The Southeastern LGBTQ Activist Camp 2013

August 8th, 2013

Three weeks ago I piled into a van with seven Georgia youth and drove six sticky hours into the heart of Mississippi. We were on our way to the second annual Southeastern LGBTQ Activist Camp, a gathering of around 40 queer youth from across the south.

The camp was created collaboratively between several groups organizing across state lines: the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition, Georgia Equality, Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition, Southern Poverty Law Center, and GSA Network were the main sponsors of the camp along with several other supporting organizations.

The camp was created in order to strengthen regional bonds and provide tools and support for the next generation of social justice leaders. The camp is primarily run by youth and attendees learn to use their students clubs (most often Gay-Straight Alliances) to work towards social justice for all, in their schools, community, and the world. Campers learned about the intersections of race, class, sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation and how their identities and the struggles others face are interconnected.

Campers also had the opportunity to visit many significant Civil Rights historical sites, including Medgar Ever’s home, the COFO Center, the original building considered to be the “nerve center” of the Mississippi freedom movement. Campers learned first-hand about the turbulent struggle these activists experienced and their tactics for survival and radical change in the most segregated state in the South. The campers connected their struggle with the Civil Rights movement and learned the hard-won lessons from their victories and sacrifices.

For me, the most powerful moment happened on Saturday night while the campers were preparing for the Talent Show. The verdict for the Trayvon Martin case was released and we found out that George Zimmerman had been acquitted. After spending all day learning about racism through an institutional and historical lens, this ruling was a concrete example of the injustices we’d been discussing in theory.

There was an immediate and visceral outpouring of grief and anger; campers began to share their own stories of being targeted, discriminated against, and made to feel afraid, just because of how they looked. They shared stories about how they could have been Trayvon, how they had lost friends, how discrimination reaches beyond just gun violence. Some cried, some raged, some sang and others prayed, in the end everyone was affected by it and shared something in a raw and organic way that we never could have planned for.

Eventually, they wanted action. We quickly organized an impromptu candle light vigil and headed down to the Mississippi capitol where police were already waiting. We were turned away and instead held the candle light vigil in the parking lot of the hotel where we were staying.

The outpouring continued in words, songs and tears and as we stood there in solidarity with our candles, something special began to happen. Other residents at the hotel, people completely unrelated to the camp, began to walk over and silently join our circle. They shared that moment with us and we began the healing process together that night. It was a transformative experience for many of the youth, none of us, adults included, will forget where we were and who we were with when the verdict was released.

It was an intense four days; campers left with a much deeper understanding oppression and what they can do to change the injustices they experience and what a true community of resistance looks like. We went our separate ways and returned to our home states with new friends, perspectives, tools, and passion. These young leaders will be the future of our movement and formidable agents of change wherever they go.

A few campers shared what they got out of the experience:

“My favorite part of camp was definitely the Trans*Justice Workshop because being transgender is a foreign concept for lots of people. This showed us how to get the word out there and educate people to make transphobia less apparent.”

“At the camp I learned a lot about many things but the most important thing I took from the camp was the racial justice segment, it informed me a lot about the bias people face even in our own community. Also, I enjoyed the experience of the camp, meeting lots of great people and learning and hearing everybody’s story.”

“When I did this camp last year I never expected to fall in love with it or make the lifelong friends I did. But when I was asked to come back this year to be a leader I accepted right away, seeing different southern states come together to fight for not only our individual rights as people but for the rights of our fellow activists gives me so much hope for the future as we know it. The camp is nothing less than magic in its purest form. It makes me believe every time I go.”

Southeastern LGBTQ Youth Activist Camp!

May 17th, 2013

Check out the Camp Website!

