I had the pleasure of doing my activist project with my teen daughter, Valhalla. As a queer family, we knew we wanted to do a project that would in some way help out the LGBTQ people in our community. Our plan became more focused when we were
approached by a mother who’s teen daughter had come out and was bullied so badly in her school that she attempted suicide.Talking to this mother inspired us to do a project directed at LGBTQ youth.
My daughter is a member of her high school’s Gay Straight Alliance. We decided to do a collaborative project with the GSA. Valhalla was able to research what projects the group had done and plans they had for the year so we could plan a project that had not been done before. We both researched various LGBTQ organizations finding out what kind of resources there were for adolescents.
We decided to create an LGBTQ ally campaign. Our plan was to create a pledge, that the students could sign, pledging to be an ally to LGBTQ students to make the school safe for everyone. We wanted to make buttons to give out to those who signed the pledge.The buttons would be a visual reminder that LGBTQ students were supported in their school.
My partner and I attended a GSA meeting where we shared our plan with the group to see if they wanted to participate in this collaborative project. The GSA students loved the idea and decided that they would run the ally pledge campaign during lunch every day of the week leading up to the Day of Silence. The Day of Silence is a yearly event, where students take a vow of silence to bring awareness to harassment and bullying that LGBTQ students experience.
The GSA students and faculty let us know that involvement in the group had been low and we all felt that this project could help the GSA gain some fresh energy and be more engaged in the school. While meeting with the GSA students we talked to them about how to get the group more involved, how easy it was to create events and projects, and also shared resources of other LGBTQ groups with them. It was important to us to help the GSA in any way we could.
Our date was set and we had to get our supplies made and ready. Our plan was to make 300 buttons, hoping that at least 10% of the 1759 students would sign the pledge.The GWST lent us their button maker and we borrowed a second button maker from a friend. We put out the word on social media that we would be hosting a button making party for our project.
We had a couple of roadblocks in getting the buttons made on time. My computer crashed a couple of weeks before the buttons needed to be finished and we were unable to design and print our buttons. With the help of a friend, I was able to have my computer up and running within a week, but the deadline was fast approaching. We had friends over for a day of button making, snacks, and music. One of the button makers was not working properly and most of us had a difficult time working the other one, so my partner ended up constructing most of the 300 buttons.
While he worked on the buttons, I created pledge sheets and signage for the ally pledge campaign. I found a good ally pledge on GLSEN’s site, which I modified a bit for Catonsville High School. At the suggestion of my partner, we changed the wording on the buttons and pledges to be for LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, intersex, asexual) instead of just LGBTQ.
The buttons were done and delivered on time. We handed over the supplies and the finishing of the project to the students of the Gay Straight Alliance. They ended up having 208 students sign the pledge. That exceeded our goal and expectation of 10% of the students participating.
It was wonderful to work with my daughter on this project and to work with the students of the GSA at her high school. I really learned and was able to share with the students that it is not hard to do activist work. It does not have to be something that takes all your time. Another thing I learned from this project was the value of collaboration. We were able to do a pretty involved project in a short time, because everybody had specific tasks. This made the work easier for everyone, and also gave everyone a voice in determining how the project would evolve.
For more info on groups doing advocacy for LGBTQIA youth, check out the links below!