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Student Health & Safety: LGBTQ+ Identities

Updated: Nov 27, 2022


"Equality" by LLESD student, Anna A. "It doesn't matter what race you are, or your sexual orientation, or your economic status; everyone should be treated equally. Our society needs to accept that each and every person has differences, and that we should celebrate diversity and acknowledge that despite those differences we are all equal." Used with permission.

 

This is personal.

Since they were little, my kids (now ages 13 and 17) have noticed and challenged my biases about gender and love. I once asked my son whether he had a crush on any girls at school; "Mom!" both kids yelled, "You can't assume a boy will like girls!" When it came to purchasing a gift for a toddler friend, they delighted in defying gender norms by picking out the perfect baby doll for the little guy to cuddle, change the diapers of, and love. In another instance, while shopping in a department store, my daughter pointed out that none of the wedding cake toppers featured same-sex couples (or mixed-race couples). She was affronted by the lack of representation.


These days, my kids have frequent (and very lively) discussions about LGBTQ+ issues, like the insensitivity of their peers who use the put-down, "That's so gay!" to describe something negatively. They roll their eyes when they must explain to me or my husband -- again -- the differences between "aromantic" and "asexual" identities. (Need some help with LGBTQ+ vocabulary? Check out this glossary.) My kids' passion about these issues (not to mention the opportunity to spend time with their nonbinary and transgender friends, who are some of the kindest, most confident, and empathetic people I know) has led me to care deeply about the inclusion, safety, and well-being of LGBTQ+ people as well.


LGBTQ+ people are here to stay.

As the world becomes a safer place for LGBTQ+ people, the percentage of youth who identify as gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or another LGBTQ+ identity continues to grow.

21% of Gen Z identifies as LGBT according to the latest Gallup Poll

[Note: This percentage is likely higher: (1) the poll excluded youth born between 2003 and 2012 since they are net yet legal adults, and (2) members of Gen Z who have turned 18 since 2017 are twice as likely as older members of their generation to identify as LGBT.]


"Hatred and Love" by LLESD student, Yuna L.

"In some parts of the world, the idea of LGBTQ people is horrendous, despicable, or downright a death-sentence...[but] being part of the LGBTQ community is not awful, it’s not selfish or fake or any false idea that a person or a group might spread. It’s...being who we are, and being comfortable with our identity." Used with permission.

 

Our LGBTQ+ youth are at risk.

Without affirming adults in their lives, LGBTQ+ youth can feel isolated, scared and ashamed. For example, in a recent survey of over 27,000 transgender adults, 60% of respondents began to feel their gender was different from their assigned gender by age 10, but only 5% started to tell others.


Negative messages about gender not only affect LGBTQ+ youth, they limit all children from freely exploring what they can like, do, wear, and achieve in their lives.


In the most recent CA Healthy Kids Survey of almost 20,000 San Mateo County middle- and high-school students, LGBT youth were:

  • Up to 2x as likely to have considered suicide.

  • About 30 percentage points more likely to experience harassment and bullying at school.

  • 2x to 3x more likely to smoke cigarettes, binge drink, and/or to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol at school.

"Moral Equality" by LLESD student, Isabelle H.

"I will change the world by going from our homophobic, racist, bullying society to a world where there is LGBTQ+ rights, integration, and inclusivity....Unlike climate change or poverty, these moral problems can be fixed by just being kind and respectful to each other." Used with permission.

 

Affirmation is Protective.

In fact, teens who believe their parents strongly support their gender identity and expression are 93% less likely to attempt suicide than those without strong parental support. Family reassurance is not only a predictor of self-esteem and good health, it also protects against depression and substance abuse.

Something as simple as using a young person's chosen pronouns cuts suicide rates in half for transgender and nonbinary youth. Our choice of wording is, literally, a life-or-death decision.

"Don't be Scared to Show Pride" by LLESD student, Eva S.

"I wanted to do this piece in color because it shows how open the lqbtqia+ community is. How all the colors have different unique meanings. The drips and smudge effect shows how no matter what other people think, there will always be others to support you even if it’s clear or not." Used with permission.

 

Knowledge is power.

Parents, educators and caregivers who wish to expand their knowledge of LGBTQ+ topics and better support the youth in their community have a lot of resources to draw on, and it's never too early to start. Below are just a few I've found helpful in my journey.


LGBTQ+ Online Resources for Parents, Caregivers, and Educators of K-12 Students


Join me for a learning opportunity.

The San Mateo County Pride Center offers an excellent introductory training on SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity/Expression) that covers basic LGBTQ+ terminology and touches on extended topics like gender-neutral language, pronouns, and cultural humility. The trainers welcome people with all levels of familiarity with LGBTQ+ topics into this inclusive learning space.


If you're interested in joining me for a virtual training, please click the button below. If there's enough interest, I will personally arrange and cover the expenses for a virtual training.



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