Last week LGBTQ advocates and LGBTQ youth won a long fought battle for validity and accountability when the Michigan State Board of Education voted 6-2 to approve its Guidance on Safe and Supportive Learning Environments for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Students. The Guidance encourages equal access to facilities for LGBTQ students, lists statistics on the state of learning for LGBTQ youth as they are today, asks for LGBTQ cultural competency in our schools, and suggests ways to implement policies that would address the disproportionate bullying LGBTQ kids encounter.
The most controversial element of the document is that it dares to seek protections and equality for transgender students, who are the clear targets for the vilest expressions of anti-LGBTQ hate speech and violence. In short, the guidelines could be a game changer…IF they are taken to heart and turned into action – a step that is only suggested by the document and still not required of our schools. It is now on the rest of us to ask our schools to heed the wisdom of the Michigan State Board of Education. Implementing these guidelines in our schools is our next charge.
It would be nice if we could claim that the danger to our LGBTQ youth starts and ends at the doors to our schools, yet some of the most aggressive bullying of LGBTQ kids happens in the home, and that bullying far too often stops only when the child is kicked out of that home at too young an age to adequately care for themselves. Service providers estimate that 20-40% of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LG- BTQ, while only 7-10% of the general youth population do. Recent studies have found that a strong determining factor of whether a child will grow up resilient and in good mental health is their parents’ love and support for their identity. We cannot afford to let the fear and ignorance we cling to as adults continue to put out kids at risk.
I repeat, regardless of where our child is, at school, at home, or in a sports arena, one of the easiest and most effective ways to ensure our children grow up happy, healthy, and ready to take on the world is to believe them when they tell us who they are and to accept and love them unconditionally. It is, quite literally, the least we can do for our LGBTQ kids.
The hard truth is that the trendy slogan of recent years that “It gets better” for our LGBTQ youth can only prove true if we are all a part of the solution. Asking our kids to just “power through” their suffering, without our active support, is cruel and it isn’t working. If we aren’t part of the solution…you know the rest.
In solidarity and love,
Emily Dievendorf, Interim President
Lansing Association for Human Rights (LAHR)
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