Last month, I had the honor of attending a convening in Buenos Aires hosted by GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) and UNESCO to launch a global network of activists and researchers to support LGBT youth in schools. Our daylong meeting created the foundation of a strategic plan for providing LGBT students and their teachers the resources, research, and advocacy they need to create safe schools for all.
Surrounded by advocates and scholars from over 20 countries, I learned how much global queer groups care about teachers and the work we do in supporting LGBT students. From Brazil to China to Slovenia and South Africa, the diverse contexts that students and teachers learn and teach in are being accounted for in the current research and activism of the global safe schools movement.
As the only teacher-researcher at the convening, I came knowing that my voice as a practicing educator was one that is rarely heard in these urgent conversations. I had been selected to join the convening due to my Distinguished Fulbright research on LGBT youth in Mexico, where I had interviewed queer students in high schools about their experience of bullying and harassment, coming out and relationships, counseling and curricular inclusion.
Following the convening, our cohort presented at the XV World Congress on Comparative Education, also held in Buenos Aires, where we each presented our cutting edge research on the latest trends in supporting LGBT students in schools globally.
I was particularly inspired by groups such as COJESS in Mexico, which leverages the energy and vision of youth activists to move forward sexual and reproductive rights education; CLAM in Brazil, which creates teacher trainings with an intersectional approach of addressing not just gender and sexuality but also race and class; Todo Mejora, the It Gets Better of Chile, which provides Spanish language videos on LGBT youth issues; Legebitra in Slovenia, which created a school manual for teachers to support LGBT youth and also works with students on human rights education; and Aibai in China, which is revising sex education programs to have an LGBT-inclusive lens for both primary and secondary schools.
The inspiration for my own global research in Mexico comes from the advocacy I do on a local level in New York. As the founder of the New York Independent Schools LGBT Educators Group, a 300-member professional development community, I design programs that help teachers create safe and inclusive schools. As part of this work, I often receive emails from teachers both locally and nationally who need important resources on addressing gender and sexuality in schools. Additionally, I have consulted in schools in both the U.S. and Mexico on LGBT inclusion and awareness.
In Mexico, teachers talked to me about the lack of resources there are to train teachers; even school counselors do not know basic information about gender and sexual identity. In one school alone, I listened to Mexican queer youth share stories about a health teacher who shared his homophobic views during lessons on the reproductive health system.
This was one of the reasons why my Fulbright research in Mexico was so important to me; I wanted to learn first-hand the experiences of LGBT youth and the hardworking teachers that support them, so that I could begin to create strategic alliances to help LGBT youth in both countries.
As someone who works to bridge the silos between the work of activists, academics, and educators in schools, I am looking forward to collaborating across the groups we gathered in Buenos Aires. I know our work will result in the creation of innovative practices that will address the multi-issue lives that both LGBT students and teachers experience in schools everyday.
To learn more about the convening gathered by GLSEN and UNESCO, please read my piece for the Huffington Post.
Groups represented at the convening included: Accept LGBT Cyprus (Cyprus), Aibai Culture & Education Center (China), BeLonG To (Ireland), Coalición de Jóvenes por la Educación y la Salud Sexual (Mexico), Equipo María Rachid (Argentina), Federación Argentina LGBT (Argentina), GALE (the Netherlands), Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (South Africa), Hoshen (Israel), Informational Center Legebitra (Slovenia),Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (the Netherlands), Kampania przeciw Homofobii (Poland), KAOS GL (Turkey), Centro Latino-Americano em Sexualidade e Direitos Humanos (Brazil), Safe Schools Coalition Victoria (Australia), T6 Cooperativa (Italy), Teachers College, Columbia University (U.S.A.), Todo Mejora (Chile), UQAM (Canada), University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa), and the University of New England (Australia).