Anti-LGBTQIA+ Legislation, Part 1: It’s Not Rainbows At All
“Nearly 670 anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed since 2018, according to an NBC News analysis of data from the American Civil Liberties Union and LGBTQ advocacy group Freedom for All Americans, with nearly all of the country’s 50 state legislatures all having weighed at least one bill.” - NBC
Before we jump into this 3-part series, it’s important to know that the purpose of this article is not to report recent anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation.
Unfortunately, if my goal was to report, this series would quickly become outdated (and extensively long) because of how often lawmakers police LGBTQIA+ children, their bodies, and their educations. I am not a news reporter, but I am a storyteller and writer who can relay resources in a meaningful way.
Having been an 8th-grade public education teacher who was actively discriminated against for saying that she was in a same-sex marriage, I sincerely empathize with yet cannot come close to understanding how the estimated 1,994,000 LGBTQIA+ youth feel. There is grief, sorrow, fear, and loneliness as lawmakers actively dismiss basic human rights. (And yes, I filed a grievance with the school board, brought in the teachers’ association, and won. Finishing the end of the school year, I transitioned my career into writing. Moving on.)
We can still learn from discriminatory legislation if in a matter of months or years, the legislation in this series no longer holds true. My hope is that this series becomes outdated because these lawmakers realize the harm they continue to cause thousands of children across the country. CTRL + Z [Undo] all discriminatory legislation, please.
The goal of this series is to examine some of these policies and analyze the research on how these policies actively harm LGBTQIA+ students. The goal is to deeply understand the lasting implications of discriminatory laws, regulations, and policies and to then actively work towards growing in advocacy and allyship. A safe, inclusive, and positive learning environment is, undeniably, the most valuable resource a child can have.
Why Safe Adults Matter to LGBTQIA+ Youth
Mental health is a common discussion when it comes to LGBTQIA+ youth. Far too often, people will falsely blame internal struggles or confusion for the mental health crisis among LGBTQIA+ youth. In reality, active discriminaton, familial exclusion, various traumas, bullying, and so on are the leading reasons why LGBTQIA+ youth face mental health crises at much more alarming rates.
Acceptance, understanding, and empathy are extremely powerful forces in positively impacting a child’s life. These statistics from The Trevor Project highlight why safe, accepting adults matter:
(Content warning–Mentions of suicide and discrimination)
- 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. Nearly 1 in 5 transgender and nonbinary youth attempted suicide and LGBTQ youth of color reported higher rates than their white peers.
- LGBTQ youth who found their school to be LGBTQ-affirming reported lower rates of attempting suicide.
- LGBTQ youth who felt high social support from their family reported attempting suicide at less than half the rate of those who felt low or moderate social support.
- LGBTQ youth who live in a community that is accepting of LGBTQ people reported significantly lower rates of attempting suicide than those who do not.
- 73% of LGBTQ youth reported that they have experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity at least once in their lifetime.
- 60% of LGBTQ youth who wanted mental health care in the past year were not able to get it.
- Fewer than 1 in 3 transgender and nonbinary youth found their home to be gender-affirming.
When homes are not safe spaces for students, schools take that role. Schools should be nurturing, welcoming, and inspiring spaces for children to simply exist and learn.
Examples of Recent Anti-LGBTQIA+ Legislation
When I speak with my well-meaning, straight, cis-gendered friends about active LGBTQIA+ discrimination, many of them are in disbelief. Yes, they read the most common headlines, but they’re often shocked at the depth and lengths that go into excluding and regulating LGBTQIA+ people in schools and the workplace.
At first glance, it’s easy to recognize the appearance of social acceptance towards LGBTQIA+ individuals. There are Pride collections at every large retail store. More people feel comfortable coming out each day. It’s easy to recollect monumental victories such as Obergefell Vs. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage across all 50 states on a federal level. (On a state level, however, 13 states have not legalized same-sex marriage.) Continuing, the Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that LGBTQIA+ individuals are protected against discrimination under Title IX. Especially in June of 2020, this ruling was a huge marker for celebration.
The difficult part of achieving equity and justice is looking at how far we have to go while admitting how far backward we’re going. With glaring contradiction to the Supreme Court ruling, as of March, nearly 240 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills have been filed in 2022. With most of these bills targeting trans people, LGBTQIA+ discrimination is a serious threat to the longevity, health, and psychological well-being of the community.
