GLSEN began in 1990 as the Gay and Lesbian Independent School Teachers Network, or the GLSTN.  It was originally made up of seventy gay and lesbian educators, and had only two GSA chapters in the whole nation. Just twenty years ago, there was a disappointing amount of ignorance about LGBTQI rights and LGBTQI issues and their importance in the context of a forward-moving society. Only one state had laws to protect LGBT students from harassment in school, and a general lack of information on the subject besides "gays are evil and disgusting." However, with the continual effort of the then-GLSTN, more and more people became aware of these very relevant issues. GLSEN also facilitates over 3,600 GSA groups.


  • In 1990, GLSTN was founded by Kevin Jennings.
  • In 1995, Kevin Jennings, the GLSTN and GLSEN's Executive Director, was hired as GLSTN's first full-time staff member. Since then, the GLSTN has changed its name to the "Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network" to attract a broader audience of activists. And, because of GLSEN's tireless efforts to end discrimination against sexual orientation and/or perceived sexual orientation, over 4,000 GSA chapters have registered aross the nation. GLSEN now has forty full-time staff, a governing board of twenty members, and two advisory committees on a national level. In addition to that, there are close to forty chapters associated with GLSEN locally.
  • In 1997, GLSTN had its first national conference in Salt Lake City, Utah because of the state legislature trying to indirectly prevent formations of GSA (gay straight alliance) groups in the state.  Changed their name to GLSEN in 1997 “to attract broader support”.
  • In 2000, The organization had a controversial meeting with minors dubbed “Fistgate” because of the open conversation they had about sex.  A student asked what was fisting, and received an uncensored explanation.  Because this conversation did not stress the need of protection against HIV and AIDS, when a illegal recording of the meeting was released by Scott Whiteman, there was immense outrage.
  • In 2008, GLSEN and the Ad Council released the ThinkB4YouSpeak campaign that aims to end all homophobic vocabulary among all youth. Also in 2008, the founder Kevin Jennings stepped down as head of GLSEN.
  • Biography of Kevin Jennings

    Kevin Jennings, founder of GLSEN

    Kevin Brett Jennings was born on May 8, 1963 at Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He attended the Paisley Magnet School at Winston-Salem, North Carolina. While he did well academically, he was often bullied and taunted for his effeminate behavior. In high school, he even attempted suicide when he realized that he was gay. After moving to Hawaii and attending Harvard University, Jennings became a history teacher. In 1988, at Concord Academy in Massachusetts, Jennings started the first gay-straight alliance ever with a female student. Former Governor William Weld of Massachusetts appointed Jennings as one of the co-chairs to the Education Committee of the Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth. Massachusetts was the first state in the United States to outlaw discrimination in public schools based on sexual orientation when the State Board of Education adopted Jennings's report, "Making Schools Safe for Gay & Lesbian Youth" as policy. In 1990, Jennings founded GLSTN, now known as GLSEN, and stepped down as head in 2008. By then there were already 40 full-time staff members and two regional offices. In less then 20 years, Kevin Jennings started from a small gay-straight alliance at a school to a full-fledged national organization that is leading the struggle against discrimination, bullying, and harassment based on gender identity and sexual orientation.


    Click here to read GLSEN's Diversity Statement