Stuyvesant High School (Photo by Jellybean100 / CC-BY-SA-3.0

The Safe Schools Program of PFLAG NYC marked a milestone on October 19, 2016. We organized our largest school event in the history of the program when we simultaneously spoke to all 830 students in the 9th grade class at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan. All together, 15 members of the Safe Schools Program took time to share their family stories with groups of Stuyvesant freshmen.

PFLAG NYC was invited to Stuyvesant by Assistant Principal Casey Pedrick who, along with her colleagues in counseling and guidance, shared with us how many students had trouble understanding and helping classmates who are LGBT, or dealing with questions of sexual orientation and gender identity themselves. Many students are scared at the thought of having to tell parents the truth that they are learning about themselves. Read more »

Special Performance for PFLAG NYC and Bee’s Fund on November 6

TRANSformation

TRANSformation will be a vibrant evening of storytelling, readings, poetry, and other performances that bring to life the experiences of families dealing with gender identity and that empower these families in their struggle for understanding and full inclusion in their schools and communities. The performance will be the culmination of several months of workshops led by Houses on the Moon Theater Company to draw out the personal stories of members of the community. Read more »

Safe Schools Program team in QueensKalima McKenzie-Simms (left) with a Safe Schools Program team at IS 141Q in Queens

My name is Kalima McKenzie-Simms, and I am the Safe Schools Program Coordinator at PFLAG NYC. I am passionate about teaching youth in New York City schools about the LGBTQ — that’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer — community as well as how to be a true, effective ally. Now that a new school year is beginning, I wanted to tell people about the Safe Schools Program from my perspective.

What Schools Get from the Safe Schools Program

Since the early 2000’s, the Safe Schools Program has been visiting schools, and making individual classroom presentations, sharing family stories of LGBT loved ones and personal experiences of coming out with students. Our wonderful volunteers are the heart of our program. Dozens of parents as well as LGBTQ people voluntarily speak to students about their experiences with coming out and coming to terms with either their own sexual orientation/gender identity, or learning to understand and accept that of their child.

The response that our program gets from school faculty and their students is so wonderful. Of course, it hasn’t always been that way. In the early days, many schools were in denial about having gay students, much less transgender ones. They said that they had no need of a program to help LGBT kids feel safe and welcome, because they had no LGBT students. Now it’s different in that most schools recognize that they have students who are grappling with sexual orientation or gender identity, but what’s not different is that those students still need a lot of support in order to succeed and thrive.

At one school we visited, the counselor who hosted us told us:

Your team brought our students such valuable insight and understanding of young person’s coming out — from the perspectives of both a parent and the gay person as well. Many students at this school don’t know how to find support and do not know how to begin such a ‘touchy’ conversation with someone. You laid the groundwork for them to feel comfortable. You were incredibly positive and strong role models for our students, not only ones struggling with coming out, but also with our straight students who can make such a difference with their classmates.” Read more »

FUN HOME Pride Playbill

The Safe Schools Program of PFLAG NYC featured in an article in the New York Times today about an event where some 20 of our Safe Schools Program volunteer speakers got to swap stories with members of the cast of the Tony Award-winning musical, FUN HOME, and talk about how they connect with audiences. We billed it as a “Safe Schools Master Class with FUN HOME,” because our speakers left with a lot of insight and inspiration to take with them as they head into schools this fall.

Connection Started with Pride March

The partnership between PFLAG NYC and FUN HOME began with the NYC Pride March in June when more than 20 members of the cast marched with us. Wearing FUN HOME shirts in PFLAG gold and holding signs that read “Love Yourself” and “Be proud of your LGBTQ children,” many cast members took part in a Pride March for the very first time, and they were amazed at the crowd’s overwhelming response as PFLAG walked by. Read more »