Every child accepted. Every child supported.

Kimberly Blasiak was helping us define the word transgender this week.

“Someone who just feels they were born in the wrong body,” she said.

Blasiak has a transgender son, a Guilderland High School student of whom she is very proud.

In May, Blasiak, running on a teacher-backed slate, kept her seat on the Guilderland School Board after a bruising election in which one of the issues raised by the slate that lost was faculty being trained at a March 31 session by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.

This controversy is not new for the Guilderland schools. More than a quarter of a century ago, in the 1994-95 school year, a group of courageous students, with help from a thoughtful advisor, Sharon Legge, formed an Alliance for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual students.

While some opposed the group as “an immoral and divisive organization,” the high school principal at the time, John Whipple, stood behind the Alliance. “They’re at a point, they’ve hidden for years,” he told us in 1995. “They’ve been hassled enough. They don’t want to hide any more. They want people to understand them.”

The Alliance invited Karen Harbeck — a lesbian who is a lawyer, teacher, author, and activist — to address the faculty. She told them her research showed that, by seventh grade, many gay and lesbain students “wish they were dead.”

That year, Guilderland students came out on the pages of our paper.

The Alliance then sponsored an assembly for students in which Harbeck spoke as well as a 1988 Guilderland graduate, Daniel O’Neal. Among the top five students in his class, O’Neal went on to graduate from Yale with honors and joined the Peace Corps. He told the students of the verbal, psychological, and physical abuse he had suffered at Guilderland because he was gay.

A firestorm followed where more than 100 people packed a school board meeting, some asking for Whipple’s resignation. In the end, the board backed Whipple.

The school board elections in 1996, just as they did this year, in part turned on the issue of the district allowing discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity. The slate backed by the Concerned Parents and Taxpayers of Guilderland said it stood for “parental rights” in not “subjecting” students to hearing about suffering by gay and lesbian peers. Joseph Smith, a member of the CPAT group who had graduated from Guilderland the year before, said, as elections approached in1996, that the district was endorsing “perverse and intolerable acts.”

Nevertheless, the work of accepting diversity has continued in the Guilderland schools.

This spring, schools Superintendent Marie Wiles described the March 31 session as a “refresher” on training that had been ongoing in the district for a decade. “The bulk of it was how to provide support for LGBTQ+ students,” Wiles said, and involved reviewing statistics on problems with attendance and graduation rates and the “tragically high rates of self-harm and suicide.”

The “intense negative commentary on social media” to a video of the March 31 training session “stunned” school leaders, Wiles said, and the presenters were “terrified” with the reaction they got.

“For some people, it’s just they have a very hard time looking past what they’re used to or what’s within their comfort zone,” Blasiak told us, charitably, this week.

We were asking her to define the terms signified by the letters LGBTQIA+ because she has been instrumental in founding the first New York State Pride PTSA, chartered on June 6, which Blasiak believes is also the first in the nation.

Blasiak is the outreach coordinator for the New York State Parent Teacher Association in charge of new charters so she headed the committee to get the Pride PTSA chartered. But she is quick to credit the executive director, Kyle McCauley Belokopitsky, who has pushed for about five years, Blasiak said, as well as many others.

Ten people from across the state are on the board of the Pride PTSA and they are eager to serve as a resource for those in the LGBTQIA+ community.

“We wanted to be able to have a soft spot to land for our students and families,” said Blasiak. Anyone looking for information can go online to NYSPTA.org where the Pride PTSA will have a landing page and toolkit, Blasiak said. Anyone with comments, questions, or ideas can email .

“As a parent, you want to make sure you’re doing and saying the right thing,” said Blasiak in supporting, say, a transgender child. The new Pride PTSA will give students a chance to connect with other students and parents with other parents.

Such support is sorely needed. “Teen suicides within this community are four times higher than they are for typical teens,” notes Blasiak.

Blasiak has seen firsthand the benefits of such support. In 2017, she founded a Special Education Parent Teacher Student Association for Guilderland. Motivated by being the mother of a child on the autism spectrum, Blasiak said, “You feel like you’re alone and no one else understands.”

Through the PTSA, parents can share not only recommendations on services but, said Blasiak, “It’s nice to know that there are other families who may be going through the same things that you can relate to. And it’s also nice because then you’re able to kind of share stories too.”