Sure, these Supreme Court rulings made a positive change, but when we deeply look at recent LGBTQIA+ legislation, it’s a much darker story. In actuality, NBC reports that “the annual number of anti-LGBTQ bills to have been filed has skyrocketed over the past several years, from 41 in 2018 to 238 in less than three months of this year.” Personally, the message is clear: The more space that queer folx occupy, the more policymakers feel the need to stop them.
Below you will find a short list of continually growing legislation, the legislation status, and links for related reading.
Idaho passed a bill that charges any doctor who provides gender affirming healthcare with a felony.
- Human Rights Campaign explains that a large survey by Lambda Legal shows a vast majority of transgender people experience discrimination in healthcare.
- There are an estimated 700 transgender youth in the state of Idaho and 12,000 LGBTQIA+ youth in Idaho.
Arizona Governor, Doug Ducey, signed a bill that prohibits transgender youth from recieving gender affirming healthcare until the age of 18.
- A large portion of his letter explains that he made his decision to prohibit transgender students from participating ‘unfairly’ in school sports. According to his reasoning, if they haven’t transitioned, then they can’t compete on a team that matches their gender identity.
- He explains that transgender youth would still be allowed to participate in community or outside-of-school leagues.
- For many families, school athletics are primary resources for social and emotional growth, healthy movement, teamwork, and a sense of belonging.
Tennessee passed, upon first consideration, a bill that says teachers or other school personnel are not required “to refer to a student using the student’s preferred pronoun if the pronoun does not align with the student’s biological sex.”
- Oftentimes, schools are the safest space for LGBTQIA+ children who don’t have accepting home lives.
- When teachers are allowed to blatantly disregard a child’s name and pronouns, it sends a very clear message of intolerance.
Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, signed what is known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
- According to NPR, “Public school teachers in Florida are banned from holding classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity.”
- Though the law specifically mandates that conversations about LGBTQIA+ tolerance will be prohibited in kindergarten through grade 3, or “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards."
- DeSantis says parents can sue the school district if they feel the law was violated because, in his words, “It's not something that's appropriate for any place, but especially not in Florida."
Kentucky introduced a bill that “ensures that no public school or public charter school offers any classroom instruction or discussion that incorporates designated concepts related to race, sex, and religion.”
- If a teacher were to violate this proposed legislation they would be subject to disciplinary action.
- If they continue to discuss concepts related to race, sex, and religion, they will face a penalty of $5,000 per day as long as the violation persists.
As previously mentioned, these are a small handful of hundreds of anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation in 2022.
Closing Thoughts: On The Issues at Large, On Resources for LGBTQIA+ Montessorians, and On Montessori
There is a heartbreaking duality at play. Lawmakers continue to create legislation that excludes, controls, and dehumanizes LGBTQIA+ youth, and at the same time, research shows that LGBTQIA+ youth who have affirming schools face lower rates of attempting suicide. As Dr. Jonah DeChants (he/him), a research scientist with The Trevor Project explains, “Recent political attacks aimed at transgender and nonbinary youth have not only threatened their access to health care, support systems, and affirming spaces at school, they’ve also negatively impacted their mental health.” The data is clear, LGBTQIA+ students need educators who listen, understand, and advocate.
For the Montessorians who are interested in unlearning their implicit biases by diving into reflections and larger conversations, AMS Connect and AMS Affinity Groups provide excellent professional (and personal) development opportunities. Understanding the Montessori mandate to “engage in a systematic study of self,” AMS offers an Anti-Bias, Antiracist (ABAR) Certificate Program. The program “provides a thorough examination of ABAR education to support Montessori schools and classrooms in creating just and equitable spaces for all.”
Montessori education is successful because the teacher’s role is to create a safe learning environment. Educators who continually learn about their students' needs and cultures while unlearning their own implicit biases do their students a huge favor. As Dr. Brené Brown (she/her) teaches us, “Empathy is a way to connect to the emotion another person is experiencing; it doesn’t require that we have experienced the same situation they are going through.”
When educators meet students with empathy, or a genuine curiosity with the sole purpose of meeting students where they’re at, educators have the power to change a child’s world.
Keep a look out for the second of this three part series– Anti-LGBTQIA+ Legislation: Impacting how we teach and learn about inclusion and diversity in schools.
About the Author
Kat St.Pierre (she/her) is a former 8th grade English teacher turned freelance content/copywriter. Passionate about being kind to others, the planet, and herself, she loves using her voice to amplify important conversations and educate with empathy. Contact her at email@example.com.
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The opinions expressed in Montessori Life are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of AMS.