‘The Closer’ cast, Kevin Bacon supporting GLSEN’S ‘Safe Space Kit’ program

I have long been a big fan of The Closer, Kyra Sedgwick‘s show on the TNT network. Now I have even more reason to like the show, Sedgwick and the rest of the cast — and her husband, Kevin Bacon.

The Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network — aka GLSEN — has started its Safe Space Campaign, through which individuals can donate $20 and get one of GLSEN’s Safe Space Kits placed in the high school of their choice. The kit, according to GLSEN, “provides educators with tools and resources to address anti-LGBT bullying and create a safe and affirming space for LGBT youth.”

GLSEN’s 2009 National School Climate Survey shows that nearly nine out of 10 LGBT youth experienced harassment in school in the past year because of their sexual orientation and nearly two-thirds because of their gender expression. The survey also found that having supportive educators drastically improves the school experiences of LGBT youth.

Considering that schools can be such a breeding ground for and hot bed of bullying, I think anything that can help stop the bullying there is a good thing — especially for schools in areas where there aren’t organizations like Resource Center Dallas and Fairness Fort Worth helping get anti-bullying policies and programs in place.

Jonathan Del Arco is the gay actor who plays the gay coroner, Dr. Morales, on The Closer. Del Arco is the one who got Sedgwick and his other castmates to get on board the Safe Space train, and they did it by recording public service announcements encouraging people to support the campaign and donate to it. TNT has posted the PSA on its website.

Then Sedgwick and Bacon went a step further by joining together to film a second PSA about the Safe Space Campaign.

The Closer isn’t the only show to join the Safe Space Campaign, and its stars aren’t the only celebrities involved. You can watch more PSAs here. And even more important, you can donate here to send a Safe Space Kit to the high school of your choice. I’m sending one to my alma mater; I can’t think of a better gift this holiday than to help make LGBT students safer in their schools.

—  admin

Elliott’s story: How 1 teen survived bullying, suicide attempt

When classmates beat him up for being gay, this Ennis teen and his mom reported it. But the principal told Elliott he brought it on himself

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

IN MEMORY OF ASHER  |  Brian Carter, left, and Sharon Ferranti stand on the corner with signs as the buses let out of school during a human rights demonstration outside of Hamilton Middle School in Cypress on Tuesday, Oct. 5, to protest the treatment of Asher Brown, a gay eighth-grader at the school who killed himself at home Sept. 23. Brown’s parents blamed his suicide on two years of anti-gay bullying they say he had suffered at the school. (Karen Warren/Associated Press-Houston Chronicle)
IN MEMORY OF ASHER | Brian Carter, left, and Sharon Ferranti stand on the corner with signs as the buses let out of school during a human rights demonstration outside of Hamilton Middle School in Cypress on Tuesday, Oct. 5, to protest the treatment of Asher Brown, a gay eighth-grader at the school who killed himself at home Sept. 23. Brown’s parents blamed his suicide on two years of anti-gay bullying they say he had suffered at the school. (Karen Warren/Associated Press-Houston Chronicle)

The suicides of as many as six LGBT youth over the past month have focused a spotlight on the issue of anti-LGBT bullying in schools and online, and the correlation between bullying and teen suicide.

According to a 2003 study by the National Crime Prevention Council, six out of 10 teens witness some form of bullying at least once a day. And much of that bullying is directed at teens who are — or who are perceived to be — LGBT.

The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network has reported that students hear anti-LGBT epithets an average of 25 times a day, and that in 97 percent of the cases, teachers fail to respond to the comments.

Various studies have shown that LGBT teens are two to four times as likely as their non-LGBT counterparts to attempt suicide, and according to a report to the Secretary’s Task Force on Youth Suicide, 30 percent of all completed youth suicides are related to sexual identity.

And GLSEN’s 2003 National School Climate Survey reported that more than 64 percent of LGBT students say they feel unsafe at their schools because of their sexual orientation.

