Transgender Kansas teacher honored with award

By : wire report
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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A transgender teacher in Kansas has been named “National Educator of the Year” by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.

The Wichita Eagle reports that Wichita North High School music teacher Stephanie Byers came out as a transgender woman in 2014. Byers says she didn’t transition to be a pioneer or an advocate, but that she’s become both.

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Orlando makes history with first-ever LGBT Youth Summit

By : Alyssa Merwin
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Orlando – From bullying to human trafficking, the first-ever Central Florida Youth Empowerment Summit covered the gamut of issues and problems that LGBT youth may face.

On Feb. 1, The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network and Orlando Youth Alliance and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays teamed up for the Summit, inviting attendees of all sexualities, gender and ages.

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First-ever Central Florida Youth Summit comes to Orlando

By : Alyssa Merwin
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Orlando – From bullying to human trafficking, the first-ever Central Florida Youth Empowerment Summit covered the gamut of issues and problems that LGBT youth may face.

On Feb. 1, The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network and Orlando Youth Alliance and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays teamed up for the Summit, inviting attendees of all sexualities, gender and ages.

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Florida’s LGBT students find school unsafe

By : Staff Report
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Florida’s LGBT students find the state’s public schools unsafe, according to a new study by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) released March 21.

The 2011 National School Climate Survey reports that 9 in 10 students heard the word “gay” used in a derogatory way and also heard other students make negative remarks about how some students choose to express their gender.

32 percent of students reported hearing biased language from school staff while 25 percent said they regularly heard school staff make homophobic remarks.

Eight in ten students said they experienced verbal harassment based on their sexual orientation, and about 2 out of 3 were verbally harassed for how they express their gender.

Many students also reported physical harassment and assault based on their sexual orientation, with 4 in 10 physically harassed by another student (as in, pushed or shoved) and 1 in 10 assaulted (as in punched, kicked or injured with a weapon).

The vast majority of students – 90 percent – said they felt deliberately excluded by their peers and more than half were cyberbullied or had their property damanged.

The harassment is very underreported, according to the study, with 62% of students saying they never report it to a school official and 556% saying they never told a family member. Of the students that did report harassment, only 36% said the report resulted in any staff intervention.

The GLSEN report also shows LGBT students are underserved by school resources, with only five percent attending a school with an anti-bullying policy that contains specific protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Less than half the schools – 44 percent – have a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) or similarly supportive extracurricular activity.

Study shows it does get better for bullied gay teens

By : Wire Report
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It really does get better for gay and bisexual teens when it comes to being bullied, although young gay men have it worse than their lesbian peers, according to the first long-term scientific evidence on how the problem changes over time.

The seven-year study involved more than 4,000 teens in England who were questioned yearly through 2010, until they were 19 and 20 years old. At the start, just over half of the 187 gay, lesbian and bisexual teens said they had been bullied; by 2010 that dropped to 9 percent of gay and bisexual boys and 6 percent of lesbian and bisexual girls.

The researchers said the same results likely would be found in the United States.

In both countries, a “sea change” in cultural acceptance of gays and growing intolerance for bullying occurred during the study years, which partly explains the results, said study co-author Ian Rivers, a psychologist and professor of human development at Brunel University in London.

That includes a government mandate in England that schools work to prevent bullying, and changes in the United States permitting same-sex marriage in several states.

In 2010, syndicated columnist Dan Savage launched the “It Gets Better” video project to encourage bullied gay teens. It was prompted by widely publicized suicides of young gays, and includes videos from politicians and celebrities.

“Bullying tends to decline with age regardless of sexual orientation and gender,” and the study confirms that, said co-author Joseph Robinson, a researcher and assistant professor of educational psychology at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. “In absolute terms, this would suggest that yes, it gets better.”

The study appears online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, said the results mirror surveys by her anti-bullying advocacy group that show bullying is more common in U.S. middle schools than in high schools.

But the researchers said their results show the situation is more nuanced for young gay men.

In the first years of the study, gay boys and girls were almost twice as likely to be bullied as their straight peers. By the last year, bullying dropped overall and was at about the same level for lesbians and straight girls. But the difference between men got worse by ages 19 and 20, with gay young men almost four times more likely than their straight peers to be bullied.

The mixed results for young gay men may reflect the fact that masculine tendencies in girls and women are more culturally acceptable than femininity in boys and men, Robinson said.

Savage, who was not involved in the study, agreed.

“A lot of the disgust that people feel when you bring up homosexuality … centers around gay male sexuality,” Savage said. “There’s more of a comfort level” around gay women, he said.

Kendall Johnson, 21, a junior theater major at the University of Illinois, said he was bullied for being gay in high school, mostly when he brought boyfriends to school dances or football games.

“One year at prom, I had a guy tell us that we were disgusting and he didn’t want to see us dancing anymore,” Johnson said. A football player and the president of the drama club intervened on his behalf, he recalled.

Johnson hasn’t been bullied in college, but he said that’s partly because he hangs out with the theater crowd and avoids the fraternity scene. Still, he agreed, that it generally gets better for gays as they mature.

“As you grow older, you become more accepting of yourself,” Johnson said.

Oakland Park passes anti-bullying measure

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Suzanne Boisvenue, Oakland Park’s Vice Mayor, has been a long time advocate for equality and fairness for non-traditional families in South Florida. Just a few months ago, she advocated for a rule change that made housing ordinances amenable to gay couples with adopted or foster children. The move was protested by John Labriola, an unsuccessful Tea Party candidate, prior to the local elections.

Boisvenue’s latest move is more directly in response to the recent upswing in teen suicides and the widely reported notion that bullying may be responsible for some of the deaths. At her recommendation, the Oakland Park City Commission voted unanimously (5-0) to approve a resolution which makes clear its support for federal legislation.

The resolution acknowledges that Oakland Park “supports legislation that prohibits discrimination and bullying in general” and “in particular when it is due to their gender identity or sexual orientation.” The resolution also promises to make room for these issues in Oakland Park’s own legislative agenda for 2011. Furthermore the resolution calls attention to four bills which currently await passage in the US Senate and House of Representatives: HR 4530 & S 3390—House and Senate versions of The Student Nondiscrimination Act and HR 2262 & S 3739—House and Senate versions of the Safe Schools Improvement Act.

“I also asked that letters be sent to the Broward League of Cities and our legislators in Tallahassee so that we can get state-wide support for our government in Washington DC to pass these bills,” Boisvenue said.

Recently, many gay rights advocacy groups have called for passage of these acts, including the local peer activist network National Voices for Equality, Education and Enlightenment (NVEEE) and the national Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

“It’s critical for your readers to know,” Boisvenue said, “that the commission passed this resolution unanimously and that this is important. These kinds of bills that prohibit discrimination are so important and it’s important that they pass. And I think with enough of our community members calling for action on them, they will.”

Editor’s note: Jerritt Terrill is a reporter with the South Florida Gay News and this article is used with permission.