According to the Trevor Project's 2020 LGBTQ+ Youth Mental Health Survey, the largest of its kind, more than 50% of transgender and non-binary youth have seriously considered attempting suicide within the past year, over 60% have engaged in self-harm within the past year, and over 75% have experienced symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder within the past two weeks. When it comes to protective factors, studies show that LGBTQ+ youth who attend schools with a Gender & Sexuality Alliance (GSA) and anti-bullying policies, who can use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity, and who have their chosen name and pronouns respected report better mental health outcomes (up to 50% decrease in suicidal ideation). These findings are consistent with the abundant social science research out there that substantiates the need to create and adopt policy guidelines like the ones we are presented with today--ones that celebrate gender diversity instead of stifling it.
In my work with transgender and non-binary youth, I often hear accounts of experiences with hostile teachers, administrators, and counselors. It infuriates and saddens me that, instead of affirming the identities of an already marginalized and vulnerable group, many adults in our education system are fighting for the right to discriminate against them. The bullies in our kids' lives sometimes turn out to be the very adults who are supposed to be educating, guiding, and protecting them. We must have policies in place that hold all school districts accountable to the same standards of equity and inclusion so that all young people can get an education while being their authentic selves. This will also help ensure that rural youth can enjoy the same protections and supportive environments as urban youth.
These guidelines will not only actively foster inclusive environments for transgender and non-binary students, but they will also provide binary, cisgender people (adults and youth alike) with meaningful opportunities to examine and discuss their own privileges related to gender identity and expression. I strongly support these guidelines as a non-profit professional who works with youth at an LGBTQ+ center in Virginia, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, as an academic with a graduate degree in gender and sexuality, and as an activist who has fought and organized for LGBTQ+ liberation for the past two decades.