Still dumbfounded the morning after the presidential election, I arrived at a Brooklyn middle school a little before the beginning of first period. I was met by the dynamic duo of Drew Tagliabue and Kalima McKenzie-Simms from PFLAG NYC who led me and two other volunteers from PGLAG NYC’s Safe Schools Program to the guidance office. The head counselor gave us the schedule that had our two teams presenting to a total of six classrooms of either sixth or seventh-graders over three periods. Then she let us know we did not need to mention the election in our talks and storytelling.
“The kids are scared this morning,” she said. “They don’t know what it all means. But we’re going to let the information process a little bit before we discuss it in the classroom.” She told us she was glad we’d been scheduled to come in. “Your being here will help normalize the day as much as possible and demonstrate that life goes on after an election.”
I understood the need to process; I was still doing that myself. And I was struck by the irony that we’d come to talk about creating a safe school environment, free from bullying, when we’d just elected the country’s most outspoken bully as president.
Seeing those anxious young faces in the classrooms reminded me how now more than ever it’s important to:
- Raise awareness and understanding of LGBTQ people.
- Bust the myths that exist about gender identity and sexual orientation.
- Protect and keep safe those students who are “different” by nurturing the next generation of allies.
You don’t have to be a PFLAG Safe Schools Program volunteer to stand up and lift up LGBTQ youth. You can take action by signing a petition, sharing an article on social media, writing to your representatives in Congress, or talking about LGBTQ issues with family and friends. Here’s why that’s important.
According to PFLAG, Congress hears on average from ten opponents of equality for every one person who calls, writes, or emails in favor of civil rights for LGBTQ people. Figures are similar at the state and local levels of government. So there’s definitely something you can do to add your voice to the majority of Americans who believe in fairness, dignity and equal rights for all people, regardless of gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.
Adversity is the mother of progress. ~Mahatma Gandhi
That said, I want to share a click opportunity to protect and support the rights of LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming youth. That link petitions Congress to remove the anti-LGBTQ Russell Amendment that Republicans snuck into the National Defense Authorization Act. Just click here to take action in support of LGBTQ people.
We really are all in this together. We must stand strong on the gains made and continue to fight for what we believe is decent and right. As my child Harry told me at five years old, “You can never give up, Mom.” And as Mahatma Gandhi once told the world: Adversity is the mother of progress.
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