Posts Tagged ‘youth’

100 Days Later

October 4, 2013 By Josh Steichmann

100 days from SCOTUS marriage100 days ago, the Supreme Court struck down the central portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, and dismissed the last gasp appeal of the Prop. 8 supporters, returning the freedom to marry to California. Across the country, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people cheered along with allies who supported the vision of an America where everyone could marry the person that they love.

Since then, we’ve seen a parade of victories at the federal level, from the Department of Homeland Security allowing same-sex spouses full immigration privileges to the IRS issuing new rules to make sure loving same-sex couples are recognized, to the first same-sex weddings on U.S. military bases. We’ve seen big marriage victories in New Mexico and New Jersey, and we’ve seen the roll-out of the biggest advance in LGBT healthcare in our lifetimes with the Affordable Care Act.

Here in California, we’ve seen the federal courts uphold SB 1172, which ended the psychological abuse of LGBT youth by licensed therapists, we’ve seen transgender students win both with the passage and signing of the School Success and Opportunity Act (AB 1266), which ensures that transgender students can participate as their authentic selves in school, and at the Arcadia Unified School District, which settled a lawsuit and implemented policies to ensure transgender equality.  Read the rest of this entry »

Legal Resources for Transgender Students

August 21, 2013 By Shaun Osburn

transstudentTrans Student Equality Resources, a youth-led organization dedicated to improving the educational environment for transgender and gender nonconforming students, has partnered with the It Gets Better Project and Lambda Legal to provide youth with information regarding their legal protections as students.

Visit Lambda Legal’s web resources for more information.

2013 Queer Youth Advocacy Day

May 1, 2013 By Guest Contributor

By Sam Alavi

I’m sure that to a bystander, 70 young people standing on the steps of the capitol screaming “we’re here, we’re queer, we’re fabulous; don’t mess with us” is quite an interesting site. But to me, it’s just another day of activism.

This year’s Queer Youth Advocacy Day was especially meaningful for me. Not only did I get the chance to train a group of inspiring youth on the ins and outs of advocacy, but we were also given the opportunity to meet with senators and assembly members about AB 1266 and AB 420, two bills that directly impacted us as students.

The event came with the usual emotions of empowerment, excitement, and pride, but also with a feeling of nostalgia. This weekend marked the end of my work as a youth trainer with GSA Network, and as a high school activist as a whole. With graduation almost 3 weeks away, I say goodbye to being a youth trainer after many years and hundreds of workshops, and say hello to my upcoming adventures as an activist in college. I am incredibly humbled and inspired to have spent the weekend advocating for justice on behalf of all marginalized students alongside my fellow activists, and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the year.

Sam Alavi is a senior at Aragon High School and the president of her school’s Gay, Straight Alliance. In previous years, Sam has helped lead the GSA through many successful events and campaigns including Ally Week, Harvey Milk Day, and the annual GSA Castro Field trip. A board member of GSA Network and Deputy Director of Bay Area Youth Summit (BAYS), Sam is a tireless straight ally and a force to reckon with.

World Suicide Prevention Day

September 11, 2012 By Neha Balram

helping-handsOn Monday September 10th, coinciding with World Suicide Prevention Day, the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention has included a two-page appendix on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) populations to their report, which is intended to outline ways to identify at-risk individuals and methods of reducing suicides over the next decade. Lauren Jow of discusses how the representation of the LGBT population in the 2012 revision is especially significant because it expands on the 2001 strategy’s limited comments on the LGBT community and the unique struggle they community faces as a minority group. Additionally, the strategy identifies the LGBT population as a “group with increased suicide risk,” a potential result of the discrimination individuals have faced from community and family members, and their consequential emotional stress.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, proponents of complete equality and pro-LGBT legislation in this nation, reported in their National Transgender Discrimination Survey that 51 percent of LGBT individuals who were rejected by their families have attempted suicide. However, we can hope to reduce this number to 32 percent, but only if families become more accepting of their LGBT relatives.

In response to World Suicide Prevention Day, Rob Watson, an LGBT activist and blogger for the Huffington Post, wrote an honest account about his personal connection to the day , from the perspective of a victim of bullying during his teenage years as a suppressed member of the LGBT community. Watson emphasizes the importance of this day by remembering a 15-year old boy named William Lucas, a victim of bullying who committed suicide recently.

Although this is National Suicide Prevention Week, I encourage you to remember this issue in the weeks and months to come and engage in the methods of limiting incidences of suicide amongst our LGBT friends and family, as discussed in the revised 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.


Weighing In on the Joint Legislative Audit Committee

August 8, 2012 By Sarah Thomsen

safer schools auditToday, Equality California (EQCA) and the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Network will be asking the Joint Legislative Audit Committee to approve an audit of California school districts’ compliance with recent legislation, including Seth’s Law (AB 9) and the Safe Place To Learn Act; (AB 394) . As someone who has learned from and worked for California’s public school system, I feel especially invested in the outcome of this hearing.

During school hours administrators have an obligation to their students’ safety. On-campus organizations like GSA Network are irreplaceable advocates for LGBT youth. Administrative figures, however, must ultimately be held accountable for school-wide safety; it’s the law. The fact that such attainable progress is being hindered by some California schools’ inactivity strikes me as disconcerting.

