Want to make someone feel less-than? Just leave them out.
All too often this is the experience of LGBTQ youth.
Making kids welcome
For our young people to thrive, and for the betterment of society, all youth must have a place at the table. Being acknowledged and validated is critical to achieving overall mental and emotional well-being.
How can we ensure young people feel acknowledged and validated? We can ask questions. We can listen. We can build support systems from what they are telling us and from what their experiences are showing us. They are showing us that LGBTQ inclusive and supportive programming can change, and even save lives.
Problems at school
National data shows that nearly 60 percent of LGBTQ youth report feeling unsafe at school. Reports also show that young people at schools that had GSA’s or LGBT inclusive curriculum were 50 percent less likely to feel unsafe at school, hear negative remarks and experience harassment or violence.
When young people are told they don’t deserve a home, all too often by their own parents, or they don’t deserve respect by a school bully, then societal mechanisms need to be ready to step in to say otherwise. By reinforcing that these children are important, and capable, we can systemically build pathways to greater self-confidence and self-empowerment. For children who have been told ”no,” for youth who society tells them they’re less-than, being heard is a singular huge step on the path toward healthy living.
The solution is before us. Build it into all our curriculums and trainings, at schools, police departments and other public agencies, and in government.
Ross Schwartz, Communications Director, Hetrick-Martin Institute, [email protected]