It’s about that time. In another month or so, summer vacation will be coming to a close and you’ll be heading back to those hallowed halls of education. Homework, research reports, library studying and long nights at that computer doing research for the ungodly long essay exam. All that, on top of dealing with the jocks and bullies?

Whether you’re in middle school, high school or college, going back to school after your long summer break can either be a relief or a nightmare. For some gay kids, heading back to school and out of the all-day oversight of their parents can be a good thing, providing freedom to express themselves and be open with friends. For others, going back to school can signify an end to a few months vacation away from bullying, harassment and verbal and physical torture.

Q-Notes wanted to offer teens and college students some sort of advice, mostly from our experiences, on how to deal with going back to school. Some of our tips are serious, some of them humorous. At all times, just do what’s best for you and keep your self safe, happy and, most importantly, educated.

Without further ado, here’s our Back to School Guide for Queer Youth.

• Never, ever instigate the bullies. Be who you are and be proud of yourself, but that doesn’t mean you get to walk up to the star football player and smack a big, wet kiss on his cheek.
• If someone calls you a fag, ask them if they want to stick you in their mouth and smoke you. They’ll be walking away speechless and bewildered.
• If you get hit, shoved into a locker or have something thrown at you, immediately report it to a teacher or a principal. If they don’t do anything about it, tell your parents (if you are out) or call any number of local support organizations (our advice, use popular search engines like Google or Yahoo! to find groups near you). If you can’t find anyone to support you, call or email Q-Notes and we’ll light a fire under your school’s ass, pronto.

Federal law guarantees your right to organize groups for your own social, safety or advocacy needs, wants and desires. You and your friends have the right to form gay-straight alliances or other groups. Use the checklist below to get started:
• Research school system policies on the procedures pertaining to the creation of new student organizations. For colleges and universities, check with your office of student life or student government for the regulations regarding affiliation with the school.
• Find out if your group will be school sponsored, non school sponsored. If your group will be sponsored, you’ll more than likely need a faculty advisor.
• Decide next exactly what kind of group you want. Will it be a social group that plans fun outings and events? Will it be a support group? How about an advocacy organization that takes up activist causes on and around campus? The direction of your group is totally up to you and your friends and can be a combination of all sorts of interests. Write down your purpose in a mission statement.
• Think of ways your group will be run. Will decisions be made by an executive board? Will you have officers and how will they be elected? Will the group be run by consensus among all members? When you and your friends decide how you’ll run your group write it all down in a constitution or set of bylaws. Be sure to allow for amendments; as your group grows and changes, the way you operate might need to change, as well.
• Plan your first events. How about a social party or something fun to bring in new members?
• Publicize. Publicize. Publicize. You can never get enough advertising.
• Connect with your local community. Find local organizations who share your LGBT-inclusive vision or progressive ideas and work with them on broader community projects or goals.

Raise hell
Want to rock the boat? Want to shake your school into doing what’s best for queer students? Here’s a few ideas:
• Work with a community organization to present your school board or college administration with new policies protecting against bullying and harassment and discrimination in employment and admissions.
• If diplomatic means fail in convincing your school or college administration, take your activism to the next level — stage a sit-in, kiss-in or walkout.
• Organize a petition, get signatures from students and present it to your administration. To organize effectively and to get the most signatures, speak to like-minded organizations and student clubs. A gay-straight alliance might find support from students who’ve organized pro-choice organizations or clubs for young Democrats and other progressives. Some schools even have clubs for more progressive religious students.
• Organize a “Pride Week.” Cities and states across the nation have annual Pride festivals. Your student club can do the same. Take one week throughout the year to plan a series of events focusing on LGBT issues or other progressive causes. Publicize like you’ve never publicized before and work with community groups to draw in more attendees. Some ideas for events include bringing in a well-known guest speaker, holding a student activism seminar or media training and organizing a few fun events like a “gay Olympics,” picnic or queer prom/party.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.