Category Archives: Allies

The Make it Better Project

Make it Better Project

http://www.makeitbetterproject.org/

About

Make It Better Project

What is the Make It Better Project?

GSA Network launched the Make It Better Project on October 1st, 2010 to give youth and adults the concrete tools they need to make schools safer for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students right now.

Through our YouTube channel, social media, and the campaigns, initiatives, and resources available on this website, the Make It Better Project aims to educate, motivate, and unite students and adults to effectively take action to stop bullying and harassment in schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.  Our goal is to create safe, welcoming school environments that actively support LGBT youth and prevent suicide.

GSA NetworkContact Us

The Make It Better Project is sponsored by Gay-Straight Alliance NetworkGSA Network empowers youth to fight homophobia and transphobia in schools by training youth activists and supporting student-led Gay-Straight Alliance clubs in California and throughout the country.

How does the Make It Better Project differ from the It Gets Better Project?

Columnist Dan Savage started the “It Gets Better” video campaign to send a message of hope to LGBT youth who are experiencing bullying and contemplating suicide.  His project, along with a swell in media coverage of youth deaths by suicide in the fall of 2010, ignited dialogue across the country about the epidemic of bullying in our schools. But it left an important question unaddressed: what can we do to make it better?

GSA Network launched the Make It Better Project to let students, parents, teachers, school administrators, and adult allies know that there are concrete actions they can take right now to make schools safer for all students.

Is bullying is a widespread problem?

Yes. The federal government estimates that 2 out of 10 high school students experience bullying each year, and the problem is typically worse for middle school students.  For lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, this rate is 9 out of 10.   Bullying, particularly bullying based on bias or discrimination, is an epidemic in our country.

“The Make It Better Project is a chance to do something about injustices in our schools. It’s an opportunity to have a voice, to be known, to be understood, and to be accepted. It will NOT get better until we MAKE IT BETTER!  I participated because I know what it’s like to be discriminated against, not only because of my gender identity, but by my skin color as well. It hurts to know that someone will not be accepted and it is devastating to feel so unwanted and hated that you get pushed to the brink of self-harm. I’ve participated in Make It Better because it gives me a chance to help the ones I wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise.” - Buddie Sims, student, Pomona, California

Reteaching Gender and Sexuality – Put This On The Map

Our current project, Reteaching Gender & Sexuality, is a message about queer youth action and resilience. The video was generated to contribute additional queer/trans youth voices to the national conversations about queer/trans youth lives. Reteaching Gender & Sexuality intends to steer the conversation beyond the symptom of bullying, to consider systemic issues and deeper beliefs about gender and sexuality that impact queer youth. We invite you to share the video with your friends, family and networks; we invite you to share with us what THIS issue means to you!

PUT THIS ON THE {MAP} is reteaching gender and sexuality to professionals, such as school administrators, social workers, health care providers and juvenile probation staff. With youth voices at the forefront, our team of educators use dynamic, relevant and informative professional development trainings and workshops to shift the conversation about gender and sexuality in our communities. Find out more on this site about our award-winning pilot documentary, our upcoming tour, and our professional development work.



Our 2011 Spring Tour is officially over! From North Bay to Nashville, Buffalo to Big Rapids – we met amazing people and heard about projects happening all over the U.S. and Canada.

We’re now planning a Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 Tour. Contact us if you are interesting in planning a stop on your campus or in your community! We can screen our first pilot documentary PUT THIS ON THE {MAP},  lead workshops and panel discussions, and capture your stories.  On campuses, we’ve worked with departments, student clubs, research institutes, clinics, and centers. We also offer professional development training for practitioners and students working in human services or education.

If you are interested in learning more about bringing Reteaching Gender and Sexuality to your town, contact: info@putthisonthemap.org

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A Sports Executive Leaves the Safety of His Shadow Life – Repost from the NYT

Joshua Lott for The New York Times

Rick Welts, the president of the Phoenix Suns, hopes his coming out can break the silence surrounding homosexuality in men’s team sports.

