Monday, November 26, 2012

GSA stories: Newton High School

The Newton High School Gay Straight Alliance
By Justin Prendergast, Newton GSA Vice-President

Our Gay Straight Alliance divides each month into a topic for discussion, learning, and activism.  In October we cover LGBT history, in November we cover rejection and homelessness within the LGBT community, in December we cover transgender identities, issues, and rights, in January we cover HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness, in February we cover the anti-racist movement and famous queer people of color, in March we talk about how feminism and women's issues tie into the queer rights movement, in April we discuss bullying and self-discovery, and in May we discuss media portrayals of LGBT people.  Then, we have a movie night for each topic to increase understanding and give faces and media representations to each point.

For instance, in November we discuss homelessness and rejection in the LGBT community, then we have a coat drive for an LGBT friendly homeless shelter, and we watch Pariah, a movie about a teenager embracing her identity as a lesbian while parents reject her for it, and But I’m A Cheerleader, about a teenager who is sent to an ex-gay camp by her parents in an effort to “cure” her of lesbianism.  In January we discuss HIV/AIDS, then we have a bake sale and we donate the money to an AIDS related charity, and we watch Philadelphia, a film about a man who sues his former employers after he is fired from his job for having AIDS, and Rent, a musical about a group of New York City residents who struggle with life, love and AIDS.

Other things that we do throughout the year include making a list of all of the LGBT books in our school library (so students can have free easy access to queer media and resources), putting up posters of famous LGBT activists and celebrities during LGBT history month (in order to inform the students at our school), taking tallies of the number of anti-LGBT slurs that are heard by Gay Straight Alliance members during a single week (in order to have statistics specific to our school to use when talking to people about the stigma surrounding LGBT students), trips to The Garden (a gay nightclub that has “teen night” on Sundays where teens can watch a drag show), the Day of Silence (in which students take a vow of silence for a day as a way to illustrate the silencing effect of bullying and harassment), going to Pridefest (a parade and celebration of queer lives, culture, and the advancement of LGBT people) and attending LGBT conferences and coalition meetings.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Leadership Team Voices: Dane

I’m not gay, I just like boys.
By Dane Buchholz, IPN Leadership Team Member and Board Secretary

Yes, by most people’s definition, I am gay. I am a boy who is attracted to boys, but what I mean when I say I am not gay is that I don’t fit all of the gay stereotypes. Speaking generally, if you ask someone what it means to be gay they would likely think of pride parades and sex. Why does this have to be our stereotype though? This is why the word gay has such a connotation, and maybe even partly why it is used as slang.

It is important to be able to express yourself and be the unique person you are, and I am not suggesting that we should all conform to the same boring stereotypes and live in the suburbs with 2 kids and a dog. What I am saying is that I know I’m not alone in being a “straight” gay person. I don’t go to pride festivals or parades simply because that is not my identity. To me, being gay is purely about loving another person who just so happens to be male. I don’t wear leather pants everywhere I go, I don’t have rainbow dyed hair, I try not to draw attention to my sexual identity. I’m Dane, and that is my identity.

I think if everyone could look past the gay stereotypes that have been created and see that there are “normal” gay people as well, we would have a much easier fight towards equality. There are plenty of people out there who argue against equality only because of the stereotypes that are portrayed. From my experience, the single most important step to accepting the LGBT community is when people find out someone that they know is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. This is because they realize that this person is still the exact same person they knew and accepted before, and it helps them see that there can be other LGBT people like their friend or family member.

The most important part is just to be yourself. No matter what that self is. The LGBT community is just as diverse as any other group of people, and we need to let that be seen. Let’s stop the stereotypes by showing people that we don’t all fit them.

Dane Buchholz is a student at Iowa State University studying architecture. He has been a part of IPN since he started the Waverly-Shell Rock High School GSA in 2009. In addition to serving on the Iowa Pride Network Leadership Team and as the Secretary of the Board of Directors, he is a peer mentor for the Hixson Scholarship program at ISU. When he's not busy working or doing school work, he enjoys music, photography, drawing, and working with computers.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

IPN Outreach Coordinator to serve as Midwest Representative for the National Association of GSA Networks


I am incredibly honored and excited to represent the Midwest states as a recently nominated member of the National Association of GSA Networks’ (NAGN) Steering Committee. The NAGN is coordinated by GSA Network in California and its goal is to support the growth of the GSA movement by connecting state and regional GSA networks. Iowa Pride Network has been a member of the NAGN since its inception in 2005 and I’m eager to both work within the Midwestern region and to provide input and direction for the National Association. 

The NAGN provides support to GSA organizations by coordinating monthly conference calls, organizing an annual National Gathering for staff and student representatives, and managing on online listserve where state organizations can communicate about the issues and needs of the GSA movement. Currently, there are 35 state organizations (+ Washington, DC) that are part of the National Network and as the Midwest Representative, I will be representing Iowa Pride Network, Wisconsin’s Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools (GSAFE), Illinois GSA Network, Ohio’s Kaleidoscope Youth Center, Missouri GSA Network, Minnesota’s Out for Good and the Indiana Youth Group

As the Midwest Representative, my role is as follows: I will participate in Steering Committee conference calls to provide ideas regarding the direction of and changes within the national network; I will offer input for the monthly NAGN conference call programming; I will help plan the National Gathering; I will coordinate among the Midwestern states; and finally, I will serve as the Chair of the Outreach & Expansion Committee. This committee will reach out to and recruit state GSA Networks that are not yet a part of the NAGN. As an organizer for National GSA Day, I am in a unique position to reach out to GSA Day partner organizations that have not yet joined the NAGN. With other members of this committee, I look forward to growing the National GSA Movement!

I will be taking many ideas and concerns to the National Association of GSA Networks, so please contact me if you would like to provide any input. I look forward to working with you and representing this great Midwestern Region! 


Dana Stuehling, Outreach Coordinator