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News & Upcoming Events!

October 18, 2010
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IN THIS ISSUE
Gender JUST Response to Recent Suicides!
Gender JUST Hosts Queer CPS Student Orientation!
Gender JUST Fights Harassment in Boystown!
Gender JUST Fights Police Surveillance at COH!
Support Gender JUST!
Gender JUST Response to Recent Suicides!

Education_Action-picOver the past few weeks, there has been increased reporting on violence directed towards queer youth. As an organization of queer and transgender youth of color, working specifically to make Chicago schools safe and affirming for all students, Gender JUST has drafted the below response to the current discourse around bullying, school violence, and LGBT youth.

First off, we would like to note that what we have seen of late is an increase in the reporting and discussion of school violence - not an increase in the violence itself. Young people of color face violence consistently. As queer and transgender youth of color in public schools, violence is a reality we live daily in our schools, on our streets, in our communities, and in our lives. Whether the violence is self-inflicted, gang-based, based on pure hate and ignorance, or the systemic violence perpetrated by the state and our institutions such as our schools, police, welfare system, non-profits, and hospitals, we need to have an ongoing analysis of violence that lasts longer than our brief memory of the deaths of a select grouping of queer youth.

It is critical to remember that we face violence as youth, as people of color, as people living in poverty, as queers, as trans and gender non conforming young people. We can't separate our identities and any approach to preventing violence must be holistic and incorporate our whole selves. We have seen an overly simplistic and unneuanced reaction to the recent violence; from Dan Savage telling young people to wait it out until "it gets better" and from Kathy Griffin declaring that passing Gay Marriage and overturning Don't Ask Don't Tell would somehow stop the violence in our lives, we have found this response to be as misguided, irrelevant, and offensive as the conservative LGBT Movement itself.
While youth violence is a very serious issue in our schools, the real bullies we face in our schools take the form of systemic violence perpetrated by the school system itself: a sex education that ignores queer youth and a curriculum that denies our history, a militarized school district with cops in our schools, a process of privatization which displaces us, increasing class sizes which undermine our education and safety. The national calls to end the violence against queer youth completely ignore the most violent nature of our educational experience.
school_to_jail-jpgOur greatest concern is that there is a resounding demand for increased violence as a reaction, in the form of Hate Crime penalties which bolster the Prison-Industrial-Complex and Anti-bullying measures which open the door to zero-tolerance polices and reinforce the school-to-prison pipeline. At Gender JUST, we call for a transformative and restorative response that seeks solutions to the underlying issues, takes into account the circumstances surrounding violence, and works to change the very culture of our schools and communities.
Gender JUST had a momentous victory towards this end in early 2010. Through grassroots youth-led organizing, Gender JUST developed a Grievance Procedure based on the principles of Restorative Justice for Chicago Public Schools. But there is still significant work to be done. You can help reduce violence against queer youth by supporting Gender JUST's work to develop leadership and build power among queer youth of color!

