CHICAGO CHAPTER GAY, LESBIAN, STRAIGHT EDUCATION NETWORK (GLSN)

ORGANIZATION | Inducted 2000

Since 1994, through community organizing, advocacy, and in-school programming, the group has benefited youth, staff members, and the community by fostering nondiscrimination in school settings.

The Chicago Chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has been a force for positive change in Chicago since the chapter’s beginning in 1994. Part of the nationwide organization started in 1992, GLSEN/Chicago has had an average of 200 full-fledged and active members for more than five years.

Often thought of as “the teachers’ group,” GLSEN membership is not just for teachers but is also for everyone interested in ending homophobia in the schools.

Along with “Ending Homophobia in the Schools” and “Educating Children—Educating Society,” GLSEN/Chicago’s primary motto has been “Teaching Respect for All in Our Schools.” The group’s work falls into three categories: community organizing, advocacy, and in-school programming.

In the community-organizing category, besides building the chapter itself, GLSEN/Chicago has developed relationships and cosponsored events with other groups in Chicago-area sexual-minority communities. In addition, it has worked to support teachers, on the ground that, if a teacher cannot be comfortably “out,” neither can students be. The chapter has held more than 50 monthly community meetings on school-related topics, numerous social and fund-raising events, and coming-out support gatherings for teachers. It has helped get sexual orientation added to the fair practices section of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) contract. It has obtained Illinois State Board of Education approval for an anti-homophobia seminar for school administrators.

In the advocacy category, GLSEN/Chicago directly supports gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning youth in both school and society. Such efforts have included Youth Leadership Summits, presentation of scholarships to youth activists, letter-writing campaigns by alumni contacting their former schools, assistance in forming Chicago’s first “gay-straight alliance” student group at Whitney Young High School, forming the first nationwide network of such groups (now run by the GLSEN national office), and supporting Miguel Ayala’s bid to become the first “out” student member of the Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees.

And in the programming category, GLSEN/Chicago has found, created, and distributed educational materials aimed at ending homophobia and supporting sexual-minority youth. Such resources have been provided to schools, individual teachers, and community members. They have included curricular workshop materials; pamphlets and papers on sexual-orientation and gender-identity issues; a school Pride Poster Contest; a lending library of videotapes; a 1999 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month poster inserted in the CTU newspaper; funds for providing the videotape It’s Elementary to Chicago schools; and training for social workers in using the tape.

GLSEN/Chicago’s work has immeasurably benefited Chicago-area youth of both past and future. Through them, our whole society will benefit.

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