Do away with homophobia and transphobia, especially against youth


Zimo Xie

ARE ALL WELCOME? Trans visibility, safety, and belonging need to be embraced by everyone.

CW: statistics about bullying, harassment, suicide and substance use.

If there was a benefit to distance learning, it might be that being online during the pandemic allowed people worldwide to connect and learn more about different communities. One community that has been around for many years that has been gaining more support from not only adults but also the younger generation is the LGBTQ+ community. With the rise of support for the community also came prejudice and disapproval of the community, like homophobia and transphobia.

Homophobia and transphobia against youth have been an issue for years, but recently, these issues have been brought into the spotlight. LGBTQ+ children are more likely to be harassed at school, where they spend most of their day socializing and learning. In environments full of bullying and hatred towards a part of their identity, children and teens will walk into school fearing their identity being invalidated more often than actually being able to be in a state of mind that allows them to think clearly and learn.

In 2022, over 20 states introduced “don’t say gay” laws, and even before the laws were introduced, there were states south of America, such as Florida and Alabama, where different versions of this legislation were already implemented. The “don’t say gay” law’s purpose is to prohibit open discussion in classrooms about gender identity and sexual orientation. Kids learn as they grow, not only about the world but about themselves as well. If there are rules put in place so that it’s forbidden to understand who they are as a person fully, then schools are not doing a good job of preparing their students for the future.

In Florida, for example, the “don’t say gay” law provides: “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

This basically means that any discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity from K-3rd grade is prohibited. Even beyond grade 3, talks about these topics are restricted to what is considered appropriate by the state.

Homophobic laws, like this, prevent kids from learning more about this large community of people they might even be a part of. The children may never even get a chance to think about their own identity further than what is allowed. Even if they realize they are LGBTQ+, they will likely feel ashamed of it or scared of a part of themselves because of the people around them trying to dance around the topic of the community.

Not only are anything that promotes LGBTQ material banned from schools in states with DSG laws, but LGBTQ+ books are also being banned, and teachers who violate the DSG laws will lose their teaching license. However, in these states, heteronormativity and cisnormativity still exist. So it’s not that people won’t talk about sexual orientation and gender identity in these states. They speak of only heterosexual and cisgender relationships with children in an attempt to “shield” them from the LGBTQ+ community so they don’t turn gay.

No one is ‘turning gay’, they’re only realizing who they are as a person.

This idea of children turning gay once they hear about the LGBTQ+ community comes from people seeing kids who learn about sexual orientation and gender identity start to try to figure out their own identity. It’s not only in states where DSG laws exist that people think their children are going to turn gay. Many people who don’t realize that learning about something isn’t going to make anyone into that thing aren’t really thinking. No one turns gay; they’re only realizing who they are as a person.

Kids apart of the LGBTQ+ community also have a higher chance of facing mental health issues, turning to substance abuse, and being bullied than cisgender heterosexual kids. This isn’t because not being heterosexual or cisgender all of a sudden makes people have mental health issues or turn to drugs, but because these children often face discrimination, rejection, and violence.

According to a Trevor project survey of 34,000 LGBTQ+ kids in 2022, 73% reported that they felt symptoms of anxiety, and 58% reported that they felt symptoms of depression. For transgender youth, 82% in 2022 have considered suicide due to a lack of support in their day-to-day life, and 40% have attempted it.

This is the result of homophobia and transphobia. Kids wondering if they’re just born wrong, teens hoping to end their lives so they don’t have to feel unwelcomed anymore.

With all this said, simply bashing homophobic and transphobic people isn’t going to get us anywhere. We need to educate people fully so they understand these issues that children and even adults face. Let them know the other side of the story.

If there’s someone you know that is struggling, don’t just turn a blind eye to it. Find a way to lend a hand, whether just talking to them about their day or giving them resources to turn to and get help. Let’s support each other.