Special Issues » The Gay Issue 2009

Crisis In Schools

Nonprofits work together to educate educators on homophobia

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Neil Giuliano, the former president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, remembers breaking down at a teenage party.

"I didn't want to be different, but I was," he writes in one of 40 essays in Crisis: Growing Up Gay In America. "I would be alone my entire life. My friends would never accept me if they knew I was a queer ... Who would want to be around some fag, a queer, a deviant by society's standards? There was no one else like me."

Edited by furniture maker Mitchell Gold, Crisis includes stories from gay community leaders and celebrities about their experiences with homophobia.

An initiative by Gold's nonprofit Faith in America is seeking to put the book in the hands of teachers and school administrators to educate them on the struggles of gay and lesbian students. Along with the book, educators will get resources on teen suicide prevention and additional tools.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign writes about being a "target" in high school.

"For me, that constant fear — 'Can I get down this hallway without them seeing me today?' — was the hardest," he says.

The initiative will start as a pilot program in Virginia this fall, then move to several other states, including South Carolina.

Charleston based Alliance for Full Acceptance is coordinating the local effort. Other national partners include the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network; Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians And Gays; and the Trevor Project.

The end goal of the $200,000 program is to pass the book out to more than 7,000 educators or community groups that work with these teenagers.

A story about name-calling from Bob Williams, Gold's business partner, strikes at the real need for getting these books in the hands of teachers.

"I tried not to do anything to draw attention to myself because if I did, I'd get ridiculed or picked on," he writes. "Teachers didn't necessarily step in. I don't remember anybody being punished for being a bully."

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