything that's been in the news the past month with LGBT teen suicides, a school board official (or anyone else, for that matter) would have the nerve to say what Clint McCance said. I've bolded his comments below so that they can easily be made out.

McCance is a board member in the Midland school district in northern Arkansas. Responding to a call to wear purple last Wednesday to support LGBT youth, McCance wrote the following message on his Facebook page: "Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers killed themselves. The only way im wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide. I cant believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed thereselves because of their sin. REALLY PEOPLE."

Initially, six people "liked" McCance's message. He also received supportive comments, though some challenged his statement. A commenter wrote, "Because hatred is always right." That led McCance to write, "No because being a fag doesn't give you the right to ruin the rest of our lives. If you get easily offended by being called a fag then dont tell anyone you are a fag. Keep that sh-t to yourself. I dont care how people decide to live their lives. They dont bother me if they keep it to thereselves. It pisses me off though that we make a special purple fag day for them. I like that fags cant procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other aids and die. If you arent against it, you might as well be for it."

McCance was again challenged on his statements — and his Christianity. Wrote one commenter: "YOU NEED TO STOP AND THINK FOR A SEC GREAT YOU BIG CHRISTIAN MAN ! SO KEEP ALL OF YOUR THOUGHTS TO YOUR SELF YOU DONT WANT PPL TALKIN ABOUT YOUR FAMILY SO DONT TALK BOUT OTHERS."

McCance responded with, "I would disown my kids they were gay. They will not be welcome at my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off. Of course my kids will know better. My kids will have solid christian beliefs. See it infects everyone."

Amazingly, McCance will likely keep his job. “In Arkansas law, the only way to recall a school board member is over a felony [committed by him or her] or absentee issues,” said Julie Johnson Thompson, the director of communications for the Arkansas Department of Education in Little Rock.
On Wednesday, Thompson’s office released the following statement: “The Arkansas Department of Education strongly condemns remarks or attitudes of this kind and are dismayed to see that a school board official would post something of this insensitive nature on a public forum like Facebook. Because Mr. McCance is an elected official, the department has no means of dealing with him directly. However, the department does have staff who investigate matters of bullying in schools and we will monitor and quickly respond to any bullying of students that may occur because of this, as we have with other civil rights issues in the past. The department also has worked with the State’s Office of the Attorney General during the month of October to provide training to counselors across the state regarding cyberbullying, ‘sexting’ and texting, which included a portion on how to watch for and deal with bullying of this kind.”

“I believe the school district is working on a statement,” Thompson said. “I know their superintendent is not in town right now.”

Thompson says her office has been inundated with e-mails, though mostly from out of state: “People are pretty much horrified,” she said.

For more details on this story, click here and here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Department of Education: Title IX Can Help Make Schools Safer

Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali released a dear colleague letter to educators yesterday, October 26, upon an increased public awareness of school district policy on bullying and harassment and the heightened level of media coverage revolving around LGBT teen suicides. The letter comes on the heels of repeated calls of action made towards our government officials, in particular the Department of Education.

The letter addresses the need for anti-bullying policies to be comprehensive, going beyond prohibiting bullying on the basis of traits expressly protected by federal civil rights laws enforced by OCR to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion. There is also mention of both preventative and proactive measures schools should be taking in order to stop bullying before it starts, as well as acting to quell tension and hostility immediately following an incident.

Title IX prohibits both female and male students from exclusion from participation in, denial of the benefits of, or subjugation of discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. LGBT advocates maintain that the law should be applied in situations where students are perceived as non-conforming to traditional gender roles, resulting in discrimination against them by peers and/or faculty. While we are forced to wait for movement from Congress on bills like the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act, the recognition and application of Title IX as a combatant to gender-based stereo-typing is extremely positive, as it gives perceived or actual LGBT students and their families reassurance that they are in the right and that they have options when facing discrimination.

Yesterday, in a conference call with LGBT journalists, Ali talked specifically about the letter’s pertinence to LGBT students, saying, "A lot of bullying experienced by LGBT students is accompanied by or in the form of sexual harassment or gender-based harassment because students are perceived as not conforming to traditional gender roles. We want to be sure that that kind of harassment and discrimination can very much be a violation of Title IX and federal civil rights laws."

We commend the US Department of Education and Russlynn Ali specifically for clarifying how Title IX may be applied help to alleviate schools of the bullying, harassment and discrimination that often takes a devastating toll on victims. We encourage our readers to take a look at the full letter here and also the Office of Civil Rights’ follow-up information with a background, summary, and facts on utilizing Title IX in fighting gender-based discrimination. We also urge you to file a claim with OCR should you know of a school community member who is being bullied, harassed or discriminated. Please visit our Claim Your Rights Resource Center to learn how to file a claim today!

This post was written by Eric VanDreason, the newest edition to PFLAG National’s Policy Team. To learn more about Eric and his role at the National Office, please visit our staff page here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Safe Schools Panel on “Making It Better”

With so much attention focused on the tragedies that have befallen those students across the country who determined their only available option was to take their own lives because they were victims of harassment and discrimination, there is still little attention on the resources that should have been available to them. We can focus on an “it gets better” mentality, but that rhetoric may only further isolate victims entrenched in harassment by making the situation seem hopeless.

On Thursday, October 14, a congressional briefing took place that focused on bullying and harassment of LGBT youth in public schools. Moderated by the Human Rights Campaign and paneled by representatives from various organizations including Dr. Emily Greytak of GLSEN, Chris Anders of the ACLU, and Stacy Skalski of National Association of School Psychologists, the meeting focused on the harrowing statistics faced by LGBT kids in middle and high school, what actions that need to be taken now, and what advocacy efforts are in the works to prevent the harassment and the despair faced by LGBT youth from taking place in the future.

The briefing started with poignant opening remarks made by SMYAL (Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League) intern D’Angelo Morrison about the problems he had faced growing up in an urban environment like D.C. Morrison spoke of being outed by his best friend while in high school and the ensuing pain that was caused. He talked of the discrimination that isn’t dissimilar to the experiences of any LGBT young person; physical threats, verbal abuse, and isolation by friends and enemies alike. Morrison discussed the feeling of knowing everyone was looking on and noticing what was happening, not a single friend, staff member, or bystander was willing to respond or resolve any conflicts. Even when directly approached and asked for help, Morrison reported authoritative figures in his school would respond by placing him in a room with his aggressor to “talk it out”. Sadly, his experience illustrates what it’s like for thousands of LGBT young people every day, and evidenced to those attending why it’s important to promote ways in which students can seek help as well as relevant legislation to make things better.

