Even in one of the most liberal towns in America, even as Harvey Milk made a name for himself, I remember kids being called “gay” when I was in school and it wasn’t a compliment. Today, no San Francisco school official would stand for any such teasing or bullying, but the same is not true everywhere.
According to the 2007 National School Climate Survey, published by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), more than 85% of LGBT students suffer verbal harassment at school and a third had missed at least one day of school because they did not feel safe at school. This is truly a sad state of affairs and something that needs to change. This is the 21st century, not the 19th.
It turns out that things are changing. We are currently smack dab in the middle of GLSEN’s Ally Week, an event intended to foster understanding, acceptance, and support for LGBT students. All across the country, students are providing training, hosting discussions, and encouraging straight allies to take the Ally Pledge. The pledge starts off “I believe all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, deserve to feel safe and supported.” Sounds good to me.
But wait — what’s an ally? I generally use the term “fellow traveler” but the idea is the same. An ally is a non-LGBT person who is committed to ending discrimination and persecution of the LGBT community and individuals. (I started something similar — Straight Guys for Equality — to let people know that civil rights issues are universal.)
So what can you do to be a part of this? Talk to your kids about bullying and teasing — not just that they shouldn’t engage in such behaviour, but also that they should, when safe to do so, step up to end to such abuse when it occurs. You can also set a positive example in November, if you live in Washington or Maine, by approving Referendum 71 or voting no on Proposition 1, respectively.