As non-discrimination policies protecting transgender youth are increasingly under attack nationwide and right here in Georgia, one local student is pushing back on the heated rhetoric and encouraging all Georgians to express their support publicly for transgender youth.
Bennett is a fifth-grade student in Roswell, Georgia. Last year, as part of a school project on gender diversity, he asked his friends, teachers and administrators at school to join him in writing kind notes to transgender youth.
He had been hearing a lot of untrue, hurtful things said in Georgia and around the country about transgender people, especially transgender youth, and he wanted his transgender friends to know they had his support and the support of the community.
The project was a huge success, but Bennett didn’t want it to end there. He knew students in other communities would need to read the kind words his project had collected, because transgender students are disproportionately targeted for bullying and harassment.
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality’s 2015 US Transgender Survey statistics for Georgia, 80 percent of transgender students in the Peach State experience discrimination. This includes half who experience verbal harassment, and 1 in 4 who experience physical violence.
Georgia Unites Against Discrimination is eager for Bennett’s project get that wider audience. Nationally and in other Georgia communities, opponents of LGBTQ rights are trying to roll back policies meant to protect transgender students from discrimination. That means there has never been a more critical time for a project highlighting support for transgender youth
Earlier this year, the Trump Administration rescinded guidance from the Obama Administration that encouraged schools to put in place non-discrimination policies that apply to transgender students. The rescinded guidance supporting transgender students was the result of growing legal precedent that has found Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972—which prohibits sex-based discrimination—applies to transgender students as well.
Still, individual schools are creating and implementing their own policies for protecting their transgender students. But these too are threatened, including right here in Georgia.
The local school district in Decatur, Georgia currently has in place a policy protecting transgender students from harassment, bullying and discrimination. This policy has been keeping students safe for more than 10 years—while harming no one—but recently it’s come under fire.
What started as a community-focused conversation has now drawn national anti-LGBTQ organizations who are targeting Decatur as part of their broader effort to weaken protections for transgender youth in Georgia and nationwide.
At a Decatur Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, October 11th, community advocates supporting the policy delivered hundreds of pledge signatures from residents urging the Board not to weaken it. Ultimately, the Board affirmed its support in very strong terms, but advocates for transgender youth must remain vigilant.
Because national forces are aligning against school policies that protect transgender youth, this issue is not going away. And it could become a political football in next year’s Governor and General Assembly races.
Sending kind words to transgender youth through Bennett’s Project is a great way for you to signal your support for these policies and stand with transgender youth against these attacks.SHARE THIS STORY