For more information about Gender JUST and to find out how you can support our work, contact [email protected].
Gender JUST Hosts Queer CPS Student Orientation!
QSO_picOn September 23, Gender JUST hosted the 1st Chicago Public Schools Orientation for students who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and/or as Allies. 100 CPS students, teachers, Gay-Straight-Alliance (GSA) advisors, and community allies joined Gender JUST at Jones College Prep for resources, information, networking, training, and fun! This was a hugely successful event and will be just the first in a new annual tradition.
The Queer Student Orientation began with speed 1-on-1's, where everyone participated in a structured networking activity to build solidarity and support among queer youth across the city. The program began with an interactive training on the rights of students, highlighting those most important to queer youth of color. This was followed by information about the new Grievance Procedure developed by Gender JUST youth in the spring, a training on organizing in schools, and games to contextualize all of this critical information.
This was an integral part of Gender JUST's Safe & Affirming Education Campaign, which has been working to organize and educate CPS students, teachers, parents, and staff in order to change the culture of the school system.
Gender JUST would like to acknowledge all of the teachers, GSA advisors, and youth who made the Queer Student Orientation possible, and especially acknowledge Jones College Prep for the use of their fabulous space.
To get involved in Gender JUST's queer student of color led Safe & Affirming Education Campaign or for more information, contact [email protected].
Gender JUST Fights Harassment in Boystown!
brian_lucky.jpg As part of Gender JUST's COURSE Campaign, Gender JUST youth met with Board members of the association representing businesses in the Boystown area, the Northalsted Business Alliance (NHBA). Gender JUST youth told personal stories of being kicked out of shops, pushed off the streets, and having the police called countless times by business owners who felt that we "scared away" customers. This meeting was hugely successful and the business owners agreed to participate in a series of trainings developed by queer youth of color!
Gender JUST began working on the issue of harassment, discrimination, brutality, and profiling of queer youth of color in the Boystown area after a series of solicitation arrests of trans youth of color, many of whom were merely looking for a safe space to be themselves. The COURSE Campaign organizes to increase funding for services for queer youth on the South and West sides of Chicago, but we were inclined to ask ourselves "what happens to queer youth of color when we are forced to travel to the North side for services in the meantime?"
Many queer youth of color travel to the Boystown neighborhood because resources in our communities are under-funded and, as a result, starved and devastated. When we get to the North side, we are harassed and profiled by businesses and often end up within the Prison-Industrial-Complex for no fault of our own.
deedee_picAfter several unsuccessful attempts to communicate with NHBA about their role in this phenomenon, Gender JUST staged a direct-action on September 21 and took over the office of the President of NHBA. Over 70 youth piled into the office chanting "N-H-B-A, You Can't Make Us Go Away, Queer Youth Are Here to Stay!" You can check out a video of the action on YouTube!
After the action, NHBA leadership met with youth from Gender JUST and expressed a commitment to work together to reduce discrimination and profiling from area business owners towards queer youth of color. Gender JUST has begun working with allies to develop the training series and a system of local community accountability to address this issue.
For more information on the youth of color led COURSE campaign or to get involved in the struggle, contact [email protected].
Gender JUST Fights Police Surveillance at COH!

gj_youth-picGender JUST has continued negotiations with the Center on Halsted (COH) over the past few weeks, so that this space can be truly safe and affirming for queer youth of color. Coming out of an acknowledgement that COH is a critically important resource to queer youth, Gender JUST began negotiating with COH to reduce police presence in the space and reduce barriers to trans youth utilizing COH services. So far, Gender JUST has been incredibly successful at making the case to COH leadership and COH, in turn, has been tremendously willing to improve the space.
COH is currently working with Gender JUST youth to revise their Code of Conduct, to bring it into line with principles of Restorative Justice. COH's Code of Conduct currently outlines reasons for which youth will be banned from the space and/or turned over to the police. Several of these reasons, such as falling asleep in the space or carrying mace, disproportionately oppress the very homeless youth which COH exists to assist. Gender JUST is in the process of working with COH to fundamentally shift the way they see discipline, as opposed to making small reforms to a fundamentally punitive system.
Additionally, COH has already changed the bathroom signs to reduce policing of transgender youth in the bathrooms. LeVea Nole, a member of Gender JUST, explained the story of being escorted from the women's bathroom - despite a Chicago ordinance protecting trans people from such harassment. This small change is a huge victory for trans youth who access the space.
action_picWhile these are some important victories, Gender JUST youth are continuing to pressure COH to adopt a No-Police-Zone policy. This would entail
(1) refusing to turn information about youth or turn
youth themselves over to the police, unless required to do so by a warrant or mandatory reporting requirements;
(2) not granting police access to the space for meetings, such as CAPS or Beat Meetings;
(3) not calling the police, except in life- or safety-threatening situations; &
(4) making the community aware of this policy by posting "No-Police-Zone" signs in the space.
While COH has agreed to several of the points listed above, they have not agreed to make COH a No-Police-Zone. Gender JUST will continue to pressure COH to make this policy change.
For more information on the youth of color led COURSE campaign or to get involved in the struggle, contact [email protected].
Support Gender JUST!

CPS.picketWith impending leadership transitions at Chicago Public Schools and throughout the Chicago with the mayoral election, Gender JUST's work is more important than ever in order to raise the voice of queer and trans youth of color in important decisions that impact our lives. It is also critically important that we don't lose the capacity to do the critical leadership development work as we take on greater and more ambitious struggles. We can certainly do this, and maintain our grassroots character - but not without your support!

We need your support so we can continue to build bridges between movements, develop courageous young queer leaders, and build power for queer youth across Chicago. If you support this cause, you should support our work!

If you feel that Gender JUST is an important organization to you and your community, please support us financially so that we can continue and grow this work.

CLICK HERE to learn more about supporting Gender JUST!

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For more information about Gender JUST or our campaigns, contact [email protected] or visit www.genderjust.org!

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