#4: We aren’t the first

When I sat down to watch Simon Sinek’s Ted-Talk, I wasn’t in the best mood. My laptop had broken and I was forced to use an old desktop in the library, which meant I had to sit out in the middle of everything instead of hiding out in the non-fiction section. That being said, once I started the video, I quickly forgot about my current issues. I was very intrigued as to what he was saying, his ideas just made sense. Why would anyone do something just because they were told to? They won’t, unless they feel that they have a good reason to, and it matches with their beliefs.

Sinek said, “When we communicate from the outside in… It just doesn’t change behavior.” Sometimes I think I approach others about our topic in the wrong way. Instead of starting with why current systems in place at school aren’t good, I start by saying what needs to change and how. I believe part of the reason our documentary was success was because it brought in the stakes, the emotional side, the why. We can tell teachers that they have to ask for pronouns, or that schools must have gender neutral bathrooms, but if someone is doing something because they have to and have only been told the what and maybe the how, it won’t be nearly as effective as if they believe in the cause and know why they should believe.

Sinek also said, (about Langley, a man trying to build the first airplane) “The day the Wright brothers took flight, he [Langley] quit. He could have said, ‘That’s an amazing discovery, guys, and I will improve upon your technology,’ but he didn’t. He wasn’t first, he didn’t get rich, he didn’t get famous, so he quit.” My group isn’t the first to seek change in this topic. We aren’t even the second or the third, or the hundredth. We aren’t the first in Vermont, and we’re not the resource in Vermont with the most connections, the most knowledge, the most money. We by no means have everything we need to create change, except that we do. Because we truly believe in our topic, which is why we’re here a second year, which is why instead of trying to rival Outright, or give up entirely because they are a well established organization doing very similar work to us, we want to work with them to create change.

After some looking around online, I couldn’t find much things that communities were doing to help with this issue. However that may partly be due to the fact that since I already know a lot about the topic, very few things seem new to me. The main programs that are working on lgbt issues in general, I already know about, so I decided to delve into those with more depth.

One of these programs is Outright Vermont, a program that is local and I am involved in.”The Mission of Outright Vermont is to build safe, healthy, and supportive environments for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning youth ages 13-22.” Outright is wonderful resource, and works around the state to provide safe environments for queer youth. We interviewed both students who are involved in outright, and some of the staff for our documentary. They work with schools to accomplish things similar to our goals. I love that they are such a steady and unwavering resource that is their when needed, but they also create a community and bring together people from all over the state. They created a friday night group, which started in 1989, and has run every friday since. However we are focused solely on the gender identity aspect, and only in schools, while Outright is working to make Vermont better for queer youth overall, but nonetheless they are very inspirational and I strive to make as much of an impact as they have.

When reading the instructions about making a why, how, and what pitch, my mind immediatly went to the mission statement we had created last year. Although that isn’t really a pitch, I thought it was a good place to start.

Our original mission statement is “We are working with teachers and administrators to cultivate awareness around gender identity/expression spectrums in order to create safer and more inclusive school communities.”

So after thinking what really is the why, how, and what of our topic, I came up with a pitch:

We believe everyone should feel safe and accepted at school, regardless of their gender identity.  We create a safe environment by working with teachers and administrators to educate them on how to incorporate inclusive language and support.  Our aim is to show them practical ways they can change their behavior to make students feel supported.




“Mission and History.” Outright Vermont. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2016.

Sinek, Simon. “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” TED. TED, Sept. 2009. Web. 30 Sept. 2016.

Photo by Thomas Hawk

Fiona Nelson

One Response to “#4: We aren’t the first

  • Fiona, I think that your idea: “Instead of starting with why current systems in place at school aren’t good, I start by saying what needs to change and how.” is very important for multiple reasons. People will always get defensive of “their system” in a variety of conscious and subconscious levels when anyone might start to pick apart why it is not good. The idea of hope, of something better, makes it very likely that the initial engagement with someone will open their eyes, make them want to listen more, and make them self-evaluate their own systems. Well said.

    When you get to the first sentence of your pitch, “We believe everyone should feel safe and accepted at school, regardless of their gender identity.” you can even pull it back a little bit, to… “Imagine if everyone felt safe and accepted in schools. Imagine what would be possible for their learning….” Then get into the specifics that you wish to tackle. No one is going to be turned off by those first two sentences, and if they are they shouldn’t be responsible for the well-being of children.

    I hope the revised directions for blog post #5 help you. Please let me know if they do not. Obviously you and Eva are in a different situation than the others.


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