Chris Anders spoke of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and provides legal recourse to redress such discrimination. Buiding off of Chris’ testimony, our Claim Your Rights page details, filing a claim with the OCR is a safe, confidential, and effective way to help protect you or someone you know from being harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The panel also discussed the two major efforts being put forth by the LGBT community and its allies. The Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), which is based on the rhetoric contained within Title IX, prohibits any school program or activity receiving federal financial assistance from discriminating against any public school student on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition, SNDA prevents discrimination against any public school student because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of a person with whom a student associates or has associated.

Coming hand in hand with SNDA is the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA). SSIA would amend the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act through No Child Left Behind Act re-authorization to require schools and districts receiving federal funds to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Click here to see what you can do to help move these important bills through congress!

Research shows that actual or perceived gender identity and gender expression are among the top three reasons students in their schools are bullied or harassed. Research also shows that LGBT young people are bullied two to three times more often than their heterosexual peers. The harassment these youth experience increases their likelihood of skipping school, underperforming academically, and dropping out. Together, we can work to help prevent these striking statistics to remain or get worse, as well as allow LGBT young people to know that they are loved and that they deserve to grow up in a safe environment, regardless of how they choose to identify themselves.


This post was written by Eric VanDreason, the newest edition to PFLAG National’s Policy Team. To learn more about Eric and his role at the National Office, please visit our staff page here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Transgender Student Stands Up for Rights

Every year LGBT students are faced with their school districts institutionalizing anti-LGBT sentiment. For example, Constance McMillen made waves last year after a depressing series of events was initiated when she was told by school administrators she would not be allowed to atend her highschool prom because she requested bringing her girlfriend as her date. After the school’s prom was cancelled, a private prom was organized in which McMillen and her girlfriend were invited. Meanwhile, parents of those attending the school conspired to throw a secret prom for their children, one which would exclude McMillen. McMillen attended the “decoy” prom with her date and a few others students seemingly deemed unfit to attend by the other parents. Due to the discrimination Constance experienced, she eventually transferred from the school, located within Itawamba County School District in Mississippi.

Last week, a similar situation arose, pitting discriminatory school administrators in opposition to an LGBT individual. Andy Moreno, an 18-year-old senior who identifies as a transgender woman at North Dallas High School, decided she would run for homecoming queen. Moreno’s campaign started for fun, but became serious when she was told by a school counselor that there were administrators against the idea of her running. Moreno reached out to Principal Dinnah Escanilla, who said that she was “a gay male,” and that she would not be allowed to run for homecoming queen, but suggested homecoming king instead.

Following the decision to exclude Moreno from the homecoming court regardless of the number of votes cast for her, a rally took place outside of the school demanding a revote. Moreno also decided not to take the harassment lying down, choosing to stand up for her rights, taking the controversy to local news agents, and even scoring a feature on MTV News. When reached for comment by MTV News, the school district stated, "It again should be noted that Dallas Independent School District is proud to have one of the most progressive anti-discrimination policies among school districts in the state." However, "The district's administration continues to support the principal with this decision."

Moreno hopes the attention will have a positive influence on those in her school and in the community. PFLAG applauds Moreno for being brave enough to stand up to the discrimination she’s been forced to put up with, and we hope her visibility in her community inspires those around her to recognize her identity and embrace her right to participate in the homecoming queen court.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Making it Better - In Norman, Oklahoma

A few days before October’s LGBT history month, residents of Norman, Oklahoma were amidst the throes of a battle to determine whether the city would be afforded the ability to officially acknowledge the month as such. Dozens of protesters attended September 28th’s city council meeting, where supporters and opponents spent several grueling hours debating the proclamation that essentially promotes understanding and equal treatment of those within the LGBT community for those tangential to it.

It took approximately three hours for the Council to pass the proclamation 7-1. PFLAG’s own Norman Chapter President Kay Hamm was witness to the events that took place, and reported, “Our supporters were eloquent, factual, and related compelling personal stories. In the end, each councilmember and the mayor [Cindy Rosenthal] spoke…about the importance of equality for all of Norman’s citizens that outweighed the threats to vote them out of office during the next election cycle.”

Part of the Proclamation states, “the City of Norman includes productive and caring citizens who happen to be GLBT, who own businesses within the city, and who contribute to our community through the arts, education, science, politics, faith, health care, public service, and all other walks of life.”

Sadly, despite the passing of the proclamation, 19-year-old Zach Harrington was more affected by what took place at the meeting rather than what resulted from it. Harrington was a talented aspiring musician. He graduated from Norman North High School, where he was in band, orchestra, and became the first male captain of the color guard. It was in high school that he became familiar with bullying, requesting to transfer schools after facing much torment.

What may have been more grievous for Zach than the bullying faced in the past or what specifically transpired at the city council meeting was the idea that the adults sitting before him were operating under the same insecurities and ignorance that the teenagers he dealt with in the past had exhibited. The thought may have dawned on him: How can I hold on to the idea that “it gets better” when I’m being subjected to the same type of torment I was as a teenager, now from those twice and three times my age?

This week, news of another college-aged student committing suicide only amplifies the horror for students watching around the country that things might not immediately get better. If we disingenuously continue telling troubled youth that their situation will instantly improve without actually taking measurable steps to improve it, then that belief alone will wear thin. Ultimately, what the LGBT-supportive residents of Norman, Oklahoma worked to accomplish is the type of action-driven change needed to rid our communities of the ignorance that has given our older youth a reason to fear walking down their community’s streets, passing their neighbors houses, as much as they feared their school’s hallways as younger teens. Positive steps taken by those in authority, often provoked by members of the community, are what contribute to eventual national legislation and the changes in opinion on a large scale.

While the loss of life in Norman is extremely tragic and unfortunate, PFLAG salutes those in Norman and other proactive individuals willing to put up a fight for advances that will contribute to greater knowledge and understanding of the LGBT community, and will help to end the ignorance that presently exists in our communities in the future. It is important to remember not only to say positive things, but to also be visible advocates in your communities for those you may not even realize are looking on. To learn what you can do to become involved in your community, take a look at our top ten ways to promote safe schools and communities.

This post was written by Eric VanDreason, the newest edition to PFLAG National’s Policy Team. To learn more about Eric and his role at the National Office, please visit our staff page here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

DADT Update: Obama Administration Wins Stay Against Moratorium; Policy to be Enforced

The Obama administration won a temporary stay against the moratorium on "don't ask, don't tell" Wednesday, granting the Pentagon the right to once again enforce the 17-year-old ban on gay men and women serving openly in the military.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit issued the decision, giving itself time to consider the Justice Department's appeal of last week's injunction by U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips.

