Category Archives: News

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

WGYB Is Now on Tumblr!

The We Got Your Back Project is now on Tumblr!

Follow us at: http://wgybproject.tumblr.com

Content will be mirrored here & on Tumblr!

Thank you!

One Town’s War on Gay Teens

This article… this hate is why we started this project.

One Town’s War on Gay Teens – Rolling Stone Magazine (online)

One Town’s War on Gay Teens

In Michele Bachmann’s home district, evangelicals have created an extreme anti-gay climate. After a rash of suicides, the kids are fighting back.

by: Sabrina Rubin Erdely

A candlelight vigil in Minneapolis for the victims of gay bullying.

A candlelight vigil in Minneapolis for the victims of gay bullying.
© Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Minneapolis Star Tribune/ZUMApress.com

Every morning, Brittany Geldert stepped off the bus and bolted through the double doors of Fred Moore Middle School, her nerves already on high alert, bracing for the inevitable.

“Dyke.”

Pretending not to hear, Brittany would walk briskly to her locker, past the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders who loitered in menacing packs.

“Whore.”

Full text after the cut.

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News: Opportunity For Young Writers

Definitely wanted to boost the signal about the following: _____________________

We were alerted to this great project, and we wanted to make sure y’all knew about it!

From the press release:

“Award-winning author Lyndsey D’Arcangelo announced a national story call-out for her new groundbreaking anthology series, My Story Is Out: High School Years.

My Story Is Out: High School Years (MSIO) is intended to be a collection of personal real-life stories about surviving high school as an LGBT teen and coming out on the other side. “In working with LGBT youth through numerous writing workshops, I’ve discovered that they enjoy sharing their personal stories with each other,” said D’Arcangelo. “What better place to do that than an exciting new anthology series?”

The national story call-out for the anthology is open to straight, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgendered individuals 25 years old and younger. “We are looking for humorous, heart-warming, wistful and inspiring stories,” D’Arcangelo explained. “If you have a story to tell about your personal experience that is sure to touch the hearts, lives and souls of LGBT teens all over the world, then we would love to read it and consider it for publication.”

The MSIO anthology is being publishing by Publishing Syndicate and is slated for nationwide release in fall 2012. Those contributors whose stories make final publication will receive compensation. Story submission guidelines can be found at www.MyStoryIsOut.com.”

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!

MinnPost – Bullying of GLBT youth: Exploring answers to ‘Why now?’

MinnPost – Bullying of GLBT youth: Exploring answers to ‘Why now?’.

Bullying of GLBT youth: Exploring answers to ‘Why now?’

By Beth Hawkins | Published Mon, Oct 25 2010 10:29 am

Many, many questions have yet to end up with satisfactory answers in the recent spate of suicides of gay teens. Not least: Why now?

Why, in an era when gays and lesbians have gained so much acceptance, are GLBT teens still so much more vulnerable than their classmates? And why, despite having several decades to get up to speed on the issue, are schools still Ground Zero for this front in the culture war?

In the last year, seven teens attending Anoka-Hennepin Public Schools, Minnesota’s largest district with 40,000 students, have killed themselves. At least two were known to be gay, and critics have blamed the district’s controversial policy of “neutrality” in curriculum.

In July, 15-year-old Justin Aaberg killed himself in his bedroom in Andover. Aaberg was openly gay and had a very supportive mother who had no idea he was the target of frequent bullying.

It seems like such progress: A teen who is secure enough to come out to his family and friends and even date, according to some news reports. One would think Aaberg could have turned to any number of places for help when he found himself in crisis.

<– more..>

More high schoolers come out now
Phil Duran is general counsel for the gay-rights organization OutFront Minnesota. His answer to the “why now” question: Visibility.

“Twenty-five years ago, the issue didn’t get much attention,” said Duran. “No one really thought to be out in high school.”

In four states, gays and lesbians can now marry. More kids now come from families headed by same-sex couples. And the number of openly gay celebrities has exploded.

