Over the course of the last year, anti-LGBTQ+ hate has dovetailed with a movement for control over what is taught in schools in ways that threaten to erase the experiences of these students — at least partly by banning LGBTQ+ books, including Oseman’s. And even as Pride month has just ended, open attacks on LGBTQ+ people are proliferating and the threat to diminish the hard-won inclusion of LBGTQ+ youth in schools is intensifying. Just this week Florida and Alabama’s so-called “parental rights” laws go into effect, providing a blueprint for state-sanctioned exclusion by limiting how, when, and even whether LGBTQ+ people can be spoken about in the classroom.
While positive media representation in shows like “Heartstopper” are, well, heartening, LGBTQ+ visibility in the media must be coupled with a vigorous movement to support LGBTQ+ youth IRL. Funders must step up for these youth to help to counter the regressive movement in schools and beyond to intentionally make LGBTQ+ students less visible. To paraphrase what one high school student recently shared in a YouthTruth survey: LGBTQ+ youth should be able to learn about themselves on TV and in school.
A very good place for funders to start is by amplifying students’ voices and promoting youth agency in their schools. At the very least, funders can validate LGBTQ+ youth’s experiences by including their perspectives in funding decisions and by responding through grantmaking to the needs that youth identify as key to their success.
And, while it’s important to continue supporting innovative school-based interventions, it is past due time to question a siloed view of “ed funding” to counter the rise of a growing anti-democratic school politics. Funders can do this by investing in our schools as the incubators of the citizens who make up a healthy civic society, which, of course, requires that schools be places where each and every individual student has the right to visibility, positive representation, and belonging.
How can funders get started? How can they be more responsive to LGBTQ+ youth? It starts with listening to what these students have to say. We on CEP’s YouthTruth team asked more than 15,000 self-identified LGBTQ+ high school students during the 2021-2022 school year what they need to thrive. Here are just three of their very reasonable, very fundamental requests.
- Value Our History
- Value Our Identities
- Value Our Lives
Read the full article about LGBTQ+ youth by Jimmy Simpson, Jr. and Jennifer de Forest at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.