The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is a national organization comprising lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and allied individuals who wish to put an end to discrimination, harassment, and bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in K-12 schools in the United States. There are nearly 40 chapters of the organization around the United States.

The organization supports Gay-Straight Alliances along with sponsoring the annual National Day of Silence and No Name-Calling Week and providing resources for teachers on how to support LGBT students. It also sponsors and participates in a host of other "Days of Action," including the Transgender Day of Remembrance, Ally Week and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Organizing Weekend.

Mission[edit | edit source]

The organization's mission statement reads,

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network strives to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. We believe that such an atmosphere engenders a positive sense of self, which is the basis of educational achievement and personal growth. Since homophobia and heterosexism undermine a healthy school climate, we work to educate teachers, students and the public at large about the damaging effects these forces have on youth and adults alike. We recognize that forces such as racism and sexism have similarly adverse impacts on communities and we support schools in seeking to redress all such inequities. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes in creating a more vibrant and diverse community. We welcome as members any and all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity/expression or occupation, who are committed to seeing this philosophy realized in K-12 schools.[1]

History[edit | edit source]

Founded as the Gay and Lesbian Independent School Teachers Network (GLSTN) in 1990, the organization began as a local volunteer group of 70 gay and lesbian educators. At that time, there were two Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) in the nation, only one state with policy in place to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students, and a general lack of awareness of the needs of LGBT students. LGBT youth did not have a voice in the education community or in the LGBT movement. There were few, if any, resources available for teachers to discuss LGBT issues.

However, groups of concerned individuals began to establish chapters across the country, advocating locally and regionally for safe schools for students who were, or were perceived to be, LGBT.

In 1995 GLSTN became a national organization and hired its first full-time staff person, GLSEN’s founder and Executive Director Kevin Jennings. In 1997, GLSTN staged its first national conference in Salt Lake City, UT, in order to respond to the legislature’s move to ban all student groups in an effort to prevent the formation of GSAs in the state. It is also this year that GLSTN changed its name to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, in order to attract new members to the struggle for safe schools for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

Currently, more than 3,600 GSAs have registered with GLSEN, which has approximately 40 full-time staff, a governing board of 20 members and two advisory committees at the national level. In addition, nearly 40 Chapters are affiliated with GLSEN on local levels. At this point, GLSEN has successfully hosted more than 8 national conferences to bring together student leaders, educators, chapter leaders and activists. GLSEN also sponsors the National Day of Silence, in which hundreds of thousands of students participate each year. Students from more than 5,000 middle and high schools registered with GLSEN as 2007 Day of Silence participants.

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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