Wednesday's stay was the latest volley in an issue ping-ponging its way through the courts.

The Log Cabin Republicans (LCR), a pro-gay group that brought the suit challenging the constitutionality of "don't ask, don't tell," have until Monday to appeal the 9th Circuit decision.

"While we are disappointed with the court's ruling granting a temporary administrative stay, we view the decision as nothing more than a minor setback," said Dan Woods, the attorney representing LCR. "We didn't come this far to quit now, and we expect that once the 9th Circuit has received and considered full briefing on the government's application for a stay, it will deny that application."

This "is not a decision on the merits; it's an even more temporary decision," said Richard Socarides, a former gay-rights adviser to President Bill Clinton who is tracking the issue closely.

"For the reasons stated in the government's submission, we believe a stay is appropriate," Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said. It will be issuing additional guidance regarding the decision, she said. The Justice Department had no immediate comment, according to a spokeswoman.

The military is back to where it was before Phillips caught it by surprise last Tuesday with her injunction. Since then, the Pentagon has instructed military recruiters to accept openly gay and lesbian applicants, though few have been known to apply, according to gay rights groups.

As for any gay or lesbian people who enlisted this week, "They may be told they cannot join," if the Pentagon decides to enforce the law, said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group representing service members affected by the law.

But the military's decision to follow Phillips's order proves it is ready to accept gay and lesbian service members, said Aaron Belkin, executive director of the Palm Center at the University of California at Santa Barbara. The think tank studies gays in the military and supports lifting the "don't ask, don't tell" ban.

"Look what happened last week: The military suspended ["don't ask, don't tell"] with no training, and guess what? Nothing happened," Belkin said

To continue reading this story in The Washington Post [free subscription required] click here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Action Alert - Talk About ENDA

With the mid-term elections rapidly approaching, campaigns – and candidate promises – are in overdrive. We need to take advantage of the visibility of Congressional candidates by asking tough questions about legislation like ENDA that will reveal their level of commitment to equality for all.

The passage of ENDA will benefit LGBT Americans by providing long-overdue workplace protections for LGBT employees. Shockingly, it is still legal to fire someone on the basis of their sexual orientation in 29 states and it is legal to fire someone on the basis of their gender identity in 38 states.

Passage of ENDA will deliver a federal remedy to outlaw these forms of discrimination and provide the long-overdue job security that so many LGBT individuals desperately need – today more than ever. It is finally time that people are judged on the merit of their work and accomplishments – not what people think about who they are.

The candidates’ answers – and, more importantly, their actions that follow their words – could provide meaningful solutions for millions of LGBT individuals and their families struggling to make ends meet in these tough economic times.

Candidates are looking for our support, but we need to know that they’ll work for equality for our families if they’re elected. So we need you to take action today!

Top Five Ways to Talk about ENDA this Fall

1. Schedule an in-district lobby meeting. It’s important to talk with your Members of Congress about the importance of ENDA and why it should be a priority for them to address this remedy to discrimination on the campaign trail.
2. Attend a Candidate Forum. Be sure to attend a candidate forum and ask participants a question related to ENDA. Something as simple as, “Do you support equal opportunity for all people in the workplace – and do you support the passage of ENDA to ensure that this is the case for all Americans?,” will help you get a better sense as to where the candidates stand on issues most important to you.
3. Host a Candidate Forum. If your chapter plans to host a candidate forum, be sure to include ENDA on the agenda. Ask each candidate about the legislation, their positions, and their thoughts on how they would help advance this legislation should they be elected in November.
4. Tell 3 People About ENDA. In the days leading up to the election, be sure to tell 3 people about the importance of ENDA, why the bill must remain trans-inclusive, and why it’s critical in these tough economic times. To learn more about ENDA, please click here.
5. Share this Alert with Your Friends and Family. While you talk with those most important to you about ENDA, be sure to share this action alert with them and encourage them to pass it along to people they care about to help spread the word today!

If you have additional questions, please be sure to contact Rhodes Perry, Associate Director of Policy and Programs at rperry@pflag.org or (202) 467-8180.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Refresher on What “We the People” Means

It seems as though the issue of marriage equality now represents the nexus of confounding thought within both the LGBT community and the country as a whole, representing a focal point that conjures one of the most contentious and polarizing social debates taking place within America’s crowded political landscape. Though it sometimes is pushed to the side by discussions about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” or most recently by discussions about safer schools and discrimination and harassment, marriage equality often serves as the de facto litmus indicator on just how accepting the country is of the LGBT community. Just 15 years ago, one would be hard-pressed to find a state where more than 25% of the population supported same-sex marriage. Recent polls have shown a shift in attitude, and there a number of states that now claim over 50% of their populous as being supportive. The question remains with many; what right does our judicial system have in making a determination concerning marriage equality after the people have decidedly chosen to dismiss it?

The Bill of Rights was created to ensure that certain undeniable, unalienable fundamental liberties remained in the forefront of our consciences in determining law and deciding what is best for our country. Knowing that personal biases might obstruct the majority’s view on interpreting those laws, the founders of our constitution placed importance on judges, specifically the Supreme Court, to interpret the constitution in a way that keeps these rights preserved. Often times, the Supreme Court goes against what popular opinion might say about a particular issue. The court's unpopular landmark decisions in Brown v. Board of Education, which held that separate is not equal, and Loving v. Virginia, which held that it is not "equal" to deny individuals the freedom to marry a person of another race, have come to be accepted by an overwhelming portion of the country even after they came to fruition as extremely unpopular decisions. While protecting our rights may not always be popular, it is necessary, and it’s the court’s job to realize this fact.

There are two key court cases to keep an eye on in the coming months. One such case is Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, a lawsuit in Massachusetts claiming that the federal definition of marriage created by DOMA to exclude married same-sex couples from all federal marital protections violates equal protection guarantees. The other, more highly publicized case is the Perry v. Schwarzenegger, which challenges the federal constitutionality of Proposition 8. While there is more media attention surrounding the case in California, it is the Gill case in particular, according to advocates and scholars closely watching their progress, that is the struggle destined for the U.S. Supreme Court which has the best chance to actually provide marriage equality. The Gill case will effectively repeal DOMA, which states in its third section that marriage is defined by the heterosexual union of a man and a woman. The case comes with more specificity than the Perry case, and many think is likelier to yield a more positive result for the LGBT community and its supporters.

