“School is not serving us at the moment,” with  LGBTQ+ student activist L. J. Valenzuela.

“School is not serving us at the moment,” with LGBTQ+ student activist L. J. Valenzuela.

By Jen Cort

Jen Cort is an education consultant in the areas of equity, inclusion, diversity and justice. In this podcast, Jen opens up a "third space"— a place outside our familiar home and work environments — in order that we might begin to engage in some of the provocative questions that need to be addressed. Listen in as Jen speaks with some of the leading thinkers and doers in the field.

L.J. challenges listeners: ‘within each of our roles in society, we have the power and opportunity to take risks’ and to ‘look at yourself, determine your privileges, and go do something different.’
As a proud, queer, and trans high school student in Jacksonville, FL, L.J. Valenzuela started advocating by joining Equality Florida’s Youth Leadership Council and some local LGBTQ+ groups in his area. Since then, he has spoken at conferences, including the All Together Now Conference, the Association for Middle-Level Education Conference, and a statewide back-to-school mental health webinar earlier this year.

Currently, he is a Field and Advocacy fellow with Equality Florida. He is also working within his community to produce an LGBTQ+ play, Hunger, by Ashlyn Colwell, with the playwright within the upcoming months. From these experiences and his journey, L.J. has committed to professionally supporting his community, planning to incorporate activism into his chosen career through an interdisciplinary approach. He likewise urges everyone to find their power and use it to support the queer community and other marginalized groups through their unique ways.In his free time, L.J. is also an avid theatre kid, animated film enthusiast, and LEGO set builder!

You can reach him at @ljvalenzuela37 on Instagram or ljvalenzuela31@gmail.com via email.

L.J. clarifies his comments: ‘I’ve become aware that the “red list” for the Thespys program may have been formed for copyright purposes instead of content purposes, though this is unclear. I know we cannot bring anything on the “red list” to the District competition. That said, from my experience, theatrical productions in Florida’s schools are still being censored. As a student, I cannot take certain pieces to competition due to their content, and our in-school endeavors must also follow new curriculum laws. I have spoken to my teacher about this, and a main takeaway from official meetings is that many policies have not been fully clarified, so it is difficult to implement them without taking the “safe” censorship route, including censoring LGBTQ+ topics. Therefore, I hesitate to provide a definitive description of the “red list.” However, it should also be remembered that different districts may be handling the situation differently.’

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