By
Published: May 15, 2011

Last month, in a Midtown office adorned with sports memorabilia, two longtime friends met for a private talk. David Stern, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association, sipped his morning coffee, expecting to be asked for career advice. Across from him sat Rick Welts, the president and chief executive of the Phoenix Suns, who had come to New York not to discuss careers, but to say, finally, I am gay.

It’s OK to be Takei!

Actor George Takei has an excellent response to the idiotic bill in Tennessee prohibiting people from saying the word Gay.

Support George! Fight back at http://bit.ly/dontsaygay

George Takei takes on the Tennessee Legislature and its “Don’t Say Gay” bill, in the way only George Takei can!

A bill now pending in Tennessee would prohibit teachers in that state from discussing homosexuality in the classroom. The so-called “don’t say gay” law is premised on the misguided belief that, by not talking about gay people, they can simply make us disappear.

George is here to tell Tennessee, and all the LGBT youth and teachers who would be affected by this law, that he is here for you. In fact, he is lending his name to the cause. Any time you need to say the word “gay,” you can simply say “Takei.”

You can buy T-shirts and other items that say “It’s OK to be Takei”, to wear and display with pride and to show Tennessee and the world that you’re against censorship and bigotry….

All the proceeds from the sales of these items will be donated to charity. Have a TAKEI old time!

Camp Ten Trees Information

Camp Ten Trees is a Seattle resource for LGBT youth and their families shared with us via Bridget Adams.Here’s her post from 11 March about them. Please visit their site and if you are in Seattle, please consider helping out.

Remember a few months ago, everyone was concerned about LGBTQ youth? We all wore purple, changed our Facebook statuses and patted ourselves on the back…and then went back to our lives with the next news cycle. Except, guess what Poppets? LGBTQ youth are still out there. They are still trying to figure it all out and it’s not necessarily any easier now than it was six months ago.
Luckily, not everyone moved on with the next news cycle. Enter Camp Ten Trees, headquartered out of our very own Seattle. And let me tell you – this is one freaking cool camp. What drew me to their website was an event they are having next month and I promise I will tell you about it (because trust me, you really want to hear about it) but first I have to say that every tab I clicked, every link I followed, took my breath away. For eleven years now, they have been committed to LGBTQ youth and are still the only residential camp in the Pacific Northwest serving the community. Not only do they have a week-long camp for LGBTQ teens, but they also offer another week for youth, ages 8-17, of any orientation, from LGBT and/or nontraditional families.
They offer traditional outdoor activities, arts and crafts, and sports. They also offer performance opportunities and community projects. However, underneath the fun surface, the camp’s values of inclusivity, safety and acceptance permeate all the adventures. These values are so important to Camp Ten Trees that, while the rates for camp are reasonable to begin with, they also have a sliding scale and camperships for families that need some assistance footing the bill.
All of which is wonderful and exciting, assuming you are, or have, a child or teenager. But what about the rest of us, who are – be honest – a little past our 18th birthdays? There’s fun for us, too. Next month, on April 23rd, at Herban Feast, 3200 1st Avenue S., Ste. 100, in Seattle, at 6:00 PM, the camp is holding its annual dinner and auction. For $55.00, you get an amazing dinner and access to the silent auction. Add another $20.00 and you get the open bar, instead of having to pay cash. If you really feel like splurging on a great night out for an even better cause, $125.00 will get you a VIP ticket: pre-event reception, open bar all evening, first crack at the silent auction items, goodie bag, raffle ticket, and dinner.
Don’t worry if you’re busy on the 23rd, though. You can still help. Not only are they still accepting donations for the auction, but they accept donations, both financial and in-kind, for the camp year-round. The neatest part of the website, for me anyway, is the page where they tell you exactly what your money pays for. This is where you learn how much it costs to send a camper to Ten Trees for a week or run background checks on staff. Monetary donations can be made online. Auction donations can be arranged through the website. Contact Camp Ten Trees for information regarding in-kind donations, as their needs change so often. And if you happen to speak with Airen, tell him Bridget says hi.
Poppets, being a teenager wasn’t easy when we were kids. It’s certainly no easier now. Videos and purple shirts and Facebook statuses are fine. They make us feel good. But these folks at Camp Ten Trees…they are making a real difference, every day. Seems to me, the least we can do is enjoy a night out to help them. For more information, go to http://www.camptentrees.org/ or call 206-288-9568. It’s easier than finding a purple shirt and has a longer lasting impact.
Until next month, Poppets, take care of you – and each other.
c. Bridget Adams, 2011

Show your face – A Message from UW Madison

“Trans-nationality”

I am multiethnic and transgendered. I am the human label-breaker.

