It all started with Robin Fosdick, the amazing youth services and reference librarian at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library, who reads this blog every day (Hi, Robin!) It was her determination and belief in me and what I have to share that made the trip a reality.
And it was an amazing reality, especially as it was my first 'business' trip where I was presenting outside metro Los Angeles (where I've been able to drive to schools!) The response was overwhelmingly positive, and moving, and I got to talk about what we can do to end anti-gay (and all) bullying in our culture and in Corvallis to over 300 teens, librarians, teachers, administrators, and adults.
I kept a brief photo log of the two days, and with your indulgence, I'd like to share it here!
|The first day started really early. Still dark at the airport.|
|Flying high. Literally.|
|A display in the airport lets me know I'm in the right state!|
|Arriving at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library!|
|Flyers for my talk are inside the library, too!|
After a great pizza dinner with Robin and Curtis, the library's youth services Division Manager, I met with two different groups of teens at the library. And then, I gave my SAFE SPACE presentation:
|Talking about the 'ick' factor, and how if we called being gay 'homoLOVEual' instead of 'homoSEXual' it would change the whole conversation about our equality.|
|Language is powerful...|
|and it's one of the elements we need to recognize and change.|
Lots of people hung out and spoke with me afterwards, and the room was buzzing. A number of the teens who I'd met earlier in the smaller gatherings stayed for the presentation, and a few told me they'd see me the next day at the High School. I grabbed a quick bite and then headed to the hotel to rest up.
The next day was another early start, and Robin and Curtis took me to the High School. I set up in the school's Black Box Theater, and got to meet Julie Williams, one of the amazing faculty sponsors of Corvallis High's GSA. Then, one after the other, I did three different hour and a half presentations.
In the middle, I got to have lunch with some students from the Gay-Straight Alliance, and that was really great.
|Presenting in the Black Box Theater|
|It's pretty interactive - here I had the kids up on their feet!|
|Corvallis High are "The Spartans!" This is me and Julie Williams, Corvallis High's faculty sponsor for their GSA|
|Check out the amazing Gay History Month display in the High School's main entrance|
|Robin loved it as much as I did!|
|With Robin at Corvallis High School, the day of Assemblies complete!|
Moments that have stayed with me:
The teen who saw my presentation at the library, and sat through it again at the High School. It was clearly delicious for them to have it witnessed by their fellow students. And they had this joyous look on their face while I spoke.
The teen in the GSA who told me a guy said to them after my first assembly, 'I'm homophobic and that was hard to sit through.' And they replied, 'Why are you homophobic?' And the guy said, 'That's how I was raised, my Dad is homophobic.' And it occurred to me - and I shared with the GSA - that it wasn't necessarily a bad outcome for my talk. For someone entrenched and comfortable with the idea that they don't like gay people to leave my presentation and feel uncomfortable. That means they're thinking about what I shared, and that's a good thing.
The teen who came out as queer and is struggling with their parent's disapproval, who was so grateful for my being there.
The teen who said they want to be more involved.
The mother and teen at the library together, asking questions and listening so passionately.
The students from nearby Philomath, telling me about their school's efforts to block a Gay-Straight Alliance there.
The Corvallis High GSA student who came up to me at the end of our lunch and said,
"Thanks for doing this for our school."
The generosity of spirit of Curtis, and the powerful joy and passion for teen lit and helping teens that emanates from Robin every moment!
And I'll take this opportunity to once again express my enormous appreciation to Robin and Curtis, who made me feel like a rock star, brought me to Corvallis to add my voice to the many many wonderful people working to make things better for GLBTQ teens and all teens there, and who made my entire trip come off so well!
I also want to thank Julie Williams, Millie Kimes, Judy Welever (Corvallis High's wonderful librarian), Christine Hackenbruck (my tech support!), Dena Minato, Mary Skillings, Trudi Caster, Cathy Wright and all the other counselors and teachers at Corvallis High who brought their students to my presentations! My appreciation as well to all the other Corvallis librarians I met, and to Bryan Bliss for inviting me to speak to his group of teen writers at the library.
Oh, and I even got a gift from the Corvallis High School Gay-Straight Alliance - one of their 2011-2012 t-shirts!
|Rocking my Corvallis High School GSA Pride!|
Overall, it was a wonderful experience, for me and - from the feedback I received - for the community, too.
I am truly honored to have had the opportunity to help make things better.
Thanks, Corvallis! I hope to come back soon.
|Left to Right: Curtis Kiefer, Me, and Robin Fosdick|
pps: Here's a link to a whole bunch of great resources I shared in my talks.