Gendertopia After-School Program 1st of its kind!
June 8, 2009
For Immediate Release
Burlington After School
Gender Identity Based After School Program Launched by Outright Vermont and ‘Gendertopia‘ Program Among the First in the Nation
Today, the Associated Press reported on Outright Vermont’s after-school program, Gendertopia, a joint effort between Vermont’s queer youth center and the Burlington School District’s Burlington After School Project.
The nine week program ran from April 2 to May 28 at Outright Vermont’s Burlington based youth center and is among the first gender identity based after school programs to be supported by a School District in the country. Gendertopia was open to all Burlington High School students and included both straight and queer youth.
Outright Vermont’s program focused on youth self-esteem building exercises and peer-based discussions related to gender, gender identity and gender expression. Outright Vermont Executive Director Christopher Neff stated, “Gendertopia is a landmark program, that is also very cool. Youth watched movies, ran a photo project, looked at magazines and talked with each other about how gender can be expressed and why it is both powerful and fun. The point was to reinforce that gender is not a box, it is a dynamic identity that belongs to each of us and we should feel good about expressing it.”
Vermont is one of 13 states that includes gender identity as a protected category, barring discrimination in employment, places of public accommodation, housing and credit. According to the Department of Education’s 2006-2007 Safe and Healthy Schools Incident Report, 48.5 percent of hazing and harassment cases (in 260 Vermont schools) were related to the victims sex. This can include bullying or making fun of a classmate because of feminine or masculine presentation.
Outright Vermont distinguishes between sex and gender by noting that sex is related to biology while gender is how one chooses to identify themselves. The state of Vermont defines gender identity as “an individual’s actual or perceived gender identity, or gender-related characteristics intrinsically related to an individual’s gender or gender-identity, regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth.”
Outright Vermont’s program was managed by Katherine Betzer, Director of Health and Wellness who added, “Not only were the youth able to recognize the disparities in masculine and feminine images in pop culture, but by the end of the program they felt empowered to examine the impact of these images on their own identities. The simple of act of recognizing the power of gender in their daily lives helped youth express themselves more honestly.”
Founded in 1989, Outright Vermont is the state’s only lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning youth center and state-wide advocacy organization. The mission of Outright Vermont is to build safe, healthy, and supportive environments for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning youth. www.outrightvt.org