Image Source: Alex Jackman on Unsplash

In the face of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation being promoted across several states in the U.S. just within the past year, it’s crucial for students and communities to remain vigilant allies. Sometimes this may come in the form of protesting alongside members of the LGBTQ+ community, educating oneself on the various organizations and groups advocating for the community, or even volunteering and finding other ways to get involved. This Pride Month, let’s take a look at one organization seeking to aid and protect LGBTQ+ students in schools: GLSEN

GLSEN stands for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, though the organization has since expanded itself to supporting transgender, nonbinary, and other LGBTQ+ individuals. Pronounced “glisten,” the organization seeks to provide educational resources for LGBTQ+ students and allies, and the group also wishes to eliminate the discrimination, bullying, and harassment often experienced by these individuals. According to its website, over 1.5 million students, families, advocates, and educators are working on behalf of the organization to accomplish these goals.

The group currently runs several programs meant to uplift and protect LGBTQ+ students in K-12 public, private, charter, and parochial schools. These programs include Day of Silence and Changing the Game.

For Day of Silence, LGBTQ+ students and allies internationally spend a day at school in April not uttering a single word in order to protest against harassment and discrimination frequently targeted towards LGTBQ+ individuals. With Changing the Game, GLSEN hopes to create inclusive environments regarding physical education classes and sports for LGBTQ+ students.

GLSEN also provides various educational resources for students, parents, teachers, administrators, and allies. Examples include book recommendations from the National Student Council, an action kit for transgender students, how to spread awareness of transgender issues, back-to-school tips for LGBTQ+ students, and a resource for individuals who want to come out but don’t know how to.

This past year, GLSEN also released its findings from the 2021 National School Climate Survey and the 2021 State Snapshots from the National School Climate Survey. Read more about the findings here and here.

Just in the past couple of months, GLSEN voiced its support of the Protecting Our Students in Schools Act recently reintroduced to the U.S. Congress, and it has also condemned the three recent anti-LGBTQ+ bills passed by the Louisiana State Legislature. 

Want to get involved with GLSEN?

California currently has three chapters: Los Angeles, Merced, and San Diego County. Orange County doesn’t have one yet, so maybe you’ll be the one to start a chapter. GLSEN also provides a list of current job openings and internships on its Career Center webpage. The organization also accepts donations, and it also has a shop selling apparel and accessories, stickers and buttons, safe space kits, and more.

GLSEN’s website also recommends starting a Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club or other LGBTQ+ student-friendly organization on school campuses so that students can find a sense of community among their peers and have access to safe spaces.