In a recent panel discussion regarding the right to marry, Cynthia Nixon gave an extremely coherent and compelling argument on how allowing gays and lesbians to marry isn’t “redefining marriage” by stating, “Gay people who want to marry have no desire to redefine marriage in any way. When women got the vote, they did not redefine voting. When African Americans got the right to sit at a lunch counter alongside white people, they did not redefine eating out. They were simply invited to the table.” Here’s hoping we’re invited to the table soon, too.

This post was written by Eric VanDreason, the newest edition to PFLAG National’s Policy Team. To learn more about Eric and his role at the National Office, please visit our staff page here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

It's Straight Ally Week - What Will You Do to Get Involved?

ALLY WEEK is October 18-22 2010. Since, 2005 PFLAG National has joined our friends at GLSEN in sponsoring this nationwide, weeklong event to support and celebrate allies. Please visit our website at www.straightforequality, www.pflag.org or GLSEN’s website at www.allyweek.org for more ways to get involved. Once again, PFLAG National is proud to support this year’s Ally Week. As we begin celebrating this week, please take a look at some of the exciting things you can do, everyday, to show your support.

Day One: GET UP and AT EM’
 One of the easiest ways to meet other supportive straight allies is to attend a PFLAG meeting. With more than 250 chapters around the United States, attending a PFLAG chapter meeting is a sure way to show your support, get involved in your community and make new friends. Our LGBT families and friends need to know they have your support, so why not attend a meeting and get UP and AT EM’. To find a chapter in your area, click here.

Day Two: Straight for Equality
 Don’t know what Straight for Equality is? Well it’s time to get in the loop and become part of a community of straight supporters working toward equality. Visit the Straight for Equality website for tips on becoming the best ally EVER! Take the Pledge, learn about our Straight for Equality in the Workplace training, plan to attend our 2011 Straight for Equality Awards Gala or travel in style with a Straight For Equality tote bag, the possibilities are endless. Actions, big and small, are important in the pursuit of inclusiveness, love and support for our LGBT families and friends.

 Already familiar with Straight for Equality? Well, reacquaint yourself with the movement. Stay current and informed as you live your life as a straight ally. PFLAG National is always promoting new activities and ways to provide support.

 So… what are you waiting for, go to http://straightforequality.org/ for exciting updates or visit our website at www.pflag.org to see pictures from our 2010 LA Event.

Day Three: SPEAK UP!
 Show your support by having meaningful conversations. Use your voice to share the benefits of becoming a straight ally or why it’s important to continue your support. Chat over coffee or lunch, share at a religious gathering, talk to your child’s teacher, share your story on the Straight for Equality website, write a letter to your state representative or chat while trying on new shoes. It’s a win-win situation, you get a new pair of shoes and you continue to support the LGBT community at the same time. Remember, starting conversations allows us to rally more folks and continue our support efforts. So SPEAK UP!

Day Four: Collaboration-POWER in Numbers
The African proverb says “It takes a village to raise a child.” Let’s apply that important message to working as straight allies. We can’t do it alone and we don’t have to. Here is what you can do:
 Sign up for the PFLAG action alerts to reach out and collaborate with others in your community and all over the United States that are taking part in ally activities. You will be able to learn many exciting ways to collaborate and work with others. You will also find ways to start your own programs and attract support. Remember, there is power in numbers.

 Find an organization, local or national group, or gather some friends with a mission of unity and work on a project together to support our LGBT community. There are many groups that are dedicated to equal rights for ALL. There are cities that sponsor community days, colleges that sponsor fundraisers, community centers that host after-school programs for students or work with your local group that organizes annual Pride celebrations. Volunteering your time, services and expertise will ensure that allies are present in all spaces and activities. We need bodies on the front lines and working with others to create change.

Day Five: Share the Wealth
We want schools, community centers, groups, organizations and other straight allies to have access to current support resources to educate and promote inclusive conversations, sustain active participation and rally other straight allies.
 Create and distribute resource packets to members of your community. Many of these resources are free (Yes, free!) and can be downloaded in seconds.

 PFLAG’s Safe Schools training is proud to provide a tool box of strategies to help deliver packets to counselors, principals and teachers. PFLAGErs, if you have participated in one of our trainings, and have not delivered the counselor packets, now is your chance to provide schools with current support resources.

 Want to save paper, no problem! Create email resource packets and send them to friends, families, co-workers, organizations, etc. Email is a fast and easy way to rally straight allies.

 Do you have live on Facebook and Twitter? Well, what are you waiting for? Update your status with a message about the importance of being a straight ally. Post a link to a great website. You can find some websites below to help you get started.

 Tweet about ways you support our LGBT community. Did you go to an event? Tweet about it! Are you volunteering at an LGBT inclusive organization? Tweet about it! Tweet about why it’s important to be a straight ally.

Remember, support takes place EVERYDAY! Gandhi said it best, “We must be the change we want to see.”

Below is a list of FREE resources that will help you continue your work as a straight ally. That one brochure, lesson plan, donation, publication, conversation, volunteer activity or video might save a life, change an opinion and create change.

If you want to share your story about how you support our community, then please contact our Safe Schools Coordinator, Mekina Morgan, at mmorgan@pflag.org or call 202-467-8180 x212.

Check out these free resources to get things rolling:
Free Straight for Equality overview
PFLAG Field Guide to Straight for Equality

Check out these websites for more information:
PFLAG National
Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network
Southern Poverty Law Center
GroundSpark
Trevor Project
Students Against Violence Everywhere
Safe Schools Coalition

For more information, please contact Mekina Morgan at mmorgan@pflag.org

Boy Scouts Continue History of Discrimination

A University Park father learned this week that he will not be able to serve as a leader in his 9-year-old's Cub Scout pack because he's gay.

For the last two years Jon Langbert has organized a popcorn fundraiser for Pack 70 at University Park Elementary. Then at a September Scout meeting, someone complained about his homosexuality, Langbert said.

He said he was told this week that he can't wear the Scout leader shirt he was given last year and that he cannot serve in a leadership position because of his sexual orientation.

"What message does that send to my son? It says I'm a second-class citizen," Langbert said.

Robert McTaggart, the Cubmaster for Pack 70, said Langbert will be allowed to continue as a popcorn fundraiser. That position is not considered a leadership role and can be held by a volunteer.

The Boys Scouts of America has had a long-standing policy that rejects leaders who are gay or atheist. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the organization's rules in a 5-4 decision.

"Our policy is not meant to serve as social commentary outside the Scout program," said Pat Currie of the Circle 10 Council, the umbrella organization that oversees Pack 70. "We respect people who have a different opinion from us. We just hope those same people will respect our right to have a different opinion."

