Archive for January, 2012

Let’s Get Real for No Name-Calling Week

By | Let's Get Real

“I showed Let’s Get Real to my students, many of whom do not want to have these conversations and have a hard time sitting still. They were riveted. The discussion afterward was profound.”
— Kim Carter, director, Monadnock Community Connections School, Keene, New Hampshire

GroundSpark is partnering once again with GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network for National No Name-Calling Week, which runs through January 27th. GLSEN is our longest-running partner organization, and in support of No Name-Calling Week, we’re offering free streaming of our film Let’s Get Real (view the trailer below)!

GLSEN and GroundSpark first started working together back in 1992, when Helen Cohen and I were looking for educators who might have the courage to address anti-LGBT prejudice in their classrooms. We attended one of the first GLSEN conferences (back when the “E” was a “T” for teachers and GroundSpark was called Women’s Educational Media) and told the attendees about our vision for a world where educators would proactively address all kinds of bias, including homophobia, in their classrooms.

The contacts we made at that gathering helped us go on to make It’s Elementary—Talking About Gay Issues in School.  Groups of teachers all over the country then mobilized to host the first screenings of the film, and in the process, launched many of GLSEN’s first chapters.  Kevin Jennings, GLSEN’s founder, is prominently featured in our follow-up film, It’s STILL Elementary.

Years after the making of It’s Elementary, we decided to take on bullying connected to all kinds of bias, and produced Let’s Get Real, which is now used in thousands of schools across the country. GLSEN also expanded its focus and today is at the forefront of addressing bias-related bullying of all kinds.

GroundSpark has been a No Name Calling Week partner since day one. This year we are excited to offer free streaming of Let’s Get Real for the whole week! It’s a great chance to preview the film and see if it’s right for your school or community organization. Or for parents, to make time to watch it and have a much-needed conversation with your 5th – 9th grader.

Visit our No Name Calling Week page for simple steps to get started!



“Why Should I Be the One To Leave?”

By | blog, Straightlaced

One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is calling donors to say thank you for their gifts. I can’t call everyone, but when someone makes a significant gift that’s a big jump from their previous contributions, I try to be sure to pick up the phone. Last week I called Leslie and David Lagerstrom in Edina, MN. All I knew about them is that they had driven into Minneapolis a couple of years ago to attend the Twin Cities premiere of Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, our documentary about teenagers grappling with pressures to conform to gender norms.

I had to leave a voicemail for them and then received this from Leslie:

Dear Debra,

I tried to return your call but wasn’t able to reach you so I thought I’d drop you an email. You had called to thank my husband and me for our donation to your wonderful organization, which was our pleasure!

You also mentioned that you were curious about our interest in your organization, which I am happy to share. Our 15 year-old son Sam is transgender. Born female, he has told us ever since he could speak that he was really a boy, and when he was 12 years old he began to transition. As you know from your work, life for kids like this is incredibly hard – society seems to have such a hard time grasping this concept and therefore what they do not understand they must persecute.

Sam has experienced so much bullying and rejection over the years, yet he remains strong and true to himself. Quite honestly, I don’t know how he does it. He is an ‘A’ student in one of the best school districts in the nation (Edina, MN). We investigated switching schools when the bullying was at its worst, but when Sam posed the question to us, “…why should I have to be the one to leave?” we decided to allow him to stay put. He is a member of the high school debate team, recently winning the JV State of MN tournament and in the winter he volunteers to teach downhill skiing to developmentally disabled youth. He’s a good kid but it is hard for people to see past the fact that he is transgender. That is why we believe your work is SO important! The more we can educate society about LGBT issues, the more likely we are to reduce and hopefully remove the stigma surrounding these communities. At least this is our hope.

I started a blog last July that chronicles our experience raising Sam – you can find it at

Keep up the great work at Groundspark! It is appreciated more than you know!

Since we released Straightlaced, we’ve seen more and more parents become visible advocates for their transgender and gender non-conforming children. Sam’s story makes us more determined than ever to get Straightlaced screened in as many high schools as possible this year.