Thursday, October 22, 2015

We Are Allies!

As I write this blog post, Allen-Stevenson is in the middle of celebrating Ally Week. This is probably a little later than some of your schools if you are following the GLSEN schedule. Our Community Life and Diversity team initiated Ally Week for the older boys just three years ago and this is only the second year that the whole school has joined in. I feel that we have made a lot of progress in a short amount of time. See what you think!

When we first started Ally Week, our primary focus was on making sure the boys had an excellent understanding of what an ally actually is. Advisory groups worked together to refine their understanding and then made a video, explaining what being an ally meant to them. I’m including a link in case you want to check it out.

The cornerstone of Ally Week this year was Hudson Taylor’s visit on Monday to our Middle and Upper Schools (Grades 4-9). Currently a wrestling coach at Columbia, Hudson became the first three-time All-American in the University of Maryland’s wrestling history. During his time there he was deeply upset by the homophobic language he heard in the locker room, and he decided to speak out. He began by wearing an equality sticker on his wrestling headgear. Taylor went on to become the founder and executive director of Athlete Ally, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating and activating athletic communities to eliminate homophobia and transphobia in sports. On his website, Hudson invites students to take a pledge. We have a fourth grade class who were inspired by his visit to write their own pledge. We are hoping more classes will decide to do this too.

Our Lower School boys are participating in Ally Week, primarily through reading and discussing books, with an emphasis on different types of families and why it is important to stand up for others. The reading list includes
Who’s in My Family? by Robie Harris
The Different Dragon by Jennifer Bryan
Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah Brannen
A Tale of Two Daddies by Vanita Oelschlager and Kristin Blackwood
Oliver Button is a Sissy by Tomie De Paola
Donovan’s Big Day by Leslia Newman
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson

In the Upper School, boys are being invited to several discussions that are sure to be a catalyst for reflection and, who knows, maybe even activism! A former A-S alum, Chris Persley, who used to be a teacher and is currently a writer, is going to spend some time with boys discussing masculinity. How does one define it, why is it so often tied to sexual orientation and how should masculinity be defined in the 21st century? Boys will also have the chance to meet with a few faculty and staff members who are going to discuss their personal coming out journeys.

We reached out to the parents too and yesterday our school held the first Gay Straight Alliance meeting to which both parents and teachers were invited.

I’m going to end with an anecdote which some of my colleagues said made their day! Last Friday I was showing an introductory video about Hudson Taylor to my Fifth Grade advisory group. Afterwards one of the boys mentioned that he had a distant cousin who was proposed to by his boyfriend at a Home Depot in Utah and the couple shared their story The Ellen Degeneres Show. Of course we had to watch the video. It was a fantastic flash mob dance featuring the couple’s friends and family. At the end, after Dustin’s proposal to Spencer was accepted, the boys in my group burst into applause. I have to admit I got a little teary!  I can’t sign off without giving a shout out to our amazing CL&D team without whom none of this would have happened! - Sarah Kresberg

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