It Gets Better – But when will that happen? Learn how to MAKE it better

This summer the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition, in partnership with Georgia Safe Schools Coalition, GSA Network, Center for Artistic Revolution in Little Rock, Arkansas, PFLAG Tennessee and the Southern Poverty Law Center headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama, will be offering the second Southeastern LGBTQ Youth Activist Camp! This LGBTQ Activist Camp is a summer training camp for LGBTQ youth with a focus through the Southern

The Southeastern LGBTQ Activist Camp serves high school and college aged young people in Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida and Tennessee who have exhibited strong leadership and enthusiasm in their local area around issues affecting the LGBTQ community and young people.

The Southeastern LGBTQ Activist Camp will be 4 days long, and will feature intensive community building, skill building, political education and leadership training for current and potential GSA and other LGBTQ student activist club (Pride Alliance, Lambda Alliance) members that they can bring back to share at their schools and communities.

Participants come from a wide range of backgrounds and will learn how to:


  • Strengthen GSA/LGBTQ activist clubs through coalition building, strategic organizing and fundraising
  • Understand the legal rights of students and GSA clubs.
  • Oppose LGBTQ harassment and ostracism in school environments.
  • Run successful campaigns to change the climate on their campuses.
  • Recognize the ways that homophobia and transphobia are connected to racism, sexism, classism, ableism, ageism and other oppressions.
  • Work with school administration, teachers and school boards to fight LBGTQ oppression.
  • Learn effective lobbying skills, how to contact legislators and frame a message.

The camp is open to youth ages 14-23. If you would like more information about attending camp please contact your state’s representative(s).

Check out the Camp Website!


Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition
Anna C. Davis,


Southern Poverty Law Center
R. Ashley Jackson,


Center for Artistic Revolution
Kat Crisp,



Georgia Safe Schools Coalition
Em Elliott,
Chris Kontopidis,

We are currently looking for representatives of statewide youth-focused organizations in the following states:

Tennessee, Louisiana, Florida

If you are a representative of such an organization please contact us at

Race to the Safe Zone!

April 7th, 2013










Date: April 20th

Time: 8 A.M.

Price $20

Please register by April 13th to ensure you will receive the correct shirt size!

Click Here to Register!

GSSC Documentaries and Discussion Guides are Now Available Online

March 7th, 2013

The Georgia Safe Schools Coalition created two documentaries in 2009 and 2010 focusing on the experiences of LGBTQ youth in Georgia high schools. Previously, we only had hard copies to distribute at our trainings but now the documentaries are available for free, online for all to use! We have also created a handy Facilitator’s Guide (pdf) to help encourage discussion around the topics brought up in the documentaries.

The videos will always be available in our Resources Section along with other useful materials.

“We Exist” – Collective Memories of Transgender Youth in Georgia High Schools (Full Video)

A Georgia Safe Schools Coalition Documentary (2010)

Directed by J. Roberts & A. Sykes
Produced by Corey Johnson, PhD, & Anneliese Singh, PhD


“Be There for Me” – Collective Memories of LGBTQ Youth in Georgia High Schools

A Georgia Safe Schools Coalition Documentary. (2009)

Directed by Rishi and Jyoti Kaneria
Produced by Corey Johnson, PhD, & Anneliese Singh, PhD


Download the Discussion Guide for Both Documentaries

GSSC Documentaries Facilitator’s Guide (pdf)

View all of our videos on our Youtube Channel (more to come soon!)

My Day at the GSA Youth Summit!

March 1st, 2013

By Jessy

Running on two cups of coffee and five hours of sleep, I stepped into Agnes Scott College for the 2013 Georgia youth GSA summit. The moment I stepped in, I was energized. The energy radiated off of everyone and there were over 350 people in attendance. Volunteers in blue shirts ran around setting up and checking people in. I immediately spotted people I had been working with for the past two years on LGBTQQIA issues. My group and I moved through the check-in line and towards the seating area. I had on a purple button up and a rainbow bowtie. I knew I could wear whatever I wanted today without fear of judgment. The only judgment I received was positive, “I LOVE YOUR BOWTIE!”