I grew up hearing that I’m half Japanese and half Jewish. For the
observer, this genetic algebra equated to a whole person. I wasn’t put
in a box- I was sliced in half; subdivided and subjugated. In truth I
carry twice the heritage and just as much angst.

In life, I check the box marked [other].

I am a gender-ninja, hiding in plain-sight. The Japanese American
community isn’t one that is particularly open to talking about…
anything. Because of this, I have never come out in public. It’s not
that everyone in the community is closed-minded. Culturally, it is
seen as intrusive to either ask or tell something so personal about
yourself. Though frustrating, it afforded me the room to grow.

My cultural heritage taught me the importance of community and the
bravery to stand up in the face of ignorance and hate. It is a comfort
to know that wherever my journey takes me or how dark it becomes, I
belong to something bigger. My ethnic identity helped to build a
foundation upon which to discover myself. What I developed was the
resolve to self-advocate; to believe that a world without me, my
perspective and my voice, would result in even more generations of
We,the lost children of a Black and White, Male and Female, straight
and narrow world.

Be you. Be us. Be free. I’ve got your back.

-Anonymous

What White Queers Can Do To Combat Racism In Our Own Community – By Clowny Princess

What White Queers Can Do To Combat Racism In Our Own Community

By Clownyprincess

I wrote this short piece last year. Here in Australia, in my local queer community we can be pretty… backwards… when it comes to issues of race, particularly those intersectional issues impacting on Queers of Colour.

I wrote it because there were a few things happening at the time where there was lots and lots of white fail and I was going a bit buggy and I didn’t feel like there were enough white queers speaking plainly and frankly. I’m sure we’ve all seen it – derailing and denying and over-concern for the feelings of the white peeps being the failiest (in one particularly memorable incident – a blackface show being done and the event organiser saying to me, in the aftermath of the backlash: ‘I really did feel bad for those poor performers you know, they did the wrong thing but they got up with the best of intentions and just didn’t expect that reaction’. TO BLACKFACE! SERIOUSLY! THE FUCK?)

I’m posting it here because I am aware that Geeks of Colour in this community are finding tumblr to be a hostile environment for them. But also because I do feel that the piece below, with only the modifcation of a few words, can apply to many situations involving the privileged and the marginalised.  Rather than edit it to be generalised for tumblr, though, I kept it specific to racism because I feel like that’s something that’s being once again minimised as an issue – and as a bit of a tap on the shoulder for me, as well. Lately I feel like I’ve been getting too swept up in the homo-and-whorephobia and need a little privilege check, need a reminder to keep this stuff in mind lest I start inadvertantly showing my ass.

Just another white girl chiming in with her thoughts on this extremely pertinent issue. Speaking out on these things is always difficult for me simply because as a white person I have to seriously consider if it is really my place to do so. I believe my place in the anti-racist movement is to stand in solidarity rather than to have a leading voice.
As such, I have kept the following as brief and to the point as possible.

Shut up and Listen

The most important thing any white person with a genuine interest in anti-racism should do.
Just shut up.
And listen.
To the People of Colour talking.
They know their issues. They know what’s important to them. It doesn’t matter how much you have read or researched or thought, you will never ever ever know better than they do about their issues.

Too often PoC are actively silenced by white folk wanting to do the talking, so keen are white folk to prove their investment in anti-racism. This is utterly counter-active to the professed objective of any white person wanting to be a part of the anti-racist movement.

