Youngkin Attacks Transgender Rights


Provided by Nora Waide

Students give speeches and cheer at the FHS walkout.

This article contains mentions of suicide that may make readers uncomfortable.

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin has rewritten model policies about the treatment of transgender and gender non-conforming students in Virginia. These laws are expected to be enacted in October, but have faced criticism and are expected to face legal challenges.

Youngkin’s new policy insists that facilities such as locker rooms and bathrooms must be separated by biological sex and not gender identity. Students also must have parental permission to use a different name or set of pronouns in school, otherwise, their legal identifiers will be used. Teachers and staff would retain the right to deny the use of a changed name or pronoun set.

Some have argued that this act defies Virginia’s Human Rights Act, which specifies that discrimination based on gender identity in any public setting (schools included) is illegal.

Youngkin defended his law in a meeting in Leesburg on Tuesday, claiming “Parents must have a role in their children’s lives and, as these important decisions are made, parents must be informed and included.”

There has already been resistance to the policy. President of the Alexandria City Public Schools district board Megan Alderton has promised that the schools will maintain “gender affirming policies.” Alderton said Youngkin’s new policies “do not align with our mission, vision and core values to support all students and staff.”

A study conducted in 2020 found that 52 percent of transgender and nonbinary youths (13-24) in America have considered suicide, but the numbers vary. When youths preferred pronouns were used by the people in their homes, the suicide attempt rate was 50 percent less. There were also suicide reductions in those who were able to change their name on legal documents and had their identities affirmed by those around them. Ignoring this data to create laws limiting their access to these safe spaces (as the home is not always one for LGBTQ+ youth) feels genocidal in intention.

In my time at FHS, I have known several transgender students who would face abuse at home or abandonment if their identities were revealed, but took comfort in the respect they received from teachers and classmates.

A walkout was held across the state on Sept 27, with over 90 schools participating. Amongst the schools in participation was FHS. An anonymous attendee said that Youngkin’s law made them feel “scared, it’s going to kill kids.” Queer students were invited to share their personal stories about coming out and why they feel this law threatens them. Many shared stories of the family they lost, the harassment they faced, and the suicidal ideation that came as a result. There were tears and words of support. It takes great courage for these kids to come out and subject themselves to potential ridicule to protect their people.

Walkout organizer Jocelyn Stanton extends her thanks to those who attended. Principal Kraig Kelican had no comment.

A public comment period about the policy will close on October 26. Information for contact can be found here.