As Pride month begins in 2023, we are faced with so many issues in the LGBTQ+ community both in politics and in the media. As was pointed out in an article I read this week, it is important to remember that Pride is still a riot.
Even though LGBTQ+ rights have come a long way since the 1969 Stonewall riots, there is still a lot of work to be done for equality in society.
According to the ACLU, for the 2023 Legislative Session,
The ACLU is tracking 491 anti-LGBTQ bills in the U.S.
Sadly, many of these bills focus on transgender school children, and their rights to self-expression in school. Schools have recently been leading the way on ensuring that there is equality for transgender students by calling them by their names and pronouns of choice. However, there has been a backlash against this.
Parent organizations are calling for forced-outing of trans and other LGBTQ+ students by schools to their parents. This means, if a student comes out at school to a teacher or counselor, they will be forced to tell the parents. Since many students face difficulties coming out at home, this can be especially problematic.
Many parents aren't accepting of their LGBTQ+ children's identities. This is an issue that can lead to increased rates of teen suicide and homelessness in this community. Some kids and teens are kicked out by their families when they find out that they are LGBTQ+. Others are put into conversion therapy and have their identities invalidated.
It is important that, as parents, we be as accepting as possible of our children's identities, so that they will feel safe at home. When we allow kids to be who they are, it leads to better mental health outcomes for LGBTQ+ youth. However, many parents don't feel this way. That is why rights in schools are so important. School can give many of these youth a safe space to be themselves.
When these rights come under attack, we are harming a very vulnerable population of school children. Trying to police kids' bodies can be so damaging to their self-image and mental health, especially at a young age.
According to Everyday Health,
In their 2021 survey of more than 34,700 teens and young adults from across the United States, 42 percent of teens and young adults ages 13 to 24 who identified with a sexual orientation other than straight/heterosexual or a gender identity other than cisgender said that they had considered suicide in the past year.
Sixty-two percent reported symptoms of depression, and 72 percent reported symptoms of anxiety. And 80 percent reported that COVID-19 had made their living situation more stressful; only 1 in 3 reported that their home was LGBTQ-affirming.
These are alarming statistics, and point to more work needing to be done to promote acceptance for LGBTQ+ youth in our society. There is still homophobia and transphobia, and when it is a parent that feels this way, it can be damaging and harmful to a child.
Some ways that families can express support for their LGBTQ+ child, according to Youth Gov, are:
talking openly with youth about their LGBTQ+ identity in an affirming manner
communicating that their young person can have a happy future as an LGBTQ+ adult
welcoming the youth’s LGBTQ+ friends and supporting their involvement in LGBTQ+ youth groups
working to ensure that other family members respect the young person
talking with clergy and help their faith community support LGBTQ+ individuals
responding positively to the youth’s gender expression including hairstyle, dress, and appearance
advocating for youth if they are mistreated because of their identity
When you support your LGBTQ+ child through coming out and beyond, it can make a huge difference in their life and on their mental health. Family plays a vital role in helping ensure the safety and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth.
As the parent of an LGBTQ+ adult, I have seen how many families aren't accepting when their child comes out. It is sad to see that this is still the case in 2023. That is why creating safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth in schools is so vital. Having supportive adults in their lives, even if it is not a parent, can make a big difference in youth feeling safe and validated.
The government attempting to take away these rights in schools is attacking one of our most vulnerable populations of children. It is the school's job to keep our children safe, and these laws undermine their ability to do so.
If parents aren't doing their job in raising their children in a loving and accepting way, there needs to be more recourse in society to help these children to be able to thrive, instead of becoming homeless, mentally ill, or succumbing to suicide as their only options.
Speaking up against these hateful and unjust laws effecting our school children is something that we can all do. We can sign petitions in favor of stopping these laws, or work with organizations like the ACLU to fight against them. We can also make a difference with our votes, by voting for candidates who favor inclusivity.
It is wrong for children to have to live in fear at home and in school. More work needs to be done to ensure that this cruelty against LGBTQ+ youth is ended as quickly as possible. We don't need another generation of children being traumatized just for wanting to be themselves.
As parents, we can create safe spaces in our homes, not just for our own children, but for their friends as well. We can be supportive adults in their lives who affirm their identities and treat them with dignity. Having someone in their life who is inclusive can make a huge difference.
So this Pride, do what you can to raise awareness of these issues, and to help create a more accepting society for all our kids!