Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Mia Cooper | Staff Writer |

Most of us could easily count on both hands the gender roles and identifications that have been forced upon us since we can consciously remember. The idea of “gender identity” was never explained to me as a child, nor was it to most of my peers. We were assigned the role of female or male at birth, and were given basically a laundry list of boxes to check to ensure we were “playing our part” correctly. 

In recent years, the discussion of gender identity has raised questions about the roles we assume in society, allowing people to discover what pieces of themselves are reflected in the roles we assign to gender. 

As harmful legislation demonizes the discussion of gender identity and sexuality, I cannot help but feel a mix of anger and utter confusion. It has been shown in studies done by the CDC that supporting youth’s gender identity by using their preferred names and pronouns has prevented mental health crises. This legislation has now become not only a human rights issue, but a health equity one as well. 

The Parental Rights in Education Bill, recently passed in Florida, states that classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade three or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally. To understand the harm that this bill in Florida along with other LGBTQIA+ discriminatory legslation is causing, it is important to look at the multide of areas that it effects. 

First off, sexual orientation is as our society pushes heteronormativity. A straight relationship is an expression of sexuality, it is constantly and exemplified to children through media. Think about Disney movies, children’s books, or the common portrayal of the stereotypical family life. This is typically shown as male and female straight relationships without mentions of the queer community, Is this law really meaning to stop all discussions of sexuality, or just queer relationships that don’t fit Florida’s political and religious agenda? 

Because of the prevalence of heteronormativity in the media and children being easily impressionable, students may feel that they or their families are less than if they identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. 

This makes it harder for students to openly express their family life when they are at school, causing them to feel isolated and stigmatized since their family is seen as different. Since there are no classroom instructions on how to address discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community. Is it really fair to let teachers decide what child’s family is worthy of discussion? 

Through stigma and discrimination, students with LGBTQ+ family members may begin to feel what is called minority stress. 

“Minority stress is a cummulation of social discrimination, stigma, and anticipated rejection from friends, family, and a community,” according to a study conducted by Child Trends, a non-profit organization that conducts research on children. 

Studies have shown that stress among marginalized communities leads to health disadvantages. It can also be argued that these students may begin to feel lonely and fear isolation and rejection due to their family life. Discrimination can then cause mental and physical stress, leading to a decrease in health protective behaviors, and an increase in harmful ones. This can prevent these students from achieving holistic wellness, solely due to their, or their family’s, sexual orientation and/or gender identity. 

Is it fair to place these students at a health disadvantage based on this? 

Anti-LGBTQIA+ policies will also harm students as it instills institutionalized stigma. This can cause anxiety, embarrassment and forced isolation according to the CDC. The CDC also states that “stigma can negatively affect the emotional, mental, and physical health of stigmatized groups and the communities they live in.” 

If students are instituted with dismissive ideas regarding the LGBTQ+ community, they can grow to feel uncomfortable with the subject and cultivate internalized or externalized homophobia. Studies have also shown that states with more proposed anti-LGBTQ+ legislation have experienced a “small but statistically significant increase in texts and calls to the crisis line from LGBTQ youth.” The legislation and stigma that surrounds the legislation can lead to queer youth feeling less worthy or deserving of a fulfilling life. 

As a society, we need to achieve equity on a variety of spectrums. Absolutely no sexuality, gender, race or religion deserves better health opportunities than another. It is imperative to bar harmful legislation that decreases health equity. So, what can we do to stop destructive rhetoric? I’ve felt frustrated sitting and listening to legislatures spout harmful and  inaccurate information about how these proposed laws are protecting children. 

The first step is support and learn from sources with recent and reliable studies information . It is important to inform ourselves and share that awareness to others.  Next, supporting foundations like the Trevor Project, or the Human Rights Campaign which give direct aid to queer individuals who are struggling along with providing reliable information regarding the LGBTQ+ community and their mental health struggles. 

This is an important issue in public health as well as human rights since discrimation can affect so many aspects of people’s lives. I hope anybody reading will vote to support legislatures who understand that equity is a multifaceted entity that requires the support of a diverse coalition of people. 

These laws are damaging and stigmatizing. They will determine our future as a country. 

Nobody’s identity should be dismissed because it doesn’t fit the agenda of a political ideology.