Backgrounder: What Parents Should Know About GLSEN

GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) is the nation’s largest homosexual advocacy group focused entirely on reaching public school students as young as kindergarten age.

  • Its Diversity Statement explains that GLSEN is opposed to “heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia” and “other forms of oppression” in the public schools.
  • Translated into practical action, this means that GLSEN uses curricula, books and other campus-wide programs and initiatives to familiarize students with the idea that homosexual, bisexual and transgender behavior (including cross-dressing and sex changes) are normal and worthy of being embraced.
  • Through its National Board of Directors, GLSEN has connections to some of America’s most deep-pocketed corporations and lobby groups, including the National Education Association (NEA), Wells Fargo & Co., Target, 20th Century Fox and more.
  • Companies listed as financial sponsors of GLSEN include The Walt Disney Company,  HBO, NBA, Delta, McDonalds, DreamWorks, and Goldman Sachs.

The Founder, Kevin Jennings

GLSEN is the brainchild of its founder, Kevin Jennings, who lead the organization for about 17 years. To understand GLSEN’s mission and driving principles, it helps to review the vision and goals of its creator.

  • As the Executive Director of GLSEN, Jennings wrote the foreword to a book called Queering Elementary Education.Chapter titles include, “Locating a Place for Gay and Lesbian Themes in Elementary …” and “‘It’s Okay to be Gay’: Interrupting Straight Thinking in the English Classroom.”
  • “I’ll admit that, in a world populated by the likes of Jesse Helms and Gary Bauer and Pat Buchanan, we can’t blame our schools for all of the prejudice we see visited upon queer people,” Jennings wrote in the foreword. “Children learn prejudice from many sources— their families, the media, religious institutions—the list could go on. But the fact remains that schools are the place where children spend most of their time than anywhere else between the ages of five and eighteen…”
  • Clearly, Jennings wanted to use GLSEN to get messages into the public schools that would counter what he considered to be “homophobic” messages children received from families and churches.
  • In fact, early in his career with GLSEN, Jennings publicly stated his intent to use the word “safety” as a “calling card” to further the organization’s goals in schools. (Hard copy of “Together, For a Change: Lessons from the Organizing of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Teachers Network” by Kevin Jennings.)
  • Jennings’ original mission is still reflected in GLSEN’s recommended materials today. For instance, guides that GLSEN publishes for educators and students make it clear it that it wants homosexual and transgender themes to be “fully integrated into curricula across a variety of subject areas and grade levels” (GLSEN’s Jump Start Guide-Part 1; “Ten Things Educators Can Do”).
  • For excerpts from materials GLSEN has promoted to educators, see Concerning Classroom Materials.

Record of Intolerance

  • Jennings also demonstrated intolerance toward conservative, faith-based viewpoints. Just to list a couple of examples
    • Jennings’ book Becoming Visible: A Reader in Gay and Lesbian History for High School Students states that “Some historians trace the development of homophobia in the West from the time when Christianity was adopted by the Romans. … “Whether homophobia began in the late Roman Empire because of the introduction of Christianity, or became widespread in the late Middle Ages for political reasons, one thing remains clear: Biblical scriptures were used to justify persecution of those who loved members of their own sex.”
    • In a Huffington Post guest column, Jennings openly mocked one of the nation’s largest Christian student groups—Young Life.

GLSEN appears to be carrying on the traditions of its founder.

  • A GLSEN manual for students encourages them to “end oppression” and then defines “community oppression” with this example: “A lesbian attends a house of worship that preaches homosexuality is a sin.” (GLSEN Jump Start Guide-Part 5, Page 10).
  • This is frightening: An organization gaining increasing access to thousands of public schools and funded by major corporations–and that has been endorsed by federal government officials—defines “oppression” as a sermon that doesn’t align with a homosexual-activist interpretation of the Bible.
  • GLSEN honors its most stalwart supporters during its annual “Respect Awards.” In 2009, GLSEN gave a Respect Award to David Bohnett, a technology entrepreneur. Here are excerpts from Bohnett’s speech made–ironically–upon receiving the GLSEN “respect” award:
    • “… It is the evangelical and fundamentalist groups that teach homosexuality is a sin, who stand in the way of fairness and equality.”
    • “It’s time to combat, head on, the religious organizations that are funding the opposition to marriage equality and safe-school legislation.”
    • “Among those who actively work against us, are the leaders of the Catholic, Mormon and evangelical churches who seek to deny us our equal protection…”
    • “… the children taught at an early age that the Bible condemns homosexuality may become the school bullies and then later the adults who vote to deny marriage equality…”
    • “It’s time we raise our children to be independent thinkers and deeply suspicious of bible beating organized religion.”

It’s very disturbing that a national organization touted as a “safe schools” program for taxpayer-funded classrooms would give an honored platform to these kind of intolerant messages toward mainstream faith groups.

