Be an Ally: Show your support for LGBT students September 11

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Tennessee schools should be safe for all students. But it's a fact, according to the 2011 Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) school climate in Tennessee report, 90 percent of students reported hearing homophobic remarks and experience verbal harassment because of their sexual identity or gender expression.

Furthermore, a mere 3% of Tennessee students surveyed reported attending a school with a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that included sexual identity and gender expression.  In reality, students who identify as LGBT are twice as likely to experience bullying than their straight counterparts.

In early 2013 the Safe School Improvement Act, aimed at amending the Elementary and Secondary School Act to include a code of conduct the prohibits bullying and includes sexual identity and gender expression, was reintroduced into both the House and the Senate but the victims of bullying in Tennessee cannot wait any longer. They need help and support now. They need an ally . . . they need you.

Established nationally in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. The mission of GLSEN, and its local chapters, is to work to ensure that each member of every school community is valued and respected.

The Middle Tennessee GLSEN chapter plans to do just that on September 11 as it joins forces with the Music City Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and their annual Alphabet Art exhibit at OutCentral to kick off its Ally Photo Campaign in advance of October’s National Ally Week.

Who can be an ally? Anyone!

In a blog post last year, former Middle Tennessee GLSEN Jumpstart Adult Coordinator Jessica Toste defined an ally as someone that “believes all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, deserve to feel safe and supported” and someone that supports “efforts to end anti-LGBT bias, bullying, and harassment in our schools.”

On September 11 from 6 – 8 p.m., GLSEN will host the beginning of their Ally campaign. The event will feature a photo campaign where the community is invited to show their support for Tennessee students by proclaiming their commitment to being an ally. The photo campaign will also have a social media component where allies from across the nation can join in by downloading the ally sign and taking a photo. They can then share the photo on GLSEN Middle TN Facebook page, Instagram with hashtag #AllyWeek2013 or by tweeting the photo to @OutandAboutNash and @GLSENMiddleTN. Allies can also email their photo directly to GLSEN Middle TN here.

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The photo campaign will lead up to GLSEN’s National Ally Week to be held October 21-25 with an event co-sponsored with the Nashville GLBT Chamber of Commerce on October 24 at Anode (926 Main St.). The event will run from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. and feature catering from Edley’s BBQ.

So say the words with us . . . I AM AN ALLY. And make plans to join GLSEN on September 11 or download your ally sign now and share your commitment to Middle Tennessee LGBT students across social media.

artwork provided by Eric Coppinger