After getting my free breakfast, I found a table of youth from last year’s summit. It was wonderful to reconnect with them over our bagels and coffee. As the summit began, we were challenged to meet new people. I met a group of students who were working on making their GSA known, my first new connection of the day. The sessions had not even started, and we had already exchanged contact information and experiences. The friendly and open environment made it easy to talk to others in the room. Even if I were a shy person, it would have been hard to not make friends. The safe zone that encompassed the whole session made being myself easy. As someone who constantly has to hide who I am in my area, it was refreshing to be able to be me, all of me, every part of me, not just the parts that were socially accepted.

My first session was Aspiring Allies. The group was small and personal, allowing free-flowing conversation to be one of the main learning tools. After some introductions by the speakers, the class was challenged to think of ways in which they were or could be an ally. The session challenged everyone in the room to keep “Aspiring to be an ally,” because you are never REALLY done. My other sessions of the day were wide ranged in topic. It was honestly hard to choose which ones to go to because there were SO MANY. Luckily, I was able to go to some informational sessions. My goal for the day was to find ways that I could get more involved and be a better ally, that goal was well achieved.

During lunch, there were stands set up downstairs with information for different organizations and schools. Before lunch was over, my bag was filled with pamphlets and candy; it was almost like LGBTQQIA trick or treating.

At the end of the day, we had a speaker who I expected to be boring at first. After they began, though, I could not stop listening. The organizers of the Summit never failed to keep everyone entertained. At no point during the day did I ever feel like I had to hide myself. After the speaker, my group went out to dinner on our own.

After dinner, a large portion of the summit attendees came back to Agnes Scott for a talent show. During the talent show, people who signed up upon registration were able to perform. Some sang, some did stand-up comedy, some played instruments. No matter what they did, their performance was cheered on by the friendly crowd that filled the room.

Saying goodbye to my friends was the hardest part of the day (besides getting out of my oh so comfy bed). I refused to leave without a phone number, facebook name, or tumblr url. My favorite part of each summit is the connections I am able to make, that was no different this year. Last year’s 2012 summit got me hooked on the comfort and opportunities that are present at the GSA youth summit. I plan to feed my addiction every year possible.

The GSA Youth Summit is an annual event for middle school, high school, and college-aged young people hosted by the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition. The Summit offers a truly unique experience for queer youth and their allies living in the south, a full day of learning, networking, socializing, and advocating. The Summit provides leadership training skills, exciting youth-driven workshops, and support for students leading or trying to start a GSA. If you want to help support this event in the future please donate or email

Registration for the Summit is Now Closed!

February 22nd, 2013

GSA Summit is only one day away! We have now closed registration with over 400 other GSA advocates; we hope our attendees are ready to be energized and encouraged. Here is some more info on what to expect from the day.


Event Information:

Agnes Scott College (Letitia Pate Evans Hall, Building 25)

141 E. College Avenue, Decatur, GA 30030

8:00 am – 5:30 pm; 7:00-9:00 PM (talent show)


Arrive at 8:00 for registration check-in and breakfast. If you are not traveling by MARTA (there is a stop nearby), then here are some parking directions.  Here is a link to the campus map so you can find the location for the event and parking.

We ask that you park in the Parking Deck (P2), but if that space is too crowded when you visit us, please feel free to park in the East Parking lot (P8).



During lunch you will have a chance to connect with other people from around the state. This time has always been an important part of the Summit. There will also be a Resource Fair of LGBTQ organizations and supports groups to share info with you. In addition, many colleges will have tables sharing about their school and the GSA community there. For many high school students, this can be a key resource!

Keynote Speaker: T.J. Jourian

T.J. Jourian was featured in the 2005 Sundance docu-eries TransGeneration, which depicts the lives of four trans* college students during an academic year. Since then he has spoken and provided trainings at over 50 campuses, conferences, and community-based organizations all over the country. His passion lies with supporting, learning from, and participating in   social justice work that is intersectional, empowering, and dynamic – much like what he aspires to deliver through his blog and in person.