The statistics are overwhelming. But for one North Texas gay teen, anti-gay bullying and suicide attempts are far more than just statistics.

Elliott, who lives in Ennis, is 17 now. But he almost did not live that long after enduring bullying that started, he said, when he was in first grade. After years of enduring the abuse, Elliott said, he tried to commit suicide at age 15.

“I live in a small town,” he said. “I’m a ballet dancer. I stuck out like a sore thumb.”

Elliott said he was on the only one in his school being bullied, a fact that left him feeling totally alone.

And the bullying didn’t stop at words. When he was a freshman, Elliott said, a classmate followed him into the restroom at school and beat him up.

Elliott told his mother what happened. She went to the school and spoke to the principal, who told her he would do something about it.

What the principal did was tell Elliott that he had brought it upon himself.

The bullying wasn’t just at school: “I was dealing with a lot of problems,” Elliott said.

His older brother was having drug problems and tormented him at home. He had an abusive stepfather who let his own two children get away with things that he grounded Elliott for.

“He’d ridicule me for being gay,” Elliott said of his stepfather, “and it turned out he was bi.”

So Elliott started cutting himself on his ankles and his wrists. He was never hospitalized, but a nurse noticed the cuts. He told her he injured himself when he fell out of a tree.

Elliott took what he called a “safe overdose,” of a prescription drug, but recovered. He said that was the last time he tried or even considered suicide. But he said he understands how the young suicide victims that have been in the news felt. And it scares him that he came close to meeting the same fate.

Elliott said things began to get better at home for him by the end of his freshman year. His mother finished her degree, started teaching and divorced his stepfather.

His older brother very recently became sober.

For his sophomore year, Elliott transferred to arts magnet Booker T. Washington High School in Dallas. That’s where he first learned about Youth First Texas.

“I took a DART bus over [to Youth First] and I loved it,” he said, adding that for the first time in his life, he was with other people like him.

“It made me feel amazing,” he said. “Whenever I’m not in Ennis, I’m at Youth First Texas.”

Elliott joined a survivors group at Youth First in which LGBT youth discuss how they feel during times of distress. He worked with the fundraising committee and became a member of the Youth Board. He entertained with a YFT group at the Creating Change conference in February and the Gayla Prom in June.

Elliott also modeled in the annual YFT fashion show at the Rose Room and was a runway model for DIFFA.
Elliott began his activist career in April when he participated in Day of Silence in school and Breaking the Silence at Rosa Parks Square in Downtown Dallas. This summer he attended Activist Youth Camp at University of North Texas. An ACLU representative told him that had he reported the principal’s comment about bringing the beating on himself, they would have investigated.

“Just knowing I can do that is important,” he said. “I didn’t know I could do anything about it.”

His mother has become an active volunteer with YFT as well. He called her his biggest supporter.

“A lot of the others are neglected by their parents,” he said. “She acts as a mom to everyone. She gives everyone hugs. She talks to everyone and is there for everyone.”

He said he’d like to see more LGBT community involvement from other organizations.

For his senior year, Elliott is back at Ennis High School. He said the environment is different now, although it’s still difficult to walk down the halls and see other students who tormented him for years.

For protection in school, he said, “I’m starting to repopulate my girl-posse.”

Activist camp left Elliott feeling empowered and safer in school. He said he is not afraid to face the principal who told him he brought on his own beating.

Elliott said he has no personal life in Ennis, although he does teach ballet at a dance studio in town. His students are 6-to 8-year old girls.

“It intrigues them that there’s a male teacher,” he said.

A former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader owns the studio. He said she’s proud to have a male teacher on staff. Now when he goes to into a store and sees one of his students, he said, they call out, “Hi Mr. Elliott!”

After graduation, Elliott plans to attend Navarro County Community College to take his basic courses. Then he’d like to transfer to a school in Dallas to study dance and continue to be involved at YFT.

