By Lee Shiffer ’23
The modern education system has many flaws, but in recent efforts to create a safe, comfortable environment for ‘all’ students, members of the LGBTQ+ community are left behind.
As the topic of transgender students using the bathroom of their choice is highly debated, many schools still have not accepted the idea that works in favor of trans students. Many students, including myself, have to use separate bathrooms halfway across the school.
Locker rooms are another area of debate. While safety is the cited concern that prohibits school administrators from giving transgender students the right to use the locker room of their choice, the students who create the unsafe environment are never addressed – if a school believes that a student may pose a threat to someone, it should be handled, not put on the victim.
These topics will always have backlash from peers and parents. Many claim they are uncomfortable around LGBTQ+ peers, however, there is a clear difference in the terms ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘unsafe’. In some situations, comfort must be compromised, and if bathrooms/locker rooms are designed for privacy, there is no reason for cishet (cisgender and heterosexual) students to feel as if an LGBTQ+ peer is making them unsafe.
Among our struggles, we also deal with a daily battle against bullying and harassment. The number of LGBTQ+ students who have reported bullying is nearly double the amount of cishet peers. Bullying can include being misgendered, deadnamed, which is the term given to the use of a trans person’s birth name, outed, called slurs, etc. Over ⅓ of us have been seriously bullied. In my school alone, many of my LGBTQ+ peers face the same struggles. When issues like this fly under the radar, the school environment becomes unsafe, uncomfortable, and unwelcoming.
These issues take a major toll on our mental health. For LGBTQ+ teens, finding healthcare is extremely difficult. Some healthcare workers are uneducated on how to properly care for us. We are at a much higher risk for suicide, depression, self-harm, addiction, and STI’s. More than 16% of LGBTQ+ people reported sexual dating violence. We are also twice as likely to use illegal drugs compared to cishet teens. Over 47% of us have seriously considered suicide. This is all exacerbated by inadequate healthcare opportunities.
There are small things anyone can do to make school a safe, comfortable environment for us. You can start by asking for preferred names and pronouns, correcting staff and peers when they misgender or deadname a student, reach out to LGBTQ+ peers and check in on them – altogether, we can make school a much better place.