The situation in University Park came to light after Park Cities People reported it online Friday.

Currie said Langbert can continue to participate in the pack's activities as a parent.

"We wish him all the best in that endeavor, obviously," he said. "It's our hope and our desire that he stays in the program."

Langbert has agreed to continue raising money through the popcorn fundraiser, which ends in late November. But he said he's not going to let the Boy Scouts "brush this under the carpet."

He said he is angry the Highland Park school district allows the Boy Scouts to use its facilities in spite of their discrimination. He said he has contacted attorneys.

"My tax dollars are paying for their discrimination. And the next gay dad who wants to come along can't. I'm not going to let them," Langbert said. "My position is that the school cannot allow the use of their facilities to an organization that discriminates."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fort Worth City Councilmember Tells GLBT Teens, "It Gets Better"

If you haven't seen this yet, you should. It's video of Fort Worth City Councilmember Joel Burns telling his story, of being bullied in school and feeling like he didn't fit in, of wanting to take his own life. His message to teens going through the same thing? It gets better.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Greater Injustice: Ignorance or the Atmosphere That Fosters It?

Nothing made me yearn to have my absentee ballot in hand more than New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino’s comments this weekend. In a speech given to Orthodox Jewish leaders in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Paladino expressed his disdain for LGBT teachers and the community in general by saying of schoolchildren, “I don’t want them to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is a valid and successful option.” As a displaced upstate-New Yorker, I was appalled, but not shocked. Having grown up mere hours away from Paladino’s hometown, I’ve witnessed the same sort of flagrant and brazen attitudes towards LGBT individuals that have probably contributed to validating his opinions. Thus, I’d say Paladino had a much higher likelihood of having been brainwashed by his peers than any child that’s ever had a teacher who happens to be LGBT, but alleviating him of responsibility for his comments and attitude is letting him off the hook, which he doesn’t deserve.

Take, for instance, Kevin Jennings. Jennings became the first member of his family to graduate from college when he received his B.A. magna cum laude in history from Harvard University, where he delivered the Harvard Oration at the 1985 commencement. That year, Jennings began teaching history to high school students for ten years, first in Providence, Rhode Island, then in Concord, Massachusetts, where he became chair of the history department. In 1992 the Edward Calesea Foundation named Jennings one of fifty “Terrific Teachers Making a Difference.” In 1993 he was named a Joseph Klingenstein Fellow at Columbia University’s Teachers College.

Jennings is currently the Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education, heading the department’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, which means he currently holds one of the highest positions of any member of the LGBT community within the federal government. Successful? Check. Gay? Check. And I have yet to hear from any of Jennings’ students from the ten years he taught so magnificently in high school that they had been coerced or brainwashed in any way. Instead, Jennings provided for a decade what so many school districts desperately need in order to turn their schools around; dedicated teachers.

While Paladino has made clear his stance on LGBT people with teaching credentials, he has yet to address what he specifically plans to do with New York’s fledgling schools. So far, Paladino has supported the idea of creating numerous new charter schools. Charter schools, seen as the go-to answer for education reform by many politicians, not just the ones who harbor unfounded phobias against those exhibiting different identities, are expensive and do not take into consideration the ideal of having free quality public education for all students. Families pursuing this option often have to submit to a lottery system with few open spots available for their children to be admitted. Meanwhile, standard public schools are suffering from countless issues only intensified by exactly what Paladino’s plan is giving them; inattention. Paladino has also not outlined how he would fund the opening of the 300 new charters he has proposed, an interesting caveat given his promise to reduce state spending by 20 percent.

Needless to say, the plan needs to be fleshed out. Perhaps Paladino should focus his attention on how he is actually going to provide an answer to the innumerable problems New York’s schools face instead of promoting hatred towards a community that includes Kevin Jennings, a man who is clearly more invested in repairing the education system than the prospective governor. If more emphasis is finally placed on allowing all of our children to flourish as intelligent free-thinkers in schools with adequate resources, here’s hoping it will also eliminate the chance for them to grow into potential state leaders who engage in such retrogressive thought.

This post was written by Eric VanDreason, the newest edition to PFLAG National’s Policy Team. To learn more about Eric and his role at the National Office, please visit our staff page here.

Obama Administration Expected to Appeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell Ruling

From The Washington Post [free subscription required]

The effort to repeal the law barring gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the U.S. military is nearing a chaotic endgame involving fast-moving courts, a slow-moving military, a lame-duck Congress and an administration increasingly caught in the middle.

When the dust settles by the end of the year, the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy could be history - or it could remain on the books, with a new right-leaning Congress disinclined to do anything about it.

The Obama administration, which is seeking a repeal of the law, nevertheless is expected to appeal a ruling by a California federal judge who declared the policy unconstitutional. The administration is also expected to seek a stay of the judge's injunction Tuesday ordering the military to immediately stop enforcing the ban worldwide.

The Justice Department is generally required to uphold existing law and is expected to appeal rulings even when the president might agree with them. But Walter Dellinger, who was solicitor general in the Clinton administration, said an appeal could make clear that the president believes the law is unconstitutional, an approach President Bill Clinton took in 1996 concerning a law that would have required the discharge of HIV-positive service members from the military.

"I think this is the answer," Dellinger said, noting that it would be politically untenable to allow a single district judge to set law for the country in a case that the Supreme Court has not heard. "Let the courts decide, but tell them what you think."

Originally, the Obama administration wanted Congress to do away with "don't ask, don't tell." President Obama called for a repeal of the law in his State of the Union address and won public support from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Public opinion was working in the administration's favor. More than 75 percent of Americans think that gay men and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military, a support rate higher than at any other time since the policy took effect in 1993, according to the most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll.

But Congress and the military have been moving on their own timetables.

The president agreed to give the Pentagon time to study how to end the ban. Meanwhile, even though the Democratic-controlled House voted for repeal in May, the Senate did not follow suit last month, after falling short of the necessary votes on a procedural move.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who is in a tough reelection race, has said he would push for reconsideration of the legislation later this year. But on Wednesday, aides for Reid and Armed Services Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) said it is unclear when the Senate might reconsider the defense authorization bill that contains the proposed repeal.

Proceeding in a lame-duck Congress poses its own problems. Three of the newly elected senators - from Delaware, Illinois and West Virginia - will be sworn in almost immediately, and if all three seats switch to the Republican side of the aisle, that could mean three fewer votes for repeal. Democrats need 60 ayes to proceed to a final vote on the bill.