So stop it. Sit down, shut the fuck up, LISTEN and accept you are not the expert here.

Stand in Solidarity

It is not the role of white people to set the anti-racist agenda. It is not the role of white people to decide what is the most important issue to tackle. It is not the role of white people to have a principle voice in addressing these issues. It is not the role of white people to lead.

Well-meaning white folk often trample into the anti-racist movement and unwittingly domineer and continue to perpetuate our white privilege by attempting to set the agenda or lead the cause. This is because white people are accustomed to having our voices heard, we are accustomed to leading by default, we are accustomed to having our opinion deferred to, particularly when People of Colour are present.

Be aware of this. And stop doing it. Stand in solidarity as an ally – and understand what that really means. Sometimes it means accepting your voice is not the most important one in the room anymore.

Take Action

This is a confronting one for white people and one I still very much struggle with. This is about responding to incidences of racism against POC, no matter how slight, subtle or covert and expressing disgust and a lack of tolerance for it.

In a tiny scene like the queer one where we face different types of discrimination ourselves, where a big part of our struggle against that is in our solidarity and unity, it gets even more difficult, especially when it may come to speaking up or acting out to people we respect or are friends with. We fear ostracisation and exile from our own niche community – we fear isolation. So we stay silent and, through our inaction, perpetuate racism in our community.

Furthermore, as white people, there’s nothing at stake for us if we remain silent. Our lives are not adversely affected by our silence. Indeed, if anything, we avoid discomfort and confrontation.

I freely admit, I fail at this one. I will try to fail better going forward.

It’s always easier to take action like this as a collective than as individuals. If we communicate, open up this dialogue amongst ourselves, we can find allies in our politics and stand together.

Don’t Get Complacent

We must understand as white people living in a racist society, our education will never, ever stop. It doesn’t matter how educated we think we are, how long a history we have in the anti-racist movement, how many POC friends we have, how many books we’ve read or protests we’ve attended or theory we’ve dissected or sociology we’ve deconstructed, white privilege will always be cushioning our lives. White privilege means we are very much used to be applauded and celebrated for the teeny-tiniest of achivements and progressions and expect this treatment all the time. It is far too easy to allow ourselves to be bolstered by this into believing we’ve done all the work we can and are now the perfect white anti-racist ally.

Racism permeates our culture to such a degree that dismantling our deeply ingrained preconceptions and notions is a lifelong task because these beliefs are constantly being reinforced in every facet of society. The work never ends.

Part of accepting that anti-racist education is a lifelong pursuit is accepting that sometimes, YOU ARE GOING TO FUCK UP.

Somehow, somewhere along the way, you will say or do something with racist connotations. As noted, racism permeates our culture to far too thorough a degree for it to be avoided.

When this happens, and you are called on it, rather than becoming hyper-defensive in your rush to deny your racism, STOP. Take a deep breath. THINK.
Deconstruct. Accept you fucked up, apologise (and actually apologise, don’t make a fauxpology:http://idealisticpragmatist.blogspot.com/2005/06/when-apology-is-not-apology.html ) and don’t do it again.

Also remember, the person calling you out is not saying YOU are racist. They are pointing out that you SAID or DID something that was racist. They are probably very aware that this is a symptom of your having been ingrained into racist ideology from birth and are pointing it out to you so that you can become aware of it because you have made it known you desire to be an ally.  If you are serious about being an anti-racist ally, you MUST be willing to hear this criticism and take it onboard, or it is all just meaningless lip service.

Don’t Expect Cookies

So, you’ve acknowledged the existence of white privilege and that racism is a pretty big fucking issue. Well, whoop-de-doo, bully for you. You’ve become aware of something any Person of Colour could’ve told you at any point of their lives.

Speaking out against white privilege and racism, owning your white privilege, becoming part of the anti-racist movement, listening to POC – none of these things are magical powers.

The capacity to empathise with others makes you a decent human being, not a goddamn superhero.