He said the recent suicides have affected him terribly. “I printed out the headlines,” he said. “It really bugs me.”

Elliott has advice for other teens who have considered suicide: “Whatever you’re going through, it just makes you a stronger person,” he said. “Whatever you go through makes you capable of doing things others can’t.”

And he wants school staff to know how much bullying hurts.

“Everything you say affects someone,” Elliott said. “I want teachers and staff to know it really hurts. Everything you say affects someone. Teachers and principals are ignorant to that. If you ignore it, it will fester.”

……………………………………………

Where to get help

• Youth First Texas
3918 Harry Hines Blvd.
Dallas, Texas
214-879-0400
YouthFirstTexas.org

• The Trevor Project
866-488-7386
TheTrevorProject.org

• The Promise House
224 W. Page Ave.
Dallas, Texas
214-941-8578
or 214-941-8670
PromiseHouse.org

• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK
SuicidePreventionLifeline.org

• Suicide Prevention Help
SuicidePreventionHelp.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

In wake of anti-lgbt youth climate, Focus on the Family attacks GLSEN

crossposted on Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters

Candi Cushman of Focus on the Family just released a critique of GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network)'s recent school climate report.

GLSEN's report found that in 2009:

 . . . 7,261 middle and high school students found that at school nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students experienced harassment at school in the past year and nearly two-thirds felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation. Nearly a third of LGBT students skipped at least one day of school in the past month because of safety concerns.

Naturally, Cushman and Focus on the Family disputes this. To make a long story short, Cushman is claiming that GLSEN's report is inaccurate because it:

 . . . lists four authors—all of whom are employed by GLSEN, including Emily A. Greytak, who became involved with a GLSEN chapter 12 years ago and has worked for the organization since 2006; Elizabeth M. Diaz, who, as a GLSEN employee since 2004, conducts workshops opposing abstinence education; and GLSEN employee Mark J. Bartkiewicz, whose “research interests include LGBT students’ access to comprehensive sexual health education and the effects of inclusive LGBT curricula.”

Hardly what you’d call an objective research team—and then there’s the little fact that they are paid by an organization that has openly acknowledged its goal of getting gay, lesbian and transgender themes “fully integrated into curricula across a variety of subject areas and grade levels.”

Cushman is pushing the same old lie that GLSEN is trying to "introduce homosexual themes" into schools in order to "indoctrinate" children.

 

It's the standard lie she and Focus on the Family pushes and it's nothing new.

But the sad thing is that this attack is coming in a climate in which we have seen a recent outbreak of bullying and suicides of young lgbts including:

An 11-year-old sixth grader in Ohio had his arm broken by teenagers who called him a queer and a sissy because he wanted to be a cheerleader.

There's the suicide, by hanging, of 13-year-old Seth Walsh, in California.

The suicide, by means of his father's Beretta, of 13-year-old Asher Brown, in Texas.

and finally, the suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, which needs no introduction because we know the story.

 In the long run, it doesn't matter who backed the GLSEN report or who created it.

Because based on recent events, the report has a degree of accuracy.

If Cushman or Focus on the Family really cared about the children, they would realize this instead of releasing a ridiculous critique that does nothing but demonstrate how uncaring and clueless they really are.

Related posts:

Focus on the Family's attack on anti-bullying efforts take centerstage on AC 360

Focus on the Family cites George Rekers in fighting anti-bullying efforts

The Problems With Focus On The Family’s And The Alliance Defense Fund’s Model Anti-Bullying Policy

AFA Highlights/Recycles FOTF Campaign Against Perceived Gay Public School Agenda
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

GLSEN Releases LGBT Student Survey – School Safety Still a Serious Concern

Today, GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, released its National School Climate Survey, which documents the experiences of LGBT students from across the country. The 2009 National School Climate Survey shows that while progress has been made in providing safe schools for LGBT youth, much work remains to be done. Among the report’s key findings:

• 84.6% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 40.1% reported being physically harassed and 18.8% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.

