Advocates Condemns Virginia’s Stripping of the Rights of Transgender Youth

Statement from Debra Hauser, President, Advocates for Youth

Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s attack on transgender student well-being is reprehensible. Youngkin joins extremist, transphobic officials around the country in choosing to target some of our most vulnerable young people. Forcing these young people into bathrooms that don’t fit them and where they may experience fear and bullying; permitting and in some cases mandating that teachers deny transgender students the names they want to use; and setting up LGBTQ+ students to be outed to their parents before they are ready and regardless of what these young people may face at home – these are all violations of young people’s right to safety at school.

As a longtime resident of Virginia and the parent of a son who attended Virginia’s public schools, kindergarten through college, I am deeply disturbed by the governor’s weaponization of the educational system. These ‘model policies’ dangerously limit educators’ ability to support transgender students–students that research shows are significantly more at risk for being bullied and harassed at school, skipping school for fear of violence, feeling depressed and hopeless, and thinking about and/or attempting suicide. As parents, we all hope and pray that our children will come to us when they need support and assistance. Yet we also know there are some young people who are afraid to do so for fear their parents will react with anger, violence or disappointment.  For these young people, Gov. Youngkin’s transphobic new policies leave them more vulnerable and alone than before. 

As the president of an organization that works with hundreds of LGBTQ+ youth across the country, I have listened to the stories of many transgender youth. Their experiences bear witness to the important role schools play in their lives. Those attending schools that affirm their identities and promote equity and inclusion are more likely to feel supported and positive about themselves and their futures. LGBTQ+ youth that attend schools with policies like those proposed by Gov. Youngkin are more likely to feel isolated, hopeless, and alone.  With the delineation of Virginia’s new policies, Gov. Youngkin  makes schools significantly less safe for some of Virginia’s most vulnerable students and becomes complicit in efforts to demean and further oppress vulnerable transgender youth for political expediency.   

Transgender young people deserve to be affirmed and celebrated for who they are – not made to feel afraid in their communities, homes, and schools.