Recent State Bills Dehumanize LGBTQ+ Students

Trans Rights are Human Rights

Brooklyn Anderson, Staff Writer

After many years of much forward movement in the area of rights and equality for the LGBTQ+ community, 2021 and 2022 so far have been two years of detrimental bills and major setbacks in the fight for widespread acceptance of diversity.

In the United States, it’s estimated that 16% of adolescents identify as something other than heterosexual, as found by a survey conducted by the CDC. In North Dakota, that number is 14%. Another survey, also by the CDC, found that in the US, roughly 1.8% of high school students identify as transgender.

However large that chunk of our population may be, students in the LGBTQ+ community continue to face discrimination. Recently, with bills like the Parental Rights in Education bill in Florida (better known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill), and several like it introduced in states like Ohio and Georgia, it appears that the intent is silencing students and educators who identify as LGBTQ+. While the appearance of the Florida bill is pushed as ending strictly sexual conversation in elementary classrooms and curriculum, the writing is vague, and the claimed goal has already been covered by previous bills passed in the state.

The result of its lack of specificity can already be seen throughout schools in its wake. School should be a place where its students and staff feel comfortable and safe, regardless of who you are or how you identify. We can’t expect students to learn or be successful if their welfare is interrupted. It’s also necessary that we prioritize teaching our children to be accepting, loving, and open-minded people. We can’t do this if we are banning conversation surrounding people who are different from what we know.

Also as of the late, controversy has been found in the area of sports. Whether individuals who identify as transgender should be allowed on sports teams that correspond with the gender they identify as has been debated in several introduced bills across the country, including in North Dakota. While House Bill 1298 was vetoed by Governor Doug Burgum, other bills have made their way through legislation. Twelve US states have laws in place that ban transgender students from participating in sports that correspond with their gender, including Montana, Iowa, and South Dakota.

All of these proposed and passed bills restrict young people, often starting at the early elementary level, from getting involved in their passions, solely based on who they are. It’s unfair to place these kinds of bans on our kids in relation to the things they enjoy participating in with their friends and peers. In doing this, we are actively holding kids and teens back from valuable opportunities and experiences that build life skills, establish relationships, and have a heavy positive impact on mental health, just because of a letter on their birth certificate.

An ongoing and growing concern surrounding the LGBTQ+ community is mental health. Youth who identify as LGBTQ+ are nearly twice as likely as their peers to experience symptoms of mood disorders like depression, as well as a number of anxiety disorders. The rates of suicidal thoughts and actions are also significantly higher for this community of people as a whole. While less than 5% of the US population in general has attempted suicide, that number is 40% in transgender individuals. This is largely brought on by lack of acceptance, bullying, and discrimination.

Whether its classroom discussion related restrictions for the LGBTQ+ community in general or sports and activity bans for transgender students, we are not only looking at poor priorities, but also a gigantic safety concern for our youth belonging to an already targeted group. It’s no surprise we’re seeing a connection between higher rates of mental health concerns and sexual and gender identity, when we are actively trying to suppress their existence in our society. Pretending that the problem isn’t there does not make the problem go away, it makes it bigger.

If you are part of the LGBTQ+ community and are struggling, the hotline number for the Trevor Project is (866)-488-7386. The Trevor Project is an organization focused on crisis intervention for LGBTQ+ youth. It’s open 24/7 and there are both call and text options.