While the public in general now, after years of advocacy from people with disabilities, has an understanding of the challenges faced by special-needs students, misunderstanding of the  LGBTQIA+ community is widespread.

Hence, this new Pride PTSA may be a lifeline for some.

During the spring school board elections in Guilderland, we were moved by one of the responses given by an independent candidate, Jennifer Romano. Asked how she would ensure school policies would support the LGBTQ+ community, Romano gave a personal answer:

“I remember my dad sitting on the edge of his bed as I sat down beside him, nervous to ask him a question that had been looming on my mind. I asked, ‘Dad, is it okay to like girls and want to kiss girls?’ I was 9 years old and in the fourth grade. He said, ‘Yes, of course it is.’

“I don’t remember anything else that happened after that because my relief in that moment was all that mattered. Due to the societal norms of my generation, I still wouldn’t have a girlfriend until college. However, knowing my parents loved me no matter what was everything I needed to know.”

We wish every child had a father like that, but we know they don’t. We wrote a memorial tribute last month for a Hilltown native, a man we greatly admired. His father was upset to learn he was gay and he felt unwelcome in the town he loved, and so lived elsewhere all his life. His ashes, and those of his husband, will be buried in the Hilltowns, though.

The reason we were asking Blasiak to define LGBTQIA+ terms for us is because we hope to increase understanding of their meaning. On the facing page we are printing the definitions supplied by the United Nations.

Our hope is that, if people learn the vocabulary, there won’t be the sort of misunderstanding that surfaced during the recent school board elections.

Prejudice against this community is worldwide. “LGBTQI+ people are discriminated against in the labour market, in schools and in hospitals, mistreated and disowned by their own families. They are singled out for physical attack — beaten, sexually assaulted, tortured and killed,” says the United Nations. “Discrimination and hate-motivated violence against LGBTQI+ people is widespread, brutal, and often perpetrated with impunity, and it is even worse for those belonging to racialized communities.”

In 77 countries, the United Nations reports, discriminatory laws criminalize private, consensual same-sex relationships; this exposes individuals to the risk of arrest, prosecution, imprisonment — even, in at least five countries, the death penalty.

Although, for now, we in the United States live in a time and place where same-sex private, consensual relationships are not criminalized, prejudice can still cause pain.

As we saw in the recent local school board elections — just as we saw in the Congressional hearings to appoint Ketanji Brown Jackson to the United States Supreme Court — many Americans have a basic misunderstanding that humans are born either as men, with XYchromosomes, or as women, with XX chromosomes.

The idea of just two sexes is not only simplistic, it is incorrect. For years, biologists have recognized there is a wider spectrum than that — in addition to the syndromes in which people are born with XXY or XYY, or XO chromosomes.

“Doctors have long known that some people straddle the boundary — their sex chromosomes say one thing, but their gonads (ovaries or testes) or sexual anatomy say another,” says a 2015 article published in Nature. “Parents of children with these kinds of conditions — known as intersex conditions, or differences or disorders of sex development (DSDs) — often face difficult decisions about whether to bring up their child as a boy or a girl. Some researchers now say that as many as 1 person in 100 has some form of DSD.

“When genetics is taken into consideration, the boundary between the sexes becomes even blurrier. Scientists have identified many of the genes involved in the main forms of DSD, and have uncovered variations in these genes that have subtle effects on a person’s anatomical or physiological sex.”

When Judge Brown Jackson was asked to define a “woman,” she answered, “I’m not a biologist.” We appreciated the honesty of her answer.

Most of us aren’t biologists. But we can certainly grasp the idea that human beings come in a wide variety of forms. Further, we can understand that to discriminate against people who don’t fit an outdated binary structure is both harmful and unfair.

Guilderland students a quarter of a century ago joined a battle that still must be carried through today.

We commend the training that the Guilderland schools have undertaken for more than a decade. The point is to make each student feel understood and welcome. We urge other schools to conduct similar training.

We further applaud Kim Blasiak and the New York State PTA for creating a Pride chapter — a place where parents, students, and teachers can support one another, helping each student to become all that he or she or they are capable of being.

This is the path to a strong and just society.

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