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Garden State Equality Brings LGBTQ Education to Roosevelt Middle School

WEST ORANGE, NJ – In an ongoing effort to educate parents, allies, and students about the changing face of the LGBTQ landscape, Roosevelt Middle School hosted “LGBTQ 101 Parent Night: Understanding Sexuality,” on March 14 led by Garden State Equality. The event was organized by RMS School Counselor Karen Peyragrosse.

Garden State Equality was a pioneer in the efforts to pass marriage equality and anti-bullying legislation in the State of New Jersey, considered to be some of the most comprehensive in the country. As part of their mission, GSE provides education and training regarding LGBTQ issues.

Trainers Damien Lopez and Justine Saliski provided important information on the “Road to Equality,” reviewing outdated terminology and discussing a newer approach to defining sexuality, including external and internal identities, intersex children, asexuality, pansexuality, and the sometimes confusing language of pronouns and their identification.

Gender binary – the belief that someone is purely male or female – is being challenged as a new understanding of the gender spectrum is explored. The gender spectrum is an understanding that gender is not binary, but a spectrum of biological, mental, and emotional traits that exist along a continuum.

While overwhelming in its scope, Lopez and Saliski encouraged parents to be patient and continue learning.

A discussion about intersex children (2 percent of the population is intersex) followed. In the past, doctors and parents chose one sex for an intersex child, although that is beginning to change. As the child grew, issues sometimes arose regarding the doctor’s or parents' “choice.”

Transitioning  is the process of changing one’s social, legal, and medical external self to match their internal sense of gender identity. Traditional sexual norms and mores have made it difficult for people struggling with their identities. As a result, up to 40 percent of the homeless population is represented by LGBTQ youths, who very often live in fear and consider/commit suicide at a rate four times greater than other teens.

Becoming an ally to the LGBTQ community is also a process, requiring a person to understand their privilege – that the ally “won’t ever have to deal” with the situations that LGBTQ people face.

Listening, being open-minded, being willing to be an advocate (“speak up-not over”), asking questions, doing research, being inclusive, and realizing that “Ally” is a verb, are ways to begin supporting the LGBTQ community.

Some excellent resources can be found here:

Garden State Equality

The Human Rights Campaign

The Trevor Project


Damien Lopez


Justine Saliski





Cynthia Cumming
March 20, 2023