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Last week, the GLSEN Shop officially launched, with every purchase funding GLSEN’s work with students, educators, and policymakers to improve school climates for all students. One of the lines featured in the Shop is GLSEN Respect, which amplifies our core message of “respect for all.”

We recently spoke with TJ Mitchell, a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council (NSC) and the brand ambassador for the Respect line, about what respect means to him.

GLSEN: Hi TJ! First, can you tell me about your experience in GLSEN’s National Student Council? 

TJ: It’s been remarkable! All of us on the NSC came from different places and backgrounds. We were all strangers to each other at the beginning, but in no time, we became a strong family. We have each other’s backs no matter what; we respect each other.

GLSEN: What does respect mean to you?

TJ: To me, respect means that people see me as a human, not a gay human. People who respect me put aside their prejudices and the insensitive comments they make. They learn who I am as a person.

To respect someone means to make them feel cared for, like they belong in this world – being respected makes you feel good inside.

GLSEN: And what does respect look like at school?

TJ: A respectful school is one where you can walk through the front doors and feel a sense of safety, peace, and affirmation. It’s a school you can actually enjoy.

GLSEN: What was it like to be at the GLSEN Respect Awards — Los Angeles?

TJ: Overall, it was a dream. It felt so good to see so many supporters who all believe in this cause. And meeting Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel was truly a blessing – down-to-earth celebrities who wanted to learn about my life and experiences, who respected me for me.

GLSEN: How does it feel to wear GLSEN’s Respect line?

TJ: Wearing the Respect line feels like, I am proud to be who I am, and what I’m standing for has power. Especially when I see other people wearing it too, I know we are all in this together.