WHITE PLAINS, WESTCHESTER COUNTY,NY — August 15, 2022 — The new school year is quickly approaching, and our K-12 students are under attack. It is clear that LGBTQ+ youth are being used as props for political officials (elected or not) and organizations to fearmonger for votes and fundraise money. This is regardless of the political affiliation of those conducting these acts. These funds almost always do not go back into the communities to actually assist queer youth in their life-threatening circumstances.
With this, there are also groups that claim to be assisting queer youth outside of politics, when in reality, they are propping themselves up within the local systems of power they claim to be “working” within. Unfortunately multiple of these groups exist within Westchester and surrounding counties. One of them is GLSEN Lower Hudson Valley.
This is no speculation. I know the group intimately and how they operate. Not as an outside observer, but as a former board member, turned GSA Liasion, turned head of their public policy. I was running their public policy efforts for years. I was asked to do so by current Co-Chair MJ Karger who stated within the discussion we had, “No one wants to do this role. Would you like to?” Not registering at the time that governmental advocacy for the students they serve was clearly not of importance to them, I was elated. I was honored to have the opportunity to connect with and advocate for our local children and young adults for the human rights they are owed. I did just that and more.
By “more”, I mean roles outside of policy I really shouldn’t have been doing on top of the workload I already had. As I entered the policy role, the board was completely unable to adequately transition and fill the GSA Liasion position. The theme of complete disorganization and not executing tasks to their fullest potential was what they saw as normal. This showed as GLSEN Lower Hudson Valley went through three to four interns in less than one year with the GSA Liasion role supposed to be filled by a board member, not an intern.
A couple of these interns expressed to me directly that they could not take anymore the lack of support, uncertain work tasks and schedule, and complete disrespect they experienced. The “disrespect” in one example is that the interns, paid, were sometimes compensated for their work incredibly late, roughly three paychecks/direct deposits behind. One of these interns, a college student at the time who continuously received late pay, told me “I just want to buy some food.”
Not only did this hurt the people the group was supposed to be supporting, but the K-12 students we were supposed to be standing up for did not receive the resources and services they needed. I’m sure if there are local educators reading this that they can say this is exactly what they experienced, and that they were left in the dust. I personally estimate that when I transitioned out of the GSA Liaison role that school visits and school communication dropped by 75% if not over.
Along the way with GLSEN Lower Hudson Valley, I was intensely sexually harassed by an individual who had been involved with our group before. The perpetrator attempted to pressure me into having sex with them while implying if I didn’t they would harm me politically since I am a Queer Rights Activist. I reported this event to Co-Chair MJ Karger on multiple occasions. She expressed her disgust with what happened to me, but each time, the action did not follow in making sure this individual no longer interacted with the group; a group that assists vulnerable, marginalized minors. Through our multiple discussions, I believe she made subtle, but clear enough statements that she was scared to do anything about it. She is the Co-Chair. She is supposed to protect those within the group who dedicate their time to uplifting queer youth. But, she did nothing. She chose to be the incompetent coward she is.
Eventually, a situation came up where an elected official, whose district is within Westchester County, chose not to move four of the five legislative bills forward in their position that we held of priority support. Since I was persistently praised by the board for the policy work I did, I publicly criticized the elected official and asked why they chose not to support our youth. This is especially as it was right before Pride Month this year. I received a call from MJ stating her complete disapproval of the statement. MJ clearly pretended to acknowledge the importance of the bills that failed to pass but was irrationally scared in making this criticism. As someone who is involved in public policy, I can tell you that criticism toward electeds in advocacy is quite normal. It’s alarming I even have to say that. MJ even stated on the phone with me “Is your role even necessary? What are you doing? Are you producing anything?” May I remind you this “unnecessary” role was one that MJ and the board came to me and asked me to do.
In the end, MJ chose cowardice and self-interest because that is who she is. Right then and there, I resigned. I could no longer be complicit in such a gross lack of a moral compass. Though the group publicly made it seem like it was their decision to let me go, it was not, and I have proof of this. They were attempting to do what they saw as “damage-control”. MJ additionally told me on the phone after I told her I resign, “Well, know this is not a decision the board is making” in another attempt to try and reduce backlash, whatever they perceive that to be. Maybe other individuals and groups working within the same ill-intended framework? Again, they are cowards and self-interested.
I implore our K-12 school districts, colleges/universities, current group supporters, volunteers, student leaders, and the community at large: Do not trust GLSEN Lower Hudson Valley. Through negligence and intentional misdirection in “addressing” the needs of our queer students and educators, the group is harmful. Please, please look into other groups and resources that can help you. As someone who experienced the filth that is GLSEN Lower Hudson Valley firsthand, I promise that you can find actual, authentic, and more educated support that will address your dire needs; because you matter.