POC fight a daily struggle against racism. You acknowledging it exists is not an earth-shattering cause of celebration. You are not doing anything remarkable or wondrous or noteworthy by owning your white privilege and expecting that you be congratulated on your amazing politics by every POC you encounter is really pathetic – and is once again pulling white privilege by expecting that the anti-racism movement be made about you and how awesome you are for taking part. Do it because you fucking care, not because you want pats on the back.

 

It’s Ally Week, what are you doing to be a better Ally?

I present a couple pieces for your consideration for ally week. First up is a great piece by Bridget Adams, which asks “What are you doing to be a better ally?”

September 2010

Can you handle one more month of political stuff, Poppets? I knew you could. Recently, a friend of mine had to call out a woman who claimed to be an ally of the LGBT community. It didn’t go well. The ally got defensive, started deflecting, and ended up losing all credibility as supporter of the community.

It got me thinking, though – what is the difference between an actual ally and someone who has taken a diversity training or has a lesbian co-worker? Is it that they never screw up? God help us if that’s the case. No, I think it’s more about how a person responds when they do screw up. So, without further ado, I present you Bridget’s Guide to Screwing Up With Style:
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ALLY WEEK! October 18 – 22

It’s important to be a good ally, and GLSEN has a great site up for ally week. Take a peek, and pass the word!

Take the Ally pledge!

Take Action

Ally Week is dedicated to identifying, supporting and celebrating Allies against anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. And how do you find Allies? You TAKE ACTION!

Here are a few ways you can participate in Ally Week. From speedy pledges to longer organizing activities, this list provides ways that everyone can contribute. Find one that works for you.

Take the ALLY PLEDGE! It only takes a minute and demonstrates your support against anti-LGBT bullying and harassment.

Register your Ally Week event – SIGN UP HERE
Students and GSAs are strongly encouraged to register for GLSEN’s Ally Week in order to receive free resources and to help us determine the total number of schools and students taking part. You can also contact a student organizer from the Jump-Start leadership team for support.

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A few points need to be made -A Letter to the at-risk LGBTQ Teens out there, from Neo Prodigy

My friend blogger Neo Prodigy wrote the following letter to LGBTQ Youth, with some very good tips, advice and resources.I’m going to sticky it as a page, but this needs to be out there, reposted and co-signed unto infinity.

Link to the original post is here

With that being said, the following is advice I would give to at risk LGBTQ teens out there. It’s also a letter I would’ve written to myself as a teen. Much of what I say may shock you, much of what I say may disturb you. But this is the real talk that manifested from my experience and the experience of countless others. So I make no apologies. For those of you reading this. Your mileage may vary. Take what you can utilize and disregard the rest.

1. Stay In The Closet.

If you think for one second that your family is going to flip their shit, if you think for one second that your life is about to be made a living hell, then don’t tell anyone. This isn’t about pride. This is about survival. You know who you are and you have nothing to prove. You are not under any obligation to disclose who you are. No, you are not lying or being deceitful. It’s not lying if people only force you to see their truths.You do what you have to do to stay alive. Bide your time until you can be out and open and free to be you.

But what if I’m out? Or people think I’m out? I’ll get to that.

2. There Is Nothing Wrong With You

You’re not a deviant, a pervert, a sinner, a child molester, or die of AIDS, or whatever the hell else you’ve been told. You’re as who God intended you to be. You’re not the one that needs to be fixed. It’s those who are uncomfortable and psychotic about the fact that your orientation doesn’t fall within their purview who needs to be corrected. Don’t ever let anyone convince you otherwise.

3. Talk To Someone

It’s okay to ask for help. There are hotline numbers and I know firsthand that it’s often easier to open up to a stranger than it is someone you know.

4. Resources Are Available

http://www.thetrevorproject.org/
http://www.matthewshepard.org/
http://cypheroftyr.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/868/

Media You Should Also Check Out:

Bang Bang You’re Dead
Save Me
The Sensei
Hero

5. You Are Not Weak

You live in a world that hates your very existence. Surviving each day is an accomplishment in itself. Don’t ever think that you’re less than anyone else for having to endure homophobia or because it wears on you. You keep your head up and no you’re stronger than you think.

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