• 63.7% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 27.2% reported being physically harassed and 12.5% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their gender expression.

• Nearly two-thirds (61.1%) of students reported that they felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, and more than a third (39.9%) felt unsafe because of their gender expression.

• The presence of a gay-straight alliance, supportive teachers and staff members, and a school anti-bullying policy all contributed to an improved climate for LGBT students.  Click here for the full report.

HRC thanks GLSEN for its extensive efforts on this report, which included gathering data from over 7,000 LGBT students, and for its pioneering efforts to improve the climate of schools for LGBT youth. As the report indicates, much work remains to be done to ensure that safe schools become a reality for LGBT youth across our nation.

HRC, along with GLSEN, is currently supporting two bills in the U.S. Congress that would foster a safe and inclusive environment for LGBT students – the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA, H.R. 2262, S. 3739), which would require school districts receiving federal funds to adopt codes of conduct prohibiting bullying and harassment, and the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA, H.R. 4530, S. 3390), which would prohibit 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. Let your Members of Congress know that you support the SSIA and SNDA because all students deserve an education free of discrimination, harassment and bullying.

Thanks to HRC staff counsel Aaron Welo for his contributions to this post.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

President Barack Obama has made more LGBT appointments than any commander-in-chief

Col. Margarete Camermeyer
Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer

The Gay and Lesbian Leadership Institute published a list of Obama administration appointees.

The institute trains LGBT candidates on how to run an effective campaign and is related to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which helps raise money for endorsed candidates.

Some of the better-known names include Margarethe Cammermeyer, who is a member of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services. Cammermeyer is the highest-ranking woman to be dismissed from the military.

Brian Bond, who formerly headed the Victory Fund, now serves as deputy director, White House Office of Public Engagement.

Vic Basile, the first executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, is now senior counselor to the director of the Office of Personnel Management.

—  David Taffet

Breaking the Silence in Downtown Dallas

April 16 was National Day of Silence. In more than 8,000 schools across the country, students were silent to protest bullying and mistreatment of LGBT students.

At 5 p.m., a group met at Rosa Parks Plaza in Downtown Dallas to Break the Silence. Here’s a video of their rally. From here, they took DART to Mockingbird Station where they walked to SMU and the area Breaking the Silence celebration sponsored by GLSEN.

—  David Taffet

In memory of Carl Walker-Hoover

On April 6, 2009, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover committed suicide. He was 11 years old.

Carl Walker-Hoover
Carl Walker-Hoover

Carl never identified as gay. But for whatever reason, bullies at his school decided to tease him about being gay. They called him “faggot” and subjected to all kinds of anti-gay taunts and harassment. That day last April, Carl decided he couldn’t take it anymore.

This month, a Web site called Black Voices/Black Spin has published an interview with Carl’s mother, Sirdeaner Walker — a woman with no real ties to the LGBT community who has channeled her grief over her son’s death into working with the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network to pass legislation, both in her home state of Massachusets and at the federal level, aimed at ending all forms of bullying and harassment, including anti-LGBT bullying and harrassment, in our schools.

I suggest that everyone visit the BVBlackSpin Web site to read the interview in it’s entirety. It’s especially important as we gear up for GLSEN’s National Day of Silence on Friday, April 16, and especially in light of anti-gay group’s efforts to derail the Day of Silence.

Here’s a brief snippet:

BV: When GLSEN reached out to you last year, you had some apprehension. What changed your mind? SW: Some people told me that they would try to push some gay agenda on Carl’s death. So I was a little afraid-my son never identified as gay. But God told me that I needed to work with GLSEN. And over time, it became clear to me how committed and passionate GLSEN is to making sure that all children are safe in their schools. Through GLSEN, I have been able to meet so many people who are vastly different than me. This experience has made me more accepting of people.

