Kevin Jennings received the Bob Angelo Medal from the Dutch LGBTQI+ organization COC. Jennings got the award for his work to make schools safe spaces for LGBTQI+ people. In a reaction to the Dutch news paper De Volkskrant Jenning said “it feels like getting the Gay Nobel prize”. The COC awarded this medal at it’s annual New Year party True Colors on January the 27th.
Keving Jennings the man behind the GSA
Kevin Jennings is one of the rare international recipients of the Bob Angelo Medal. And he may not be a household name in the international LGBTQI+ community. He has had a major impact however on this community when he started the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) and Gay Lesbian School Education Network (GLEN) in the late 80’s and early 90’s. In his childhood he had suffered from anti-gay bullying. And when he became a teacher, he realized how important it is for LGBTQI+ students and teachers at schools to have a safe environment at the school.
GLEN helped to found GSA’s at thousands of schools. Not only schools in his native America, but around the world. In the Netherlands for example there are GSA’s at hundreds of schools. These GSA’s help to create for many young LGBTQI+ students a safer space at high schools to identify themselves as who they are. It is also an important way for LGBTQI+ teachers to feel safer in their working environment and has helped many to be more open. Later on Jennings became a member of the Obama cabinet and continued his fight there for tolerance at schools and against bullying.
What do GSA do?
Popular activities of GSA’s are Coming-out day, Purple Friday of LGBTQI+ visibility and a the week of tolerance. GSA students organise all these activities on school themselves. A sign of the effect of the GSA movement is the number of LGBTQ+ characters in popular highs school tv series and movies. Think of movies like GBF, Love Simon and …, and of course tv series like GLEE, Riverdale, Sex Education and many more. With these LGBTQI+ characters on the screens and the GSA activities at schools it has become easier for young LGTQI+ kids to identify themselves with role models and hopefully have an easier coming out.
Second medal for Hans Verhoeven
COC often awards multiple Bob Angelo medals is often each year. The second medal was awarded to Hans Verhoeven. Hans is not only the owner of the Gay’s & Gadgets and … store. He is also an almost full time activist in the LGBTQ+ community. Whenever LGBTQI+ are prosecuted or discriminated somewhere, Hans quickly gets people together to organize a protest to let the LGBTQI+ voice being heard. The Homomonument is often the location for these events. The aim is to put pressure on politicians to better the lives of LGBTQI+ people. Hans is also active in various Pride events, amongst others the Pride Walk which kicks of the Amsterdam Pride each year.
Bob Angelo Medal
The Bob Angelo Medal is named after Niek Engelschman. Engelschman used the pseudonym of Bob Angelo when he founded the COC in 1946 and became its’ first president. The medal was first awarded in 1991 and past recipients included Erwin Olaf, Boris Dittrich, Hans van Manen, Andreas Burnier and Derek Jarman.