By KALANI CHEN-HAYES, age 9

After the presentation on supporting LBGTQIA boys and sons of same-gender parents. Left to Right: presenters Dr. Shari Tarver-Behring, Chuck Tarver-Behring, Christian Burch, Kalani Chen-Hayes, Dr. Lance Chen-Hayes and Dr. Stuart Chen-Hayes. PHOTO: Dr. Lance Chen-Hayes
After the presentation on supporting LGBTQIA boys and sons of same-gender parents. Left to Right: presenters Dr. Shari Tarver-Behring, Chuck Tarver-Behring, Christian Burch, Kalani Chen-Hayes, Dr. Lance Chen-Hayes and Dr. Stuart Chen-Hayes. PHOTO: Dr. Lance Chen-Hayes

Each year, I get to travel 3,000 miles from New Jersey to San Diego, California to help out with a conference called Supporting Students ~ Saving Lives. The conference is sponsored by CESCAL (The Center for Excellence in School Counseling and Leadership) and is very important for teaching educators and adults who work with young people how to support LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and ally) students. Some of these students are harassed or bullied so much for their sexuality or gender that they are at risk of hurting themselves or being hurt by others. This education is becoming even more necessary as technology advances and online bullying increases.

Kalani sharing a copy of IndyKids and interviewing CSU-Northridge Freshman Chuck Tarver-Behring on his leadership role as a gay student fighting homophobia last year as a high school senior and head of his school's GSA in Canyon Country, CA. PO
Kalani sharing a copy of IndyKids and interviewing CSU-Northridge Freshman Chuck Tarver-Behring on his leadership role as a gay student fighting homophobia last year as a high school senior and head of his school’s GSA in Canyon Country, CA. PHOTO: Dr. Lance Chen-Hayes

I have fun teaching educators about LGBTQIA issues. My dads and I (notice that I said dads, because I have two) present on a different topic each year. I always do a presentation on books with LGBTQIA characters that one of my dads and I have read together. This year the topic was about gay boys and sons of gay dads. I got to present with Chuck Tarver-Behring, a college freshman from California State University Northridge, who spoke about leading his high school’s GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) and challenging homophobia (fear or hatred of gay people), Christian Burch, a Wyoming high school teacher and author of The Manny Files and Hit the Road, Manny, and my dads.

Kalani interviewing Wyoming high school teacher and author of "The Manny Files" & "Hit the Road, Manny" Christian Burch at CESCAL conference. PHOTO: Dr. Lance Chen-Hayes
Kalani interviewing Wyoming high school teacher and author of The Manny Files and Hit the Road, Manny, Christian Burch at CESCAL conference. PHOTO: Dr. Lance Chen-Hayes

Other topics covered at the conference included: supporting LGBTQIA student athletes, creating GSAs, stopping LGBTQIA bullying and creating policies to make schools safe for everyone. I am definitely looking forward to going again next year!

Below are some resources that we included in our presentation packet: