Thursday, March 22, 2012

PFLAG Participates in White House LGBT Conference on Safe Schools and Communities

On Wednesday, the White House partnered with the Departments of Justice and Education for a discussion with hundreds of community leaders, LGBT advocates, educators, allies and members of the public on efforts to ensure safety and security for LGBT people. The event was hosted at the University of Texas at Arlington. PFLAG National along with over a dozen of members from the local Dallas-Fort Worth and Denton Chapters had the opportunity to participate and share strategies on how to successfully engage communities to build safer environments for LGBT individuals.

Key note speakers for the conference included Valerie Jarrett, who was introduced by Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns; the councilman shared his personal story of enduring bullying at the age of 13. He said that sharing this same story before his peers in October of 2010 has “changed [his] life in ways [he] couldn’t imagine, and it changed [his] life for the better.” Jarrett acknowledged Burns’ courage and called him “a leader in the fight against bullying.” She also acknowledged seasoned LGBT advocates like Judy Shepard and Tammy Aaberg, stating that they “inspire President Obama, who motivate him, and who make him determined that his administration will do everything possible to fight for safe schools and communities for” all.

Attorney General Eric Holder also gave remarks for the conference stating the current administration has “created a record we can all be proud of” in terms of protecting LGBT rights and “a sense of momentum that today we stand poised to build upon.” He affirmed that “no one, no one, deserves to be bullied, harassed or victimized because of who they are, how they worship, or who they love.” He underscored that equal opportunity and equal justice are enshrined in our nation’s founding doctrines and expressing his commitment to honor these principles.

Later in the afternoon, PFLAG National Director of Policy Rhodes Perry had the opportunity to present with the Department of Education and the Department of Justice, talking about how community coalitions and individual members can leverage existing federal protections, especially in school districts that lack explicit anti-bullying protections for LGBT students. Perry promoted PFLAG National's Claim Your Rights Campaign, designed to help any school community member access federal protections when someone who is bullied, harassed or discriminated against because of sex-stereotyping (i.e. not conforming to gender norms), or because of sexual harassment, to find solutions when school districts fail to take action.

The day ended with closing remarks from Judy Shepard, who stated to LGBT community members, “you are who you are. You love who you love. That’s just the way it is.” She also underscored the importance of parents, family members, friends and allies with no connection to the LGBT community to come out every time they hear homophobic or transphobic language by stating their support for equality, encouraging the room that everyone has “to come out over and over and over again.”

For more coverage about this conference, please visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/03/20/watch-live-white-house-lgbt-conference-safe-schools-communities-0.

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