Friday, August 12, 2011

Learning About LGBTQ Rights and Passing It On

Guest post by GLAD Summer Intern Andy Vo

I’ll be honest: when I first interviewed for an internship at GLAD, I knew I wanted the job for personal reasons. I told my future bosses and co-workers that I wanted this job not only because I had a lot to bring to the table, but also because I wanted to connect with the community I’ve pushed aside far too often. What I found after working for eight weeks at GLAD is that I’ve grown personally and professionally, to an extent I never thought I would.

What GLAD did for me is something no other job has done before: created an environment where I could truly be myself. I never had to apologize for who I was, or feel like I had to hide anything about myself. At GLAD, I never saw any ‘office politics’ at play. I never saw one co-worker as higher up than the other, and I never saw a boss reprimand an intern. Eight weeks in, I couldn’t even tell you who the ‘bosses’ are; there's such a feeling of equality here.

And it’s a great feeling to have. Equality under the law, I suppose, translates to equality in the office. Of course, equality in the office—in the context of equality for LGBT workers—didn’t come easily. It was the result of numerous court cases and battles of which I had never learned.

As a gay teenager just out of high school, I didn’t know very much about the Gay Civil Rights Movement and I had never, ever, heard of GLAD. But on my very first day, I was assigned the task to read up on what GLAD has done these past 30+ years. It’s ridiculous to think that somebody could be refused medical help because they’re living with HIV/AIDS, or that a transgender kid couldn’t express who they are in school.

But I think it’s equally ridiculous that kids these days simply don’t grow up learning this history. Before working here, I simply didn’t know that the rights I enjoy today had to be fought for, on the streets and in the courtroom. Because of that, I felt honored to be given the task of assembling a chronology of GLAD court cases and contributions to the Gay Civil Rights Movement.

And when I was finally done with the chronology, I used it to pinpoint where GLAD has helped LGBTQ youth in the process—helping to contribute to GLAD’s increasing commitment to LGBTQ youth. Working on a project like that is really what I loved most about working here this summer. With the knowledge that GLAD is a non-profit, I expected a summer of busy work and fruitless projects that would perennially get shut down by ‘the man.’ Instead, I found that I was actually contributing to the organization in a profound way.

This summer, I also worked closely with Amanda and Bruce on making LGBTQ student rights known in Massachusetts. With Mike, a fellow intern, I’ve assembled materials for a conference of GSA student leaders. We created a brochure from scratch, designed a button and a blue wristband, and prepared bags of GLAD materials for the students. It was the most intense creative project I’ve had, and all the while, it felt like an epic scavenger hunt. I found bookmarks at the front desk, magnets in the InfoLine room, pens in the supply room, folders in development…and now, looking at the finished project, it is breathtaking to see it come to fruition like this.

There is no doubt in my mind that this will have a profound effect on the student leaders at the GSA conference next week. Students deserve to know their rights because if they don’t know them, how else could they fight for them? I can imagine the students bringing them back to their schools and maybe, just maybe, a timid freshman will pick up a brochure and feel a little less alone.

We have all heard the term ‘It Gets Better.’ But if I could be a part of that, and just make things easier for even one student…well, then I’ve done my job. I’ve fulfilled my original goal to connect to the LGBT community I’ve ignored; I’ve done what I set out to do.

And for that, I’m forever grateful to GLAD.


Robbie Samuels said...

Thank you Andy! Your contributions to GLAD this summer are numerous and as Special Events Manager I particularly appreciated your willingness to pitch in wherever needed - including prior to and at events. Good luck next year and hopefully we'll see you soon!

Joseph said...

A great post

Hana Tauber said...

Thank you, Andy, for all of the love and energy you put into these projects at GLAD. Thank you for coming on board and lots of luck in your future projects. May you always find ways of creating positive change around you!