Twenty-one Senate Democrats wrote to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. recently, urging that he not appeal the court ruling, arguing that it "could set back congressional efforts."

To continue reading, click here.

The past few weeks…

Gubernatorial Candidate Carl Paladino has sparked major controversy in New York this week. While speaking to an Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg, Paladino berated schools for “brainwashing children into thinking that homosexuality is acceptable.” He now claims that he is owed an apology because the media included a line of the prepared speech that he didn’t actually say.

Joe DeMint, a Senator from South Carolina recently reiterated his 2004 claim that members of the LGBT community (and single women) should not be permitted to teach in public schools. His campaign now claims that he was simply targeted then because he took a moral position and not because voters could have possibly taken offense to such statements.

Andrew Shrivell, the Assistant Attorney General in Michigan created a blog to harass the first openly gay student body president at his alma mater, The University of Michigan. He actively harassed this young man and was banned from the campus by university officials. He claims that his actions are justified in the context of an ongoing political campaign.

Boyd K. Packer, one of the leaders or the Church of Latter Day Saints, recently told Mormons throughout the country that same-sex attractions can and should be changed because they are unnatural and morally wrong. The Mormon Church has officially told its members to consider how their words and actions affect others but have not requested that Packer rescind his statements.

And all of this in the midst of a huge spike in suicide amongst LGBT Youth and a string of anti-gay hate crimes in New York City. PFLAG urges all of you to take a stand and tell your politicians, local media outlets, schools, community groups, churches, and any other appropriate outlets that you will not tolerate these types of hateful remarks. We cannot allow anti-gay rhetoric to devolve this far, as its affects are making themselves known loud and clear.

While there seems to have been a major outcry from the general public in response to these tragic events we must remind everyone that these problems won’t go away without a fight. Please take the time to contact your legislators locally and nationally to let them know that you support inclusive anti-bullying policies and bills such as the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act. Read more about PFLAG’s work with communities of faith and our Straight for Equality Program to find ways to bring these issues to the parts of your life that are the most important to you.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

PFLAG Indianapolis Rallies for Equality

Topher Miller heard some shouting and experienced some disagreement but also found some common ground Monday at the "Rally for Equality."

The Lawrence man and two friends, Eastside resident Nichole Thomas and Downtown resident Shan Parker, came up with the rally idea after a controversy involving a bakery in a city-owned building. The city is investigating whether the Indianapolis City Market store's refusal to accept an order from a gay-friendly university organization violated a nondiscrimination ordinance, although the authors of that ordinance last week said it was never intended to apply to such a situation.

The three organizers, who Miller said belong to no specific group, don't want the cookie store to lose its lease; they want to encourage acceptance.

Miller said he believed the rally would be successful as he talked with a member of a group that demands legal and social equality for gay people and thinks the bakery should lose its lease.

"I had a personal conversation with someone from the GetEQUAL group that was there protesting," Miller said a few hours after the rally in the City Market's plaza. "The conversation that we had led to a really positive conversation. I explained two negatives are never going to make a right -- never. When you're looking at a situation like this, being negative about it is never going to bring together the city."

An estimated 300 people stopped at booths for several local gay-friendly organizations -- from Brothers United, a group that promotes health and wellness, to Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, also known as PFLAG. Several Indianapolis businesses also had booths. Music, speeches and performances rounded out the rally.

The three organizers said they'd like to see the event become an annual one. A few days after the cookie store incident, they were discussing it on a front porch and developed the idea.

Bakery owner David Stockton last month declined the order for rainbow-iced cookies during a call to the store by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis staff member Heather Browning. Stockton said he told the woman he was not comfortable supporting such an event because of his moral and religious beliefs.

To continue reading, click here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Breaking: Federal Judge Issues Injunction on Don't Ask, Don't Tell

From The New York Times:

A federal judge issued a worldwide injunction Tuesday stopping enforcement of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, ending the military's 17-year-old ban on openly gay troops.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips' landmark ruling was widely cheered by gay rights organizations that credited her with getting accomplished what President Obama and Washington politics could not.

"This order from Judge Phillips is another historic and courageous step in the right direction, a step that Congress has been noticeably slow in taking," said Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United and the sole named veteran plaintiff in the case along with the Log Cabin Republicans.

Servicemembers United is the nation's largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans.

U.S. Department of Justice attorneys have 60 days to appeal. Legal experts say the department is under no legal obligation to do so and could let Phillips' ruling stand.

Phillips declared the law unconstitutional after a two-week nonjury trial in federal court in Riverside. She said the Log Cabin Republicans "established at trial that the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Act irreparably injures servicemembers by infringing their fundamental rights."

She said the policy violates due process rights, freedom of speech and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances guaranteed by the First Amendment.

"Furthermore, there is no adequate remedy at law to prevent the continued violation of servicemembers' rights or to compensate them for violation of their rights," Phillips said.

She said Department of Justice attorneys did not address these issues in their objection to her expected injunction.

Before issuing her order, Phillips had asked for input from Department of Justice attorneys and the Log Cabin Republicans, the gay rights group that filed the lawsuit in 2004 to stop the ban's enforcement.

The Log Cabin Republicans asked her for an immediate injunction so the policy can no longer be used against any U.S. military personnel anywhere in the world.

"The order represents a complete and total victory for the Log Cabin Republicans and reaffirms the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians in the military who are fighting and dying for our country," said Dan Woods, an attorney for the Log Cabin group.

Government attorneys objected, saying such an abrupt change might harm military operations in a time of war. They had asked Phillips to limit her ruling to the members of the Log Cabin Republicans, a 19,000-member group that includes current and former military service members.

The Department of Justice attorneys also said Congress should decide the issue — not her court.

Phillips disagreed, saying the law doesn't help military readiness and instead has a "direct and deleterious effect" on the armed services by hurting recruiting during wartime and requiring the discharge of service members with critical skills and training.

Legal experts say the Obama administration could choose to not appeal her ruling to end the ban — but Department of Justice attorneys are not likely to stay mum since Obama has made it clear he wants Congress to repeal the policy.

"The president has taken a very consistent position here, and that is: 'Look, I will not use my discretion in any way that will step on Congress' ability to be the sole decider about this policy here," said Diane H. Mazur, legal co-director of the Palm Center, a think tank at the University of California at Santa Barbara that supports a repeal.

Tracy Schmaler, spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, said the government was reviewing Phillips' ruling Tuesday and had no immediate comment.

Gay rights advocates say they worry they lost a crucial opportunity to change the law when Senate Republicans opposed the defense bill earlier this month because of a "don't ask, don't tell" repeal provision.