T.J. currently serves as the Co-Chair of the GLBT Issues Knowledge Community for NASPA, a leading association for student affairs administrators in higher education, and is the Program Coordinator for the Office of LGBTQI Life at Vanderbilt University. As a lifelong learner, he will soon begin to pursue his PhD in Higher Education at Loyola University Chicago.



In addition to exciting opening and closing sessions, a College Forum, a resource fair, networking and socializing opportunities, breakfast and lunch, and a talent show, we will have multiple breakout sessions for you.

There are sessions on LGB issues, trans issues, religion, race, fundraising, ally support, taking care of yourself, parent support, advisor support and much more.

Here are the titles of sessions we are currently preparing for you:


  • Advocacy in Georgia
  • Aspiring Allies
  • Becoming Radical: Christianity and Queer Activism
  • Campus Crossroads: Balancing the Social and Political on Campus
  • Civil Rights and Activism
  • College GSA Advisors and Student Leaders
  • Expanding Your Circle: Community Building and Social Networking for LGBTQQ Youth
  • Fundraising 101: Show Me The Money
  • Garbo, Garland, and Gaga:Pop Culture and the Queer Community
  • GSAs and Social Justice
  • High School Advisor Roundtable
  • How to be a successful Student Leader
  • Intersexion
  • LGBTQ and People of Color
  • LGBTQ Health Issues
  • LGBTQ in the Latino/a Community
  • LGBTQ Issues in Mental Health
  • LGBTQ Youth: Bullying and Coming Out Against Push Out
  • Maximizing Your GSA’s Exposure
  • Myths that Mark Our Souls
  • Parent Session
  • Queer U
  • SLAM Self Defense
  • Starting and Developing a GSA
  • The Bible: “Words of Eternal Life” or “Texts of Terror”?
  • Trans Youth Caucus
  • What is Trans Justice?
  • What is Trans Justice
  • What’s the T? A Look at Contemporary Gay Culture
  • Who Am I: Poetry Session



This year’s summit is going to conclude with a showcase of fierce young LGBTQ activists and their talents, and we want YOU to be the star! Are you a DJ? A drag performer? A magician? Can you stack plastic cups really, really fast? We know that you have a talent, and we want to see it! All you have to do to sign up and perform is fill out this form! If you have any questions, send them to



  • Lunch: We will provide lunch (free). (Thank you to our sponsors). At lunch, there will also be a Resource Fair and opportunities for you to connect with people from other GSAs
  • Dinner: Dinner will be on your own. Decatur has many eating places in walking distance from the college for the many of you who will be staying for the Talent Show that begins at 7:00. We will have light snacks at the talent show.


The GSA Summit is coming… Help Sponsor a Queer or Ally Youth!

January 16th, 2013

For the third year in a row we will be hosting the Georgia Gay-Straight Alliance Youth Summit in Atlanta. The Summit offers a truly unique experience for queer youth and their allies living in the south, a full day of learning, networking, socializing, and advocating! This summit will provide leadership training skills, exciting youth-driven workshops, and plenty of time to make new friends.

We are dedicated to make this summit free of charge to all attendees and we need YOUR help in order to pull it off! Between the food, space, t-shirts and other materials, it costs us around $50 for each attendee. We have greatly expanded our size this year and are expecting over 300 students to attend, nearly double our previous years!

You can help make the difference for one of these amazing young people through your sponsorship. We suggest a $50 donation to cover one youth attendee but we will accept donations of any size.

The 2013 Georgia GSA Youth Summit will be held at Agnes Scott College on February 23rd. It will run from 8:00am-5:15pm followed by a Talent Show from 7:00pm-9:00pm.

To register go to our events page! If you need more information please email

The Fiscal Cliff: What Does It Mean for Georgia’s LGBTQ Youth?

December 19th, 2012

The Fiscal Cliff refers to mandatory budget cuts that will take place across the board with very little discretion. These massive cuts will include important programs for youth including health, suicide prevention, homelessness prevention, substance abuse and bullying. LGBTQ young people face so many challenges in their lives, to lose these services on top of everything else would be painful and potentially deadly. Congress needs to work together to come up with a better solution before the first of the year. If the nation does go off the fiscal cliff, LGBTQ youth, as well as all youth in general will be impacted.

