By Jillian Amodio
June is LGBTQ Pride month. Why June? Pride month is held annually every June to commemorate what many consider to be a pivotal turning point for LGBTQ rights, the Stonewall Riots. The Stonewall Riots occurred on June 28, 1969. Fed up with the treatment and discrimination of the LGBTQ community, supporters and community members began to fight back. The Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point for the United States Gay Liberation Movement.
Health issues facing LGBTQ youth
It’s important that we recognize that although LGBTQ rights have been greatly enhanced over the years, there is still much work to be done. LGBTQ youth often face discrimination and increased risk of mental health struggles. According to a study cited by the CDC, lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide as their heterosexual peers. Risk factors for this increase can be linked to a variety of causes including being gay or bisexual in a hostile or unaccepting environment and the negative impact that this has on the mental health of the individual.
In literature provided by the Human Rights Campaign, youth identifying as transgender are four times as likely to experience depression than their heterosexual peers. Stigma and discrimination of members of the LGBTQ youth community cause them to be more at risk of facing struggles with their mental health. LGBTQ youth who face rejection by their families and peers are also 8.4 times as likely to attempt suicide as those who do not experience rejection.
Building a support system
Teaching acceptance and awareness is essential in protecting our friends, family,
neighbors, and community members who identify as LGBTQ. A strong support system and allyship including safe schools, proper pronoun use, and anti discrimination efforts can protect LGBTQ youth from isolation, unwarranted shame, depression and suicidality.
For some, the usage of pronouns and some of the terminology used when discussing the LGBTQ population can seem a bit confusing. The first thing to realize is that confusion is nothing to feel shame about. If you don’t know something, or you find something confusing just ask! You may have even noticed that many people are adding pronouns such as she/her, they/them, or he/him in their email signatures. When we make this practice commonplace it becomes normalized to ask people questions like “what are your preferred pronouns?”
AACPS guidelines and policy
AACPS is paving the way towards advocating for widespread policy that will further enhance the rights of LGBTQ students. Currently AACPS has guidelines in place titled “Students and Gender Identity: Guidelines for Support.” They state “This guide provides information and guidance to students, parents, and school staff on the rights, responsibilities, and best educational practices with regard to gender identity and student support in Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS). These guidelines should be interpreted consistent with the goal of fostering learning environments that honor, respect, and accept the diversity of the student body. The intent of the guidelines is to help ensure that students are not stigmatized, maintain the privacy of students, and foster cultural competence and professional development for school staff.”
Further steps to ensure an environment of understanding and acceptance have been made when the board policy committee desired to turn guidelines into LGBTQ policy for the county. Ryan Voegtlin, director of student services was present at the two meetings regarding the policy proposal that were open to the public. As a result of the hearings, a draft policy was created called Safe and Inclusive Environments for
LGBTQ+ students. A final decision is expected sometime in July or August. For those who wish to comment on this proposed policy, Voegtlin states that you should visit the board of education website and submit your public comment.
Voetglin also says “I want students to know that they can reach out to their school counselor, in terms of supporting their mental health, finding resources, and navigating anything they are experiencing. We want to do everything we can
to help them be the most successful they can be.” Regarding student confidentiality, Voegtlin says that if students come out to counselors, counselors are bound by confidentiality and will not immediately tell the parents if the students do not wish them to be informed. If a student comes out as transgender and needs accommodations such as preferred pronoun use and bathroom privileges, the schools will work on a plan and work with the student towards achieving the goals and informing those who need to know in their support systems. If a student needs a preferred name formally input in the computer system or needs student records
changed, then parents do need to be involved in that process. However, staff will not inform the parents of a child’s coming out until the child expresses that they are ready.
How to be an ally
Ally is a verb, an action word! Being an ally means to actively be involved in dismantling oppression and discrimination against marginalized populations.
Some simple ways to be an ally include being a good listener. Listen without judgement. Listen to the needs and preferences of others. Keep an open mind and be willing to learn about different lifestyles, choices, expressions, and belief systems. Understand that we all have implicit bias. We may not even be aware of these biases, but once we recognize them we can make conscious choices to be inclusive and dismantle our own misconceptions. Speak up when you see instances of prejudice, don’t be complicit in silence. And lastly, treat everyone you meet with dignity and respect.
Terms to know
Asexual: A person who is not attracted to any person regardless of gender identity.
Bisexual: A person who is attracted to men and women.
Cisgender: Those whose experiences of their own gender agree with the sex they were assigned at birth.
Gay: Usually used to refer to a man who is attracted to another man, but can also be used to describe a person who is attracted to someone of the same sex.
Gender: The feelings, behaviors and attitudes that each culture attributes to a person’s biological sex. Ex. girls wear pink and play with dolls; Boys wear blue and play with trucks.
Gender expression: How someone shows his or her gender to the others. I.e., what clothes you wear; if you wear makeup or not.
Gender identity: The gender a person feels they are inside. Only the individual can say what their gender identity is. Children generally know their gender identity by age 5.
Gender nonconforming: A person who identifies as both genders, either gender or
somewhere along the gender continuum.
Lesbian: A woman who is attracted to another woman.
Pansexual: A person who is attracted to all people regardless of gender identity.
Sex assigned at birth: Usually assigned by a medical provider based on biological anatomy present at birth, i.e., male, female, or intersex (a term used to describe a variety of medical conditions where a person is born with sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the typical definitions of female or male).
Transgender: A person whose gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
It Gets Better
Relatable stories that let others know they are not alone. They also host online events, feature uplifting speakers, and talk about safety, current issues, and more.
The Trevor Project
Counselors are available by text, online chat, or phone for any person of the community experiencing a crisis.
Offering Resources and advocacy for LGBTQ.
Safe space kits for classrooms. The kit offers tips to advocate for change, including Safe Space stickers and posters to be placed in classrooms, offices, and businesses.
This local chapter offers support groups and meetings, outreach and community participation and events, communication efforts, as well as education and advocacy.
Celebrates the LGBTQ+ community. They actively engage with local residents, businesses and groups to promote unity and embracing diversity in Annapolis.
Revealing Colors: Julie Larkins
Local mom and LGBTQ advocate offers transition coachingthat is centered on self worth and healing the spiritual self for trans kids and their parents to help them navigate finding resources.
Gender and Sexuality Alliance Programs
Many local middle and high schools have a GSA club. It is a student-run organizations that is a safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth and strive to achieve social change related to racial, gender, and educational justice.
Love, acceptance, compassion, and curiosity can go a long way in educating ourselves and our youth about what it means to be authentically ourselves and how to be an ally to those in need of camaraderie and support.
Wishing peace, love, and acceptance to all members of our community and beyond.
Be Proud, Be Authentic, Be Bold, Be You!