If Democrats lose seats in the upcoming elections, repealing the ban could prove even more difficult — if not impossible — next year.

Woods said the administration should be seizing the opportunity to let a judge do what politics has been unable to do.

The "don't ask, don't tell" policy prohibits the military from asking about the sexual orientation of service members but bans those who are openly gay. Under the 1993 policy, service men and women who acknowledge being gay or are discovered engaging in homosexual activity, even in the privacy of their own homes off base, are subject to discharge.

Another Tragic Loss - Gay Youth in OK Takes His Own Life

A 19-year-old gay man from Oklahoma has taken his own life, and his parents say a hate-filled recent City Council meeting he attended may have driven him over the edge.

Zach Harrington was a talented musician who’d endured years of struggles due to his sexual orientation in high school in conservative Norman, Okla.

On Sept. 28, Harrington attended a three-hour public hearing on a proposal to declare October gay history month in the city. Although the council ultimately approved the proposal, Harrington’s parents described the meeting as potentially “toxic” for their son, a private person who internalized his feelings.

Zach Harrington committed suicide at his family’s home in Norman seven days after the meeting, yet another apparent victim of anti-gay hate. His parents say they hope the story of his death will make people think twice before they say certain things about their friends and neighbors in public. We’re hoping it will also prompt them to reflect upon the hatred in their hearts.

Nikki Harrington, Zach’s older sister, said her brother likely took all of the negative things said about members of the GLBT community straight to heart.

“When he was sitting there, I’m sure he was internalizing everything and analyzing everything … that’s the kind of person he was,” she said. “I’m sure he took it personally. Everything that was said.”

Harrington’s father, Van, said he wasn’t sure why his son went to the meeting, especially after his experiences in Norman once he revealed that he was gay as a teenager. He said he feels his son may have glimpsed a hard reality at the Sept. 28 council meeting, a place where the same sentiments that quietly tormented him in high school were being shouted out and applauded by adults the same age as his own parents.

“I don’t think it was a place where he would hear something to make him feel more accepted by the community,” he said. “For somebody like Zach, it (the meeting) was probably very hard to sit through.”

To learn what you can do to combat bullying in your community, visit www.pflag.org/claimyourrights.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

PFLAG Parents Speak Out About Recent Tragedies

As the parent of a gay son and straight children, it has been upsetting for me to read about the recent suicides of young men and boys across the country who identified as LGBT or were perceived to be LGBT. Like any parent, I love my children and would do anything to protect them. I cannot imagine the pain that the families involved in these tragedies are feeling. As an educator I know it does not have to be this way and PFLAG is working hard to help create safer schools across the country every day.

Please read this important letter from PFLAG National President and father of a gay son, John Cepek. John expresses what I as parent, and what PFLAG parents across the country are feeling in the wake of these tragedies – we love you, we are proud of you and we are here to help you.

Read John’s letter here now.

Jean Hodges, PFLAG Mom and Mountain West Regional Director

Salt Lake City School District Looking to Ban Anti-gay Discrimination

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City School District could be the first in Utah to ban discrimination against gay students and employees.

On Tuesday, the school board weighed an amendment that would add sexual orientation to the list of characteristics, such as race and religion, that would be illegal to use to target someone for harassment. The board will consider the issue again Nov. 2.

“This absolutely affects student learning. These students are harassed and bullied and discriminated against at a higher level than any other students in our school,” said board member Amanda Thorderson. “Adding this policy sends a clear message that [this] will not be tolerated.”

Last year, 85 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students in U.S. middle and high schools experienced harassment at school, according to a national survey released last month by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Nearly a third said they had skipped class at least once because they felt unsafe at school.

Will Carlson, an openly gay candidate for school board, warned the board Tuesday that the change doesn’t go far enough. The policy, he said, should also include gender identity so that transgender students and employees are protected. His opponent, board member Doug Nelson, supported the proposal as written.

“Issues of gender identity are a lot more apparent and visible than issues of sexual orientation. They are also in a lot more need of protection,” Carlson said in an interview. “As long as we are addressing injustice against the LGBT community, why would we say we’re going to protect ‘LGB’ but leave ‘T’ out?”

Heather Bennett, board vice president, said it considered including gender identity, but it was dropped after advice from an attorney and research indicated sexual orientation is more commonly covered.

“When we discussed [amending the policy] as a whole board in July, there were a lot of questions about leading out on this issue, especially in this state,” Bennett said. “Without this language [of sexual orientation] in our nondiscrimination policy we are out of step with our community. When we put it in, we will be in better alignment with the values of Salt Lake City.”

Last year, Salt Lake City became the first local government in the state to ban housing and employment discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The move won a landmark endorsement from the LDS Church, and six more cities and counties have followed suit.

But board members Alama Uluave and Mark Maxfield expressed opposition to expanding the district’s policy to include another “protected class.”

“I thought the other classifications were sufficient for the protection of everyone,” Uluave said. “I wonder if we’re not opening up Pandora’s box.”

From Tuesday’s discussion, it appeared likely the measure can secure a four-vote majority to pass.

To continue reading, click here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Action Alert: Top Ten Ways to Make Schools Safer

As PFLAG National mourns the tragic deaths of Caleb Nolt, Felix Sacco, Raymond Chase, Asher Brown, Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh, Cody J. Parker, Billy Lucas, Justin Aaberg, along with the countless number of other young people who have suffered from relentless anti-LGBT bullying, harassment, and discrimination – we find ourselves searching for more ways to end this trend. Sadly we know all too well that before taking their lives, these young people endured years of anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and discrimination that went unchecked by school officials.

In response to these recent tragedies, and in honor of National Safe Schools Day, we urge you to take action at your school to prevent youth suicide by stopping anti-LGBT bullying today!

We call on you to work in coalition with students, teachers, and other school officials to put an end to anti-LGBT bullying, harassment, and discrimination. Below are 10 simple actions you can take to help build safer schools for all students:

Top 10 Ways To Make Schools Safer:

1. Claim Your Rights. It’s critical that school community members know their federal civil rights, especially when they live in states and school districts that lack explicit LGBT anti-bullying protections. Be sure to check out PFLAG’s Claim Your Rights Resource Center, to learn about ways you can report unchecked bullying, harassment and discrimination.

2. Call Congress. Call your Congress Members and ask them to co-sponsor the federal Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act. Click here to find your Members of Congress and make the call today!

3. Plan a PFLAG Meeting. Organize a PFLAG meeting to discuss what your members can do to prevent bullying and suicide at your school. If you need some ideas on what to include in your program, please contact our Safe Schools Coordinator for ideas.