GLSEN also launched a school sports program called “Changing the Game.” The person who led GLSEN’s development for this program, Pat Griffin, had previously advised coaches on topics such as “What is Unacceptable in an Athletic Setting,” including “Teammates proselytizing other team members who are not interested in discussing religion.” Learn more here.

One-sided–and Sexually Explicit–Resources

Other issues of concern include:

  • In GLSEN’s 125-page Tackling LGBT Issues in School booklet (co-sponsored by Connecticut GLSEN and Planned Parenthood chapters), the organization promoted the following resources for educators:
    • A “Heterosexual Questionnaire” that asks students, among other questions: “If you’ve never slept with a person of the same sex, is it possible that all you need is a good gay or lesbian lover?” This resource is promoted as a way to expose “heterosexism” and “make schools safer places.”
    • A “Homophobia Scale” lesson for high-school age students. The scale teaches that “acceptance” and “tolerance” are “homophobic” attitudes. But “positive levels of attitudes” are “admiration” and “nurturance.”
    • In short, GLSEN wants schools to push students beyond tolerance and acceptance into celebration of and advocacy for the homosexual activist movement.

GLSEN has come under fire for promoting sexually explicit books, as well as materials that contain derogatory statements toward religious and socially conservative people. Below are just a few of the books that GLSEN has recommended as the “highest quality resources” for students and educators :

    • Two Moms, The Zark & Me, listed as being age-appropriate for elementary school kids, presents a nightmarish portrayal of a conservative couple basically accosting a child in a park. Even a Publishers Weekly review called it “mean-spirited”: “A boy is taken to the park by his ‘two moms,’ wanders over to the zoo where he …is picked up by Mr. and Mrs. McFink—ultra conservatives who go ballistic over his family’s domestic arrangements . … in all, it’s a mean-spirited, sniping approach to a topic that deserves thoughtful treatment.”

  • GLSEN also promoted the book Queer 13 as appropriate for kids as young as middle school age. This book is extremely explicit and includes graphic descriptions of a young boy’s sexual interactions with an adult man in a restroom—as well as details of how the boy goes on to have more sexual experiences with strangers.
  • GLSEN has received proceeds from the sale of The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Questioning and Other Identities, which it has promoted for use with kids as young as seventh grade. In addition to sexually graphic content, the book openly mocks and gives negative portrayals of several faiths. To learn more, click here.

Efforts to Transform Students into Political Lobbyists

GLSEN has promoted resources and activities for students that basically transform kids into lobbyists for adult, homosexual activist causes.

  • GLSEN sponsors thousands of Gay Straight Alliances (GSA) clubs in middle and high schools.
  • GLSEN publishes GSA-action manuals for students that among other things encourage them to:
    • Combat “transphobia,” defined as “Forcing people to select ‘female’ or ‘male’ on forms … Having the sex one was assigned at birth printed on one’s driver’s license …”
    • Have a group discussion about discrimination against transgenderism, featuring questions such as, “What do your genitals look like?” and “How do you have sex?” (GLSEN Jump Start Guide, Part 7)
    • Use “tactics that include circulating petitions” to revise “school policies”; “working with teachers to develop lesson plans on LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] history; organizing a coalition of allies.” (GLSEN Jump Start Guide, Part 1)
    • Another “tactic could be researching LGBT advocacy groups in your community in order to find someone who would be available to lead a workshop at your school,” (GLSEN, Jump Start Guide-Part 2).

Gay Activism Events & Celebrations in Schools

Throughout the school year, GLSEN sponsors several homosexuality-themed events and celebrations  that occur in January-November. Below are links to information about some of those events:

No Name-Calling Week-January

Day of Silence –April

Ally Week-Fall

Transgender Day of Remembrance-November

GLSEN encourages educators and students to incorporate gay, lesbian and transgender themes into Black History Month in February and Women’s History Month in March. For instance, during Black History Month, GLSEN highlights a list of “heroes” (to be shared with teachers and “fellow classmates”) such as Marsha P. Johnson, described by GLSEN as someone who “was a transgender rights activist and has been designated by some as a queer saint.”

Federal Endorsements/Funding of GLSEN

Government Web sites on bullying and health issues added links to GLSEN as a resource.

Then the government followed up its endorsements with action–GLSEN  was awarded an annually renewable grant from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The grant funded a five-year project that allowed GLSEN to “partner with 20 targeted school districts across the country” and reach “14,500 school personnel and 4 million students.”

GLSEN announced that it plans to use the grant money (up to $285,000 per year) in part to start “internal Implementation Teams” and training programs based on GLSEN’s Safe Space Kit. Read more about the kit.

How to Respond

These developments raise the need—and the urgency level—for parents to monitor and ask questions about what’s happening in their children’s school district. Rather than waiting to react when something bad happens, it’s a good idea to be proactive: Use the Take Action section on this Web site to email information to your school officials that helps you clearly express your concerns in a respectful and fact-based manner.