While support for LGBTQ+ equality is at an all-time high, LGBTQ+ people are simultaneously facing an avalanche of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. Over 75 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have become law in the last year and include banning transgender youth from participating in sports, censoring LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum, banning books on LGBTQ+ youth and families, and denying transgender and non-binary youth medically necessary and age appropriate gender-affirming care. It is not an exaggeration to say that LGBTQ+ people and specifically LGBTQ+ youth are facing a national state of emergency.
Given this moment, it is imperative that LGBTQ+ allies speak loudly and boldly in the face of increased attacks on our community. LGBTQ+ students are heading back to school fearful and uncertain that they will be supported. It is the job of all educators to ensure ALL students feel valued and can be their authentic selves so that students can flourish both academically as well as socially and emotionally.
In order for LGBTQ+ students to thrive and flourish we have to understand what they are dealing with. In 2022, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) partnered with the University of Connecticut and conducted a survey of LGBTQ+ youth ages 13-18. Nearly 13,000 LGBTQ+ young people responded and shared their experiences figuring out who they were, coming out to family and navigating home dynamics, surviving an often hostile school environment, and struggling with their mental health and hope for the future (click here to read the full report). Here are three key findings and what you can do as educators and school staff to support LGBTQ+ students heading back to school in this current moment:
The 2023-24 school year may be particularly challenging for LGBTQ+ students as they head back to the classroom with the avalanche of new anti-LGBTQ+ laws on the books. Even if you are in a state that has inclusive laws, the debate about the existence of LGBTQ+ youth and particularly transgender youth is having an impact on the mental health and well-being of all LGBTQ+ young people. Now is the time to speak up and speak out. Now is the time to be strong allies in support of ALL students. Now is the time to ensure LGBTQ+ students in your school and community don’t simply survive, but THRIVE.
Over the course of the last 15 years, HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools has become the most comprehensive, bias-based bullying prevention program in the nation to provide LGBTQ+ and gender inclusive professional development training, lesson plans, booklists and resources specifically designed for Pre K - 12 educators and youth-serving professionals. For more information, visit welcomingschools.org.