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My hero from

My hero from


The man who founded the country's first national gay-straight alliance group says Kerry Pacer is a remarkable young woman who shines as an example for gay youths everywhere

Northeastern Georgia isn't known as a hotbed of LGBT activism. In fact, northeastern Georgia isn't known as a hotbed of LGBT anything. It is where the movie Deliverance was filmed, but I'm sorry, that just doesn't count.

Kerry Pacer would be remarkable if she'd grown up in the Castro or Chelsea or West Hollywood. The fact that she's from northeastern Georgia makes her all that much more remarkable.

I grew up in a small town in the South, so I know where Kerry is coming from. Cultural diversity in places like where Kerry and I grew up means there are Baptists and Methodists. The very existence of LGBT people is completely effaced in places like White County, Ga., where homosexuality is still the love that dare not speak its name (at best) and a one-way ticket to hell (at worst).

Kerry has forever obliterated the denial that existed in White County and places like it about LGBT people through her brave leadership in taking on her school to start PRIDE (Peers Rising in Diverse Education), a gay-straight alliance. Their response was less than heartening--an irresponsible, educationally indefensible decision to ban all cocurricular student activities rather than allow the PRIDE club to meet. The religious zealots won this battle, but they lost the war, as the real enemy in places like White County, Ga., is silence. Kerry broke that silence for good.

Among the many qualities that make Kerry special, two stand out to me from the conversations we've had in person and on the phone. The first is her complete certainty that she is right. For so many people of my generation, we did not find our voice or that sense of confidence until well into our adult years. Kerry is crystal clear in her convictions, and her own unwavering moral compass stands in sharp contrast to the craven actions of those who run her school system. The second is her boundless optimism. At no point during this battle did I ever see Kerry's positive energy waver or her faith falter. No setback slowed her down: She was always moving on to the next step, always thinking strategically about how to turn seeming defeat into an opportunity to continue the fight. I'd bet the folks who opposed her in White County still don't know what hit them.

In many ways, it is both awe-inspiring and overwhelming to think about what Kerry has been able to accomplish while in high school. But I know that Kerry didn't do it all by herself. She had the complete support of her family; she built a circle of friends who stood by her; and she made crucial alliances with folks like the American Civil Liberties Union. In other words, Kerry Pacer is a master organizer. Kerry is exceptional, but she would be the first person to tell you she did not do it alone.

And indeed she is not alone. Kerry is the face of a new generation of activists, both LGBT and non-LGBT, coming of age in our junior highs and high schools right now. At GLSEN I have the privilege to work with nearly 80 students around the country on GLSEN's Jump-Start National Student Leadership Team, and I firmly believe it is because of young people like Kerry and the other leaders of the 3,000-plus gay-straight alliances across America that this will be the generation where homophobia shifts from being something you experience in the hallways to something you study in your history class.

Kerry Pacer is one of my heroes. I am looking forward to seeing what she does next, and to someday being an old man who can say "I knew her when..."

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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