In a recent national survey of more than 40,000 LGBTQ youths ages 13–24, 40 percent said they seriously considered attempting suicide in the past 12 months.
Even more frightening, more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth said they had seriously contemplated taking their own lives.
The results are shocking, but transgender, gender nonconforming, and non-binary (TGNCNB) students are routinely misgendered and denied accommodations based on their gender identity in educational settings.
While some large New York school districts have policies to protect these young people, most do not.
That’s why NYSUT’s LGBTQ Committee and political activists engaged with Equality New York to push the Transgender and Non-Binary Anti-Discrimination Requirements in Schools bill (S369/ A840), which would ensure all TGNCNB students in K–12 education settings are safer.
“This institutional bias against transgender, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary students is harmful,” said NYSUT Secretary- Treasurer J. Philippe Abraham, who leads the union’s LGBTQ Committee.
The NYSUT LGBTQ Committee is sponsoring a Many Threads, One Fabric event June 17 to help members learn “How to Support Our LGBTQ and Allied Students.”
Learn more and register at nysut.org/pride2021.
“The survey sounds the alarm that something must be done as soon as possible,” he said. “This is not about who uses what lavatories; this is about saving lives.”
The bill would require boards of education of every school district to establish policies and procedures regarding the treatment of transgender or gender non-conforming students.
The 2020 survey was conducted by The Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization focused on suicide prevention among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. Among other things, it showed that 61 percent of transgender and nonbinary youth reported being prevented or discouraged from using bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. Overall, many respondents described being afraid to express their identities at school and reported bullying from peers and a lack of support from adults.
The bill makes the case that “affirming” schools not only help these students in their academics and social integration, but also help keep them safe by decreasing selfharm behaviors. Without affirmative support, youth are at higher risk.
For example, the survey quantified this difference: Transgender and nonbinary youth who reported having pronouns respected by most people in their lives attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected.
“NYSUT members in upstate locals, as well as New York City and downstate, have been educating their communities on this issue for years,” said President Andy Pallotta. “It’s so important to work with the LGBTQ community on this legislation.”