4. Organize a Candlelight Vigil. Work with your chapter members along with other community organizations to honor students like Asher Brown, Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh, Billy Lucas, Justin Aaberg, and other young people who have died because of unchecked anti-LGBT bullying.

5. Plan School-Wide Activities. There are simple and important ways to educate the school community about why respect for everyone must be the rule, and not the exception, to address bullying in your school communities. Please contact our Safe Schools Coordinator for specific ideas.

6. Train and Educate Everyone. Ask for school faculty to be trained to repond to bullying in the most effective, helpful way. To learn more about PFLAG’s Cultivating Respect Training Program please click here.

7. Set the Policy. Work with school officials to strengthen your school's policies on bullying, harassment, and discrimination. Please review PFLAG’s model policy.

8. Make a video. Similar to Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better Campaign,” consider making a video to tell the world what you're doing to make your school safer. Upload your video to YouTube and send the link to our Safe Schools Coordinator so that we can publicize it!

9. Write an Op-Ed. Consider writing an Op-Ed to your local newspaper to educate your community about the impact of anti-LGBT bullying, and the remedies to help build safer schools for all students. For ideas on what to include in your op-ed, please visit our advocacy and issues webpage.

10. Know the Resources. Make sure school community members know that they can call 1-800-4U-TREVOR, a suicide prevention hotline, and be sure to share other community resources for young people who are looking for additional help, support and information.

Please be sure to share your op-eds along with your pictures and videos from your actions with rperry@pflag.org so that we can feature them on our National Blog.

Thank you for moving equality forward!

Monday, October 4, 2010

ET: Jane Lynch Talks "Glee" and Real-Life Tragedy




Jane Lynch came out to West Hollywood Friday night with wife Dr. Lara Embry to honor "Glee" god Ryan Murphy and 'The Kids Are Alright' director Lisa Cholodenko at the PFLAG/The L.A. Event, and amid the celebration the stars' thoughts turned to Tyler Clementi, who ended his life on September 22, and recent similar tragedies.

Clementi is the Rutgers freshman who jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after his intimate encounter with another man was broadcast live over the Internet via webcam by his roommate and another classmate.

"I feel so badly about that kid. Awful," Jane told ET. "We need to show that these kids are more than just the sum total of their sexual orientation, and that really will help the kids out there who don't have role models, who don't have people in their class who are gay, and it will show them that we love them and we embrace you for who you are."

"I think the timing this week after what's happened with five kids killing themselves because of bullying and sexual preference, I'm very excited about talking about that and just putting the spotlight on that in our high schools and in our education system," said Ryan.

On a lighter note, Jane also talked about her admiration for Ryan and her hopes for the upcoming season of "Glee."

"[Ryan's] done such great things for gay families, and [Lara and I are] a gay family, and it's nice to see ourselves somewhat reflected in the culture," said Jane. "I think it's really great for families all over the world to see that we're families like everybody else."

"I hope Sue Sylvester will have a significant other," she added of her onscreen alter ego. "She's always looking for a fight. She's a warrior, and so where there's not a fight she will create one, and she creates some doozies. We find out that her role model is Richard Nixon."

The PFLAG/The L.A. Event event was emceed by "Modern Family" stars Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet and featured a live performance by Nelly Furtado. PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) is the nation's foremost family-based organization committed to the civil rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. To learn more, go to http://www.pflag.org/.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Releases Statement on Recent Suicides

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today released the following statement in regards to the recent suicides of LGBT youth:

"This week, we sadly lost two young men who took their own lives for one unacceptable reason: they were being bullied and harassed because they were openly gay or believed to be gay. These unnecessary tragedies come on the heels of at least three other young people taking their own lives because the trauma of being bullied and harassed for their actual or perceived sexual orientation was too much to bear.

"This is a moment where every one of us - parents, teachers, students, elected officials, and all people of conscience - needs to stand up and speak out against intolerance in all its forms. Whether it's students harassing other students because of ethnicity, disability or religion; or an adult, public official harassing the President of the University of Michigan student body because he is gay, it is time we as a country said enough. No more. This must stop."

October is LGBT History Month!

This year marks the 5th anniversary of LGBT History Month! The U.S. Department of Education will officially recognize the month as such and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is providing welcoming remarks at the Department’s first LGBT History Month Event. Equality Forum’s website devoted to LGBT History Month will feature a different Icon they have chosen for each day in October with a video, biography, bibliography, downloadbale images and other educational resources. Below are two excellent Icons being featured during the first week of LGBT History Month:

Fresh off the heels of a disappointing Senate vote on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, The history month starts off on the 1st of October by honoring Eric Alva, who was the first American soldier wounded in the Iraq War and is a LGBT civil rights activist. In 1990, the 5-feet-1-inch-tall Alva enlisted in the Marine Corps. He made it through the rigors of boot camp and went on to serve for 13 years. In 2000, he was promoted to Staff Sergeant. In 2003, on the first day of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Alva was with his battalion in Iraq when he stepped on a land mine. The explosion shattered his right arm and damaged his right leg so severely it had to be amputated. Alva received a medical discharge and was presented with a Purple Heart by President George W. Bush. He was the Iraq War’s first Purple Heart recipient. Alva felt he’d been given a second chance at life, and he discovered a new calling. Now a national spokesman for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Alva states, “I had to use my voice,” he says. “I had fought and nearly died to secure rights for others that I was not free to enjoy. I had proudly served a country that was not proud of me.”

Later in the first week, Leslie Feinberg will be honored on the 5th of October for being an inspirational transgender activist, speaker, and author. Feinberg was the opening speaker at the historic rally on the 25th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall rally in New York City-a rally that drew one million people from across the country and around the world. Feinberg is an outspoken opponent of traditional Western concepts about how a “real man” or a “real woman” should look and act. Feinberg supports the use of gender-neutral pronouns such as “ze” instead of he or she, and “hir” instead of him or her. “Stone Butch Blues” (1993), Feinberg’s widely acclaimed first book, is a semi-autobiographical novel about a lesbian questioning her gender identity. It received an American Literary Association Award for Gay and Lesbian Literature and the Lambda Small Press Literary Award. Curve Magazine named Feinberg one of the “15 Most Influential” in her plight for LGBT rights. Feinberg has toured the country, speaking at Pride rallies and protest marches, and at scores of colleges and universities.


This post was written by Eric VanDreason, the newest edition to PFLAG National’s Policy Team. To learn more about Eric and his role at the National Office, please visit our staff page here.