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ARTICLE

Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislative and Executive Action: A Lived Experience in Care Perspective

Elliott Hinkle

Summary

  • The Trevor Project's 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that a majority of transgender and nonbinary youth worry about being denied access to gender-affirming medical care, bathrooms, and sports due to state or local laws.
  • Loving and affirming queer and trans youth is an important form of suicide prevention.
  • Protective factors, such as supportive adults and access to affirming spaces and resources, play a crucial role in the well-being and resilience of LGBTQIA2S+ youth.
Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislative and Executive Action: A Lived Experience in Care Perspective
Circle Creative Studio via Getty Images

Every time an anti-trans legislative news headline appears on my phone or in my social media feed, a range of emotions comes over me. First, it’s a mixture of sadness and rage, but then I’m most stuck on what impact these kinds of headlines and news stories, day after day, have on other young people. What does it tell a young person if adults, in professional roles of leadership, want to legislate away who you are, your community, your safety, and your access to many of the things that will help you thrive? The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health of transgender and nonbinary youth made the following findings:

  • 93 percent of respondents said that they have worried about transgender people being denied access to gender-affirming medical care due to state or local laws.
  • 91 percent said that they have worried about transgender people being denied access to the bathroom due to state or local laws.
  • 83 percent said that they have worried about transgender people being denied the ability to play sports due to state or local laws.

When I was growing up in Wyoming’s foster care system, I hadn’t yet come out as queer or trans because I wasn’t certain (not even a little bit) that I would find enthusiastic support for self-discovery and embracing my own identity. Not to mention that no one ever took the time to ask how I identify, who I am attracted to, or what questions I have about identity. Being “out” at all (at the time I identified as lesbian) wasn’t possible for me until the final months I lived in Wyoming, and it became far more possible six months to one year into living in Portland, Oregon, where I went to attend college. In Portland, I found community and work related to both child welfare and LGBTQ+ youth and young adults, and I had many options for trans-affirming mental and physical healthcare. Even then, in a much more affirming environment, I had to navigate the process of coming out, losing aspects of my existing community, and gaining a more authentic and loving community. At the time, I can honestly say I took for granted how little I saw my identity in headlines and up for debate—I hadn’t quite imagined what is occurring now in our country at the magnitude and speed with which it has unfolded.

I am a firm believer that loving and affirming queer and trans youth and young adults are suicide prevention. I know this for myself, from my own lived experience with mental health and navigating my way toward understanding my identity in small-town Wyoming while exiting foster care without permanent family. Now, as a young professional with my own consulting business, Unicorn Solutions LLC, there are foster care providers seeking consultation and numerous youth and families who reach out to me for advice and community connection, and I can help provide some of the much-needed support and affirmation. With this in mind, in March I returned to my hometown of Casper, Wyoming, and Unicorn Solutions LLC partnered with the local LGBTQ+ community organization Casper Pride to put on a Trans Day of Visibility event for the community. I knew the need existed and wanted to find some way of sharing information while also doing some community organizing, but the day exceeded my wildest expectations.

The space created that day via workshops and an evening celebration brought joy, healing, connection, and, I can only hope, a blueprint of what is possible. In one day, I saw more queer and trans folks than my whole time growing up in that town and a solidly intergenerational turn out. In the registration process, folks shared what they were hoping to get from the event and any needs they had. One parent noted that they were looking for literally anything that could help them support their trans child, how they were feeling at the end of their rope and exhausted with both discrimination in settings like healthcare and lack of access to resources and community. Stories like these only further motivated me and the planning team. In the evaluations afterward, when respondents were asked to name the most pressing trans healthcare need in Wyoming, overwhelmingly, the response was access to gender-affirming healthcare and education (for providers, teachers, community at large) to prevent discrimination.

As much as the political and legislative landscape attempts to steal joy and hope from our day-to-day lives, I find so much hope and promise in LGBTQIA2S+ youth and young adults. This year I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with so many who show me both their determination to not let these things knock them down and their hope in a future beyond patriarchal leadership structures and systems of harm.

While social media are very much a part of the current generation’s life, so is an awareness that organizing power is not dependent on adults’ permission or participation. I think of young leaders who are working hard to effect change for the LGBTQIA2S+ community and finding ways to do so! This is the power and magic of youth and young adults empowered and supported to create the change they hope to see.

How can you help?

A protective factor is defined as “a characteristic at the biological, psychological, family, or community (including peers and culture) level that is associated with a lower likelihood of problem outcomes or that reduces the negative impact of a risk factor on problem outcomes.” Put more simply, protective factors help buffer harms that might come our way and the chances that they will have a more lasting or intense impact.

All youth and young adults need protective factors, which in turn help them thrive, but this is especially true for folks, like LGBTQIA2S+ youth, impacted by minority stress. As shown in the Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health mentioned above, youth and young adults have so many ways they go about accessing protective factors they call “sources of joy.” 

If you are looking for ways to support trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming youth, let that list of sources serve as a starting point. Often, as adults and allies, folks can overthink what support looks like and think they don’t have anything to offer. While legal, legislative, and systemic change is needed, so is day-to-day support in young people’s lives, like connecting them to an affirming therapist, supporting them in their first endeavors in drag, making sure they have access to spaces that aren’t just centered on their identity but can affirm their identity (like sports), driving them to a queer art fair, or helping them find helpful and accurate online resources. These activities and experiences become protective factors in a harsh world, as well as spaces youth can turn to when they need support. This is something we all can do right now for the young people in our lives—I hope you’ll join me! 

The views expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.