Coming out as a member of the LGBT community is a hard thing for many teenagers to do. According to hrc.org, 92% of LGBT youth say that they hear negative messages about being LGBT. Although things have slowly been getting better for the LGBT community, many students report that they feel unsafe in their school. Last year freshman Kate Hirschfeld decided to try and make a change at her school, Hill Country Middle School.
“In 7th grade I started questioning my sexuality and it was really scary and isolating. And so when I had the opportunity to do a Girl Scout Silver Award project I made something that would hopefully be helpful to the same kids who were in the same place I was in 7th grade,” said Kate.
Living in the small bubble that we are in can be a very hard environment for some LGBT youth, especially in middle school when everyone is starting to discover who they are. While many kids are supportive of their peers, there are always people there to put the people they don’t understand down. “I created the presentation because I wanted to make the middle school a more accepting and open place, and also to let the students who were questioning their gender or sexuality know that they weren’t alone and that they didn’t need to freak out,” said Kate.
Kate’s presentation consists of examples and explanations of the basic sexualities and genders, and also gives examples of things you shouldn’t say in order to make an LGBT student more comfortable in their school. “It took a few months. I worked with the school principal and counselor so I had to go through several drafts to get everything approved,” said Kate.
Sadly, the presentation was never shown to the middle school. Many things got complicated due to parent complaints, and Kate ended up unable to present the importance of LGBT acceptance to students. “I was honestly really upset. I was upset that the parents were so close minded and upset that the school wouldn’t stand up for their LGBT students and their students rights to be educated,” said Kate.
Kate wasn’t the only one upset; students began posting on social media about the whole situation. “People started #hcmslgbt which got almost 300 public posts and people were also sharing the link to my presentation, which now has more than 6,000 downloads from over 55 countries around the world,” said Kate.
Pretty soon the presentation was shared with people in the tech industry, and some were even interested in meeting with Kate. “After all of the social media attention it got, a woman named Mary Scotton who works in the tech industry and is a diversity advocate invited me to speak at a tech conference called DefragX. I spoke about diversity in tech; how important it is, how we can solve how non-diverse it is right now and how to make workplaces more accepting to all kinds of people. I was the main stage keynote speaker, so I spoke to about 200-300 people,” said Kate.
Kate may have not been able to make a difference in her school, but she was able to educate older people in their workplaces. “People still contact me a ton, and I’ll be speaking at Dreamforce2017 in California at some point this year and I also have offers to speak at corporate events, like at Microsoft,” said Kate. “People really really loved it. I was offered internships and possible job opportunities in the future, and I was invited to a bunch more conferences in the future.”
“If there was one thing I could say to someone struggling with their identity, I would tell them that they’re by no means alone, that they don’t need to panic, and they don’t need to have everything figured out right now,” said Kate.
Educating kids on this issue is a step that should be taken by every school in America. We should be taking steps in order to make everyone feel comfortable in their workplace or schools, and to inform kids on the things that they may not known about the minorities that they go to school with every day. “The presentation meant a lot to me,” Kate said. “It was me trying to make my community a more accepting place, which is super important to me”.

(Kate’s presentation is available to be downloaded or viewed on bit.ly/HCMSLGBT)