Schools are ideally meant to be places of learning for all students, regardless of gender, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. And yet the stigma that accompanies these societally placed labels, particularly in high school, often makes access to learning less equitable. In school, I remember witnessing a negative perception of, and discomfort with, the LGBT community. Physical bullying was not common at my high school, but verbal harassment definitely occurred, which I believe can be equally hurtful. Degrading slurs slung across the hallway and the derogatory use of the word “gay” were commonplace, and treated largely with apathy.

These incidents were hurtful to both LGBT youth and those who were perceived as LGBT, yet victims often felt powerless to report their harassment. Our students deserve laws that protect them from this discrimination, bullying, and harassment, and they deserve to know that they have legislative rights. LGBT organizations across California have worked tirelessly to ensure youth’s protection; now schools must act. Our public education system must be audited so that we know if our students are being supported as these laws intended. With this audit we would be one step closer to promoting safe schools, furthering inclusion, and finally giving LGBT youth the voice they deserve in their education.


The Night Before Testifying Before The Joint Legislative Audit Committee

August 7, 2012 By Calen Valencia

calen valenciaIn April, GSA Network, Equality California Institute, Transgender Law Center and The Trevor Project hosted the annual Queer Youth Advocacy Day (QYAD) in Sacramento and I was accepted to participate. For someone like me, who found out about these organizations less than a year prior, this was HUGE for me! I had never heard of this camp, or anything like it, except I knew for a fact my life would be turned around. I was right.

In those four activist-packed days, I learned more than enough to know that my district wasn’t following through with the anti-discrimination laws, and hasn’t been, either. They broke us into groups of what issues we would be focusing on, and I was lucky enough to be sorted into the Joint Audit Legislature Committee (JLAC) group, where I would later find out, my personal experiences would mean a whole lot more than I ever guessed.

I was bullied for years and teachers never addressed it until I had to step in and face the issue myself, in a violent matter. It wasn’t until then that administrators stepped in, and even then, I was the one who was wrongly disciplined, not my bully. This is why I am going to speak tomorrow in Sacramento with assembly members and joining together with Equality California and GSA Network to testify on why California Public Schools (especially in Central Valley) should be audited to see if districts are complying with laws set in place.

I’m so nervous and excited to know that one small voice can make a difference! I really hope this audit is passed.


The 2012 Equality California Institute Comcast Fellows

July 30, 2012 By Shaun Osburn

equality california comcast fellowsThrough a generous grant from the Comcast Foundation and in partnership with the California LGBT Legislative Caucus, Equality California Institute is proud to announce the second group of Fellows to be part of the first-ever legislative leadership fellowship program for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in the nation.

The 2011 Comcast Fellows are:

Aldo Macias – Kalamazoo College – (East LA)
Stephanie Braziel – Claremont McKenna – (Roseville)
Anthony Nget – Cal State Long Beach (Long Beach)
Luke Vandekieft – University of Southern California (Olympia, WA)

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EQCA & The Center for Talented Youth

July 28, 2012 By Nora Oleskog

sf equality california internsThis week Equality California’s San Francisco office had the pleasure of welcoming 15 high school students from across the world. As a part of the Center for Talented Youth’s summer course in Civic Engagement & Contemporary Social Issues, these youth leaders participated in a service learning site visit at EQCA. Staff led students in exercises that helped them to gain a better comprehension of issues surrounding societal norms and values with a focus on gender and sexuality. Students engaged in discussions surrounding the opportunities and privileges that result from these norms and values.

It was really inspiring to have these young people in the office and to hear about their experiences and thoughts about full equality. It was also refreshing to gain new perspectives and to learn about their personal experiences.


AB 1856 Passes the California Senate Human Services Committee

July 3, 2012 By Josh Steichmann

Out-of-home youth, the term of art for those youth housed through social services, are already a vulnerable population. Multiplying that vulnerability for many is the pernicious problem of ignorance and inattentiveness to issues around sexual orientation and gender expression. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth comprise 20 to 40 percent of the homeless youth population according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (data on total homeless population are notoriously hard to collect), the Open Doors Project reports that 30 percent of LGBT youth experienced violence from their families after coming out, and (again from the NGLTF) 26 percent of LGBT youth are thrown out of their homes after coming out. Of the approximately 42,500 youth in the California foster care system, between 5 and 10 percent identify as LGBT.

In a study of New York’s foster care system: 100 percent of LGBT youth reported verbal harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity; 70 percent reported physical violence due to their orientation or identity; 78 percent were removed at least once from foster placements due to hostility toward their gender identity or sexual orientation; 56 percent of them spent time living on the streets because they felt “safer” than in their group or foster home.

In a national study of social work students, educators and practitioners, while 79 percent reported sexual orientation non-discrimination policies, only 39 percent had similar policies for gender expression.  Read the rest of this entry »


So-Called “Conversion Therapy” Survivor Ryan Kendall on SB 1172

June 27, 2012 By Shaun Osburn

Ryan Kendall, a survivor of so-called “Conversion Therapy” who testified in the Perry v. Brown legal challenge to Proposition 8, described his experience before the The California Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committee in Sacramento this July during the hearing on SB 1172.

SB 1172, a bill that would ban psychotherapists from engaging in efforts to change the sexual orientation of minors, was approved by the committee on July, 26 212 on a 5-2 vote.

Read a transcript of Kendall’s testimony below.  Read the rest of this entry »