With all of this seeming normalcy, more kids feel it’s OK to come out — which is a good thing, Duran said. Except that as a society we haven’t dealt with lots of baggage from previous eras.

Suicide rates have always been higher among gay teens than straights. And thanks to a study done by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office in the 1990s, we know that GLBT teens and overweight children are bullies’ most frequent targets.

Suicide, dropout rates high
Gay, lesbian and bisexual youth are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts, according to the Department Health and Human Services. And 28 percent of gay students will drop out of school — more than three times the national average for heterosexual students.

At the same time, bullying on the whole has gotten worse. Kids used to at least be able to get away from their tormentors by going home at the end of the day. But cyberbullying [PDF] happens around the clock, and frequently in places where adults aren’t paying attention.

The problem is so bad, in fact, that some Minnesota lawmakers have called for a special session to address the issue. In the last session, Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed anti-bullying legislation.

Add to this complicated stew the fact that equality for gays and lesbians is possibly the most divisive issue in today’s culture wars, and you end up with a situation in which those gay teens must navigate some bizarre adult politics.

Confusion about policy
Future Learning Curve blog posts will take more thorough looks at various aspects of the sprawling controversy, but the abbreviated version of what happened in Anoka-Hennepin is that the district attempted to respond to the concerns of community conservatives by implementing a policy mandating curriculum be “neutral” on matters of sexual orientation.

“It took a year and a half for Anoka-Hennepin to tell staff what it meant,” said Durant. “In that time there was confusion about what the adults could and couldn’t do.”

He and other critics say staff were given little guidance on how to interpret the rule, creating, in effect, a situation where anytime a student’s sexual orientation came up the adults in the room took two steps back.

District administrators have since clarified the policy: Curriculum must remain neutral, but intervention is warranted on behalf of any student who reports bullying of any kind, and when teachers and others learn that a student is struggling with his or her sexuality or any other issue, they should act to help the student find appropriate resources.

An avalanche of comments
Just that clarification has stirred a political hornet’s nest. Anoka administrators are struggling to deal with an avalanche of angry calls and e-mails from people on both sides of the issues. Superintendent Dennis Carlson was even contacted by the U.S. Justice Department earlier this fall about the possibility of community-wide mediation; Carlson is interested, but the feds have yet to follow through, according to his office.

The grownups had better get their acts together, said Durant, because teens will continue to leave the closet and will continue to struggle as a result. Thorny issues are already showing up at far earlier ages than ever anticipated: “More and more elementary students will now talk about a transgender experience,” he said.

“Ultimately what needs to happen is there needs to be an engagement of students and families when they start kindergarten: ‘This is how we treat people,’ ” Duran said. “You can’t train kids to like the person next to them. But you can say ‘This is the code of conduct.’ “

 

High School sucked … by Erin

I went to a school in the exurbs of Detroit (for those who know the area Northwest Oakland County), one of schools that is a selling point for the nice houses in the newly sprouted subdivisions.  It was one of those schools that even offered a variety of support groups for kids who  may have had various problems.  It should have been a great place for a kid with some of the “issues” I had (new girl, introvert, depression, queer). My junior year was miserable, but my senior year, I started to pull my self together and started to be more out publicly, and then there were problems…

The first problem was when the student newspaper was going to do a story on the queer students at WLC, and I was expressly forbidden to use my real name during the interview; because, I might not really be gay (besides, I don’t look like a gay),  and the school doesn’t want to be responsible for me if I come out.

I don’t listen very well, so I came out in other ways than in a HS newspaper. I came out in AP English, I told people at lunch, I called people on their hetero-sexist bullshit. And it caused problems…leading to a moment where I was walking the gauntlet of junior and senior guys (aka the hallway to get from English to US Government)  and a group of guys circled round and told me how they were going to “make me straight”. I was rescued by a sympathetic teacher, but when I sought to have the problem addressed. The school councilor told me because she didn’t think I was really a lesbian, the guys who threatened my safety in school were completely unpunished.

