Remembering our past. In the present. For our future.

Now is the time of year when the Alliance’s cogs are churning in anticipation of moments of silence, days of organizing, and weeks of advocating for the safety, support and healthy development of LGBTQ youth throughout all of Illinois.

Since joining the Alliance staff in summer 2010, there have been many days where I reflect upon my early youth in northern Minnesota and teen years in  the suburbs of Minneapolis. I remember what it was like as a slightly effeminate young man doing everything I could to fly under the radar in the hopes that no one would ever discover my secret. I would walk down the hallway as the other kids sneered, pointed and called out names. Had they finally discovered my truth? I remember what it was like the first time I walked into a Lesbian and Gay Youth Together (LGYT) meeting in south Minneapolis. There were dozens of other young people just like me, and I no longer felt the need to hide.

I discovered what Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) were and went back to my high school to encourage them to start one. I began to speak at high schools as part of an LGBT youth panel. I joined youth throughout Minnesota in organizing a statewide youth contingent to march in the Minneapolis Pride Parade. Little did I know this work would come full circle with the opportunity to support the youth of Illinois in their work to make a difference for themselves and their peers.

I recognize my story is not much different than your story and many others. While we have made amazing strides in the movement for safer schools and communities, bullying is far too common a reality for our youth. There too is an overwhelming lack of policies to support our trans* and gender nonconforming youth. Young people want nothing more than to learn in safe and nurturing schools and to live in communities that accept and honor differences, where everyone has the freedom to express their sexual orientation and gender identity.

This vision directs all of us at the Alliance—the staff, the board, the volunteers and the youth—in our daily activities in support of our mission. This is the time of year when the Alliance Youth Committee is in the midst of planning their annual Day of Silence Organizing Summit scheduled for late March. Their hard work continues with the culmination of the celebratory Night of Noise in early April. Local GSAs in and around Champaign/Urbana are also planning their own inaugural Night of Noise! We are also currently recruiting team captains and bowlers for our Third Annual Bowl-a-thon to Strike Out Bullying on Saturday, April 5. Our policy team embarks on its work this legislative session around education justice and bullying prevention policies. And there’s an exciting new social media campaign (#One_GSA) to help build the network of Gay-Straight Alliances across Illinois.

Please join me in taking a moment to reflect upon the path you’ve taken in the movement for safer schools and communities for LGBTQ youth. What next step can you take to move us closer to our vision?

Loren Linder

Interim Executive Director