Our work is cut out for us. If at all possible contact your congressional representatives and tell your story (you can look up who they are here).  Consider writing a letter to the editor. Talk to your neighbors and friends.

Thank you for your outreach and your work to reduce bullying and harassment of LGBTQ youth. If you are a GSA group or LGBTQ youth group working on advocacy around this issue let us know what you are doing! We would love to help support your efforts. Email us at

Want to learn more about the effects of the fiscal cliff on the LGBTQ community? Check out this report from the Task Force.

Jenna’s Love: A Scholarship for Fierce Youth Change Agents

December 3rd, 2012

Scholarship Description:
Jenna Thomas is an amazing human being whom you cannot even begin to talk about in past tense! We are a group of siblings, parents, friends, activists, and advocates whose lives are better because we know Jenna Thomas. Jenna is a relentless activist and advocate and has significantly contributed to making the world a better place by leading workshops and seminars to educate others and personally mentoring friends and family. She is down to earth, has a very unique sense of humor and loads and loads of kindness for those different and similar to her. If you ever met Jenna, your life was transformed – even in a small amount of time. Jenna helps us believe in the power of love, connection, and community! Oh, and by the way, Jenna was a fierce young transgender woman who liberated herself and others along her journey. Hey Miss Jenna – We love you!

Scholarship Amount:

Scholarship Criteria:
This scholarship will be awarded to a very special youth who:
• Believes in the power of love, friendship and leadership to transform the world into a better place
• Has an excellent sense of humor!
• Demonstrates kindness and compassion to others in meaningful ways
• Has a strong commitment to activism and social justice
• Is currently enrolled in a degree program at a post-secondary educational institution

This scholarship will be presented at the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition’s Annual GSA Youth Summit on February 23rd, 2013 at Agnes Scott College.

Scholarship Application Materials:
• 1 personal essay (1 page) describing how the applicant meets the above criteria
• 2 letters from a teacher, mentor, or fellow activist describing personal qualities of love, compassion, humor, and commitment to education, activism and social justice
• Letter from registrar’s office stating post-secondary enrollment or course transcript

Scholarship Application Deadline:
January 15, 2013

Email application materials to: Kristen Badger (, Anneliese Singh (, and Sir Jesse McNulty (

Please direct any questions about the application process to Anneliese Singh at 404.849.8186.

Registration for the Georgia GSA Youth Summit is OPEN!

October 12th, 2012


February 23rd, 2013

2013 Georgia GSA Youth Summit

Agnes Scott College


Join us for a day of learning, networking, socializing, and advocating! There will be a high school track and a college track as well as some special sessions for parents and advisors, providing something for everyone! The day will also wrap up with a Talent Show that attendees are invited to participate in!

For more information and to register go to our events page!


Workshop Proposals are Now Open!

Please submit your proposals for educational breakout sessions at  All proposals should support the mission statement of the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition (below), and should also present subject matter that would be relevant to LGBTQ and Ally youth.  Some examples of past sessions are “A History of LGBTQ Pop Culture,” “Advocacy in Georgia,” “Queer and Transgender Students of Color,” and “How to be a Successful Student Leader,” but we are open to any other subjects that would be appropriate.  The deadline  for proposals is December 1st, and you will be notified if your proposal has been accepted by January 15 at the latest.  If you have any questions about this form please e-mail Jonah Berkowitz at
“The purpose of the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition (GSSC) is to eliminate LGBTQ oppression in Georgia schools.  We educate and advocate on issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning students and families.  GSSC works to address the intersections among various systems of oppression (e.g., racism, ableism, classism, xenophobia, etc.), understanding that one cannot eradicate transprejudice and heterosexism without simultaneously working to end all forms of injustice.  By serving as a resource for Georgia students, educators, and families, we strive to engender positive social growth among Georgia’s youth, and to foster a safe and affirming school climate for all.”