The Safe School Improvement Act of 2010 should be passed, so that kids can feel safe going from English to US Government. So that don’t have their identity invalidated by a school professional. And so things are actually made better for kids now; rather than telling kids it might get better later.

A look at the lives of gay teens – Article from NPR

With the recent group of suicides by gay teens, we a take a look at the lives of gay teenagers. NPR’s Robert Siegel talks to Ritch Savin Williams, a professor of developmental psychology at Cornell University. He specializes in gay, lesbian, and bisexual research, and his latest book is The New Gay Teenager.

Listen to the program here. [4min 43sec] Transcript after the cut

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A message from our President

Yes, it was posted to the It Gets Better Project, but hearing a positive message from our POTUS transcends the original intent. Thank you Mr. President for speaking up on this issue.

When will it end?

Mich. Gay College Student Kills Himself

By Advocate.com Editors

COREY JACKSON X390 (FAIR) | ADVOCATE.COM

A 19-year-old Oakland University sophomore took his own life Tuesday, a few months after telling his family and friends he was gay.

Family members of Corey Jackson say they believe the Rochester Hills, Mich., college student had been bullied over his sexual orientation, and it ultimately led him to commit suicide.

“I believe [it happened] because he recently realized he was a homosexual and he was getting pressured at school by his peers because he told his family and nothing changed here,” his grandmother Carolyn Evans told Click On Detroit. “Corey was the most loving, giving, funny person. He had the most wonderful personality. He had cousins from ages 14 down to 2 and he never said a bad word about anybody. When he went to school and he realized his sexual preference had changed, he changed completely. He withdrew.”

Oakland University president Gary Russi said in an e-mail to students that Jackson’s death “diminishes us all.”

“In our mourning, I am hopeful that we will not focus on the manner of Corey’s death, but rather celebrate the life he lived and the people he touched,” Russi wrote.

Students organized a candlelight vigil Wednesday night to honor Jackson. The president Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, of which Jackson was a member, wore a purple shirt Wednesday in remembrance of Jackson and in support of ending bullying of LGBT teens.

Police are still investigating Jackson’s death, but the Oakland County medical examiner’s office confirmed that it had been ruled a suicide.

11 facts about school bullying from Do Something

11 facts about school bullying

  1. An estimated 2 out of 3 teens are verbally or physically harassed or assaulted every year.
  2. The most common reason cited for being harassed is a student’s appearance or body size. 2 out of 5 teens feel that they are bullied because of the way that they look.
  3. One-third of teens are harassed because they are or are perceived to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
  4. 1 in 4 teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and will only intervene 4% percent of the time.
  5. A victim of bullying is twice as likely to take his or her own life compared to someone who is not a victim.
  6. 64% of American school principals say that student who is a racial minority would feel safe at their school.
  7. Physical bullying peak in middle school and declines in high school. Verbal abuse rates remain constant from elementary to high school.
  8. Researchers feel that schools should not be treated as part of growing up (with the attitude “kids will be kids”).
  9. 41% of principals say they have programs designed to create a safe environment for LGBT students, but only 1/3 of principals say that LGBT students would feel safe at their school.
  10. 57% of students who experience harassment in school never report the incident to the school. 10% of those who do not report stay quiet because they do not believe that teachers or staff can do anything.
  11. Schools with easily understood rules of conduct, smaller class sizes and fair discipline practices report less violence than those without such features.
  12. Sources: NASP, The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network,

Gay Teen Endured a Daily Gauntlet

Gay teen endured a daily gantlet

As a gentle child grew into adolescence, the taunts and bullying intensified. Finally, Seth Walsh couldn’t take any more.

October 08, 2010|By Thomas Curwen, Los Angeles Times

When Seth Walsh came home from school, he would open the gate to a chain-link fence, walk beneath a tall red oak tree and be greeted by five dogs and two cats.

Seth lived with two brothers and a sister, four children from three fathers who were seldom around, supported by their mother who worked long hours as a hairdresser. Their home was a rental, a few blocks from Tehachapi’s main street.