—  admin

AFA: Keep children home from school on Day of Silence

April 16 is the National Day of Silence, a nationwide observance organized by the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network in which students in classrooms across the country will help bring attention to the problems of anti-LGBT bullying, name-calling and harassment in their schools by taking a one-day vow of silence.

Today, the American Family Association sent out an e-mail urging its members and supporters to fight back against the Day of Silence by keeping their children home from school that day.

The e-mail, signed by newly-crowned AFA president Tim Wildmon, says:

“Parents must actively oppose this hijacking of the classroom for political purposes. Please join the national effort to restore to public education a proper understanding of the role of government-subsidized schools. You can help de-politicize the learning environment by calling your child out of school if your child’s school allows students to remain silent during instructional time on the Day of Silence.

“Parents should no longer passively countenance the political usurpation of public school classrooms through student silence.

“If students will be permitted to remain silent, parents can express their opposition most effectively by calling their children out of school on the Day of Silence and sending letters of explanation to their administrators, their children’s teachers, and all school board members. One reason this is effective is that most school districts lose money for each student absence.

“School administrators err when they allow the classroom to be disrupted and politicized by granting students permission to remain silent throughout an entire day.”

Okay, first of all, as the parent of a son who is constantly getting in trouble for talking when he shouldn’t be, the idea that students are disrupting classes by being quiet made me laugh out loud. Most teachers I know (including my now-retired father and my sister), would love to have a whole day of quiet students for a change! I figure that allowing a student to write an answer down — on paper or the blackboard — instead of speaking to answer a question would be a small price most teachers would willingly pay.

Anyway, after I laughed at that part, I got angry at this part: the idea that these right-wing jerks have the gall to accuse LGBT students and their supporters of “politicizing the classroom” when it is in fact the right-wingers who are most often politicizing the classroom by trying to force their religious beliefs into the public school curricula. Especially here in Texas where the right-wingers have managed to get elected to the state Board of Education and are now raping our textbooks to replace historical and scientific fact and sound scientific theory with their own personal religious beliefs and , often, bigotry.

Wildmon tells his followers to go here to learn about how to participate in the “Day of Silence Walkout,” and urging them to contact their children’s schools and tell them that if the school is participating in National Day of Silence, they will be keeping their children home that day.

So I am asking all of you to go to National Day of Silence Web site to find out all the info you can, and to let the schools in your area know that you support their participation in this observance.

—  admin

Local gay and black organizations announce April as Hate Crimes Awareness Month

The Fahari Arts Institute announced that it has teamed up with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) to “mark the month of April as hate crimes awareness month, bringing attention to individuals who are or have been harassed, attacked, or even killed because of their actual or perceived ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender expression.” The arts organization will program events throughout the month related to victims of hate crimes. As part of their programming, they will screen The Sakia Gunn Film Project. It follows the trial of the murder of a New Jersey 15 year-old lesbian.

The following is from the press release:

“We, as black people, as humans, cannot hold to the idea that all life is precious, while discounting the lives of gay people,” says Harold Steward, artistic director of Fahari.  ”Verbal and physical violence as a means of disapproval or disagreement in general has wrecked [the black] community internally for far too long, and we must recognize that the violence against sexual minorities in the black community because they are queer is just as real and just as wrong as violence against us because we are black.”

Several organizations and individuals are joining with Fahari in this month-long commemoration including Southwest Regional Marketing Director for Lambda Legal, Dennis Coleman, the South Dallas Cultural Center, Black Cinematheque Dallas, the DFW Senators (an social organization for black lesbians), “HeART and Soul” (a Houston performing arts collective led by Kevin Anderson that will be in performance on Saturday, April 17th in Dallas), and University of North Texas’ gay student organization, GLAD.

—  Rich Lopez

Wanda Sykes always speaks her mind

Wanda Sykes’ message: “Knock it off.”

The ad was produced by GLSEN and ThinkB4YouSpeak.com

—  David Taffet