A Wake County student and LGBTQ rights advocate was featured in an ad campaign that flashed over Times Square in New York City on Friday.
Katie Regittko, a 16-year-old junior at Crossroads Flex High School, was chosen to take part in a campaign for LGBTQ awareness called “Day of Silence.” On Friday, students took a daylong vow of silence to symbolically represent the silencing of LGBTQ students.
The day of silence has been held since 1996 and is sponsored by the group GLSEN (pronounced “glisten”). This year’s campaign included photos of a group of young advocates holding their fingers to their lips in a shushing gesture, and the words “How will you break the silence?”
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Regittko, who identifies as LGBTQ, prefers the pronoun “they” instead of he or she.
They have been involved with GLSEN since middle school and have served on several of the group’s student advisory boards. Regittko said their parents have always been understanding, and they felt empowered to support others.
“My family was really supportive and I never had to deal with the backlash of coming out,” Regittko said. “That’s a really big privilege.”
GLSEN was founded in 1990 by teachers in Massachusetts who came together to help improve education systems that they felt allowed LGBTQ students to be bullied, discriminated against or fall through the cracks, its website says.
In middle school, Regittko started a Gay-Straight Alliance group and hoped to create a support system for others who may not have parents who are as supportive.
“If there’s a GSA already in the school, kids who identify as LGBTQ in the school will feel comfortable,” Regittko said.
Regittko is active at school and recently sat down with four other LGBTQ students to talk about issues these young people face with then-U.S. Secretary of Education John King.
By shining light on the issues, Regittko said they hope to eliminate the stigma that some LGBTQ teens experience.
“I felt that need to do everything I can to make sure that gets smaller and smaller,” Regittko said. “And people can begin to understand different LGBT issues and build tolerance.”