He was 13, and in the eyes of his grandparents, Jim and Judy Walsh, he was just a normal kid, pushing into adolescence. They looked forward to watching him grow up and never imagined that the harassment he experienced as a gay teenager, or his suicide, would resonate across the country.

Seth’s mother, Wendy, is guarding her privacy, lost in grief, and his friends are keeping quiet at their parents’ instructions. Only Jim and Judy are willing to share their memories.

They want to make sure their grandson isn’t remembered only as “the gay kid who hung himself,” so they tell stories about a bright and precocious child who enjoyed playing with their dog, Bambi, and who liked the Jonas Brothers and Magic Mountain.

“When he smiled,” Jim says, “he smiled with his whole face. His eyes twinkled. It wasn’t just the smile. You got it from the eyes and the beaming of the face. He really meant that smile for you.”

Judy and Jim still laugh over his tastes. He colored his hair blond on occasion and wore it with a long swoop that partly covered his eyes. Judy took him shopping once, and he went to the girl’s department to find pants with tapered legs. He added a vest, and a few months later she noticed the style everywhere.

His favorite songs were Nat King Cole’s “Smile” and Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea,” and he listened to Mozart in the shower. His favorite stop in Bakersfield was Barnes & Noble; he liked James Herriot’s books about animals.

He was a gentle child, they say, who preferred to “relocate bugs” rather than kill them, who made sure his younger brother got his share of Easter eggs and who once apologized to a bed of flowers when he picked one and placed it on the grave of the family dog.

But the Walshes realize that Seth’s gentleness made him a target, and they recall listening to Wendy as she shared her worries about Seth and what he had to endure.

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The Ultimate Silence – 12 years ago Matthew Shepard was killed for being gay

THE ULTIMATE SILENCE
October 12, 1998

Listen to the mustn’ts, child.
Listen to the don’ts.
Listen to the shouldn’ts,
The impossibles, the won’ts.
Listen to the never haves,
Then listen close to me …
Anything can happen, child.
Anything can be.

~ Shel Silverstein

Eleven years ago, Matthew Shepard was murdered for being homosexual.

What will you do to end the silence?

Click here to post this on your own page or weblog

 

Some stats on bullying & lgbtq youth

While doing more reading and searching for articles to mention/link to here, I came across the following statistics from Campus Pride:Q Research Institute for Higher Education‘s 2010 Campus Climate study.(1) *Stats listed below taken from the CNN.comm article, “Why did Tyler Clementi Die?”

– Twenty-three percent of staff, faculty, and students who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or questioning (LGBQ) were more likely to experience harassment (defined as any conduct that interfered with the ability to work or learn) compared to heterosexuals. Eighty-three percent identified sexual identity as the basis of the harassment.

– Thirty-nine percent of transgender students, faculty and staff experienced harassment, with 87 percent identifying their gender identity/expression as the basis for the harassment. The form of the harassment experienced by transgender people was more overt and blatant, according to the report.

– Thirty-three percent of LGBQ and 38 percent of transgender students, faculty and staff have seriously considered leaving their institution due to the challenging climate.

– Forty-three percent of LGBQ and 63 percent of transgender faculty, students and staff hide their sexual identity.

– Forty-three percent of all transgender students, faculty and staff and 13 percent of LGBQ respondents feared for their physical safety. This finding was more pronounced for LGBQ students and for LGBQ and/or transgender people of color.

I bolded the last part above because I think that there is still a lack of understanding of LGBTQ issues amongst and regarding people of color. That is one of the reasons we started this project, so that everyone can be heard, and no one will feel as if their story isn’t welcome or will be lost amongst the masses.

Please, take note of these disturbing statistics and make your voice heard, be it in word or by video, we need your stories to make this project a success.

(1) – You can purchase a copy of the study from QIRHE, at their site.

Judy Shepard: A Lack of Empathy Helps LGBT Suicide Thrive

Via Change.org – Gay Rights section. An article and post from Matthew Shepard‘s mother, Judy. Article can be read here. Linked below under a cut for those that want to read the full article here.

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