Student Group Participation in Solidarity Week
With GLSEN’s annual Solidarity Week back again, many individuals and groups may find themselves wondering how exactly they can get themselves and even their local community involved. Detailed here are a few key ways that GSAs, clubs, and other groups can participate and contribute to Solidarity Week:
- Holding conversations: While your GSA might often have conversations about queer experiences, this week it’s especially important to focus on the intersectionality of LGBTQ+ & other identities. Specifically understanding the nuance of how race, ability, socioeconomic status, citizenship status, & other factors might impact the way that an LGBTQ+ person exists in this world.
- Especially with families of color, many of them can be more afraid of their child being LGBTQ+ because they don’t want their children to face additional hurdles. Plus, in many countries, the social culture hasn’t progressed to the point of being accepting of queer identities the way that Western nations like the United States have, which makes it so they take more time to become adjusted to the idea of an LGBTQ+ person being in their family.
- Additionally, socioeconomic status is specifically a barrier that impacts trans individuals in their ability to represent themselves and feel comfortable in their skin. Hormones, gender affirmation surgery, and other such measures are extremely expensive and not covered by healthcare companies. Additionally, changing gender markers on legal documents or even buying and trying on new clothes is not accessible to everyone.
- Educating: Many topics and issues that LGBTQ+ people struggle with are not often talked about and are not in the public eye. Whether its issues that specifically affect groups within the LGBTQ+ community such as bisexuals or lesbians or those that affect those with specific intersecting identities such as Black LGBTQ+ people, there are many issues that are important to educate yourself and your community on to foster understanding and awareness. Organizations to look into that do research on LGBTQ+ issues besides GLSEN include: The Trevor Project, GLAAD, HRC, & PFLAG.
- LGBTQ+ youth homelessness is a pressing issue that affects many youths. The Trevor Project in their National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2021 found that 28% of all LGBTQ+ youth reported dealing with homelessness and housing instability at some point. Oftentimes, when youth come out to their families they are shunned and sent out on the streets as punishment for being who they are, which contributes to this persistent issue. Understanding this fact and making an effort to create and disseminate resources to LGBTQ+ youth will only help communities in finding healing. Better yet, you can take your work to the next level by finding ways to directly support local shelters that welcome and affirm LGBTQ+ youth.
- The same study done by the Trevor Project illuminated frightening statistics surrounding LGBTQ+ youth mental health. 42% of all LGBTQ+ youth considered committing suicide, with 94% saying current politics impacted their mental health. Trans and nonbinary youth who had their pronouns respected and were able to change their name and gender marker on legal documents were less likely to attempt suicide. These statistics specifically indicate the importance of publicly affirming folks’ identities as powerful to use, who refuse to participate in respecting others’ identities.
- If your group is in a school, looking into GLSEN’s 2021 National School Climate Survey is a fantastic way to educate people on the importance of discussing and accepting LGBTQ+ identities in a school environment and launching into a discussion about how your school handles the issue. Almost 60% of LGBTQ+ students feel unsafe in school due to their sexual orientation and a little over 40% because of their gender expression. Talking about how your school culture and administration tackle this issue gets it out in the open and lays the groundwork for people to be out, safe, and affirmed.
- Organizing efforts: The most helpful and powerful action that you and your group can take is active organizing. Both solidarity and community organizing are about taking collective action to make the change you want to see. Whether that’s through protesting or petitioning or any other way to demand the changes your community wants to see, do something that will fight for the LGBTQ+ community.
- If your school has a history of misgendering trans and nonbinary students or doesn’t let them use the bathroom that coordinates with their identity, get the attention of your administration. Rally your GSA/club/group and take a definitive stance in support of LGBTQ+ rights, freedoms, & protections. There are many ways you can take action this Solidarity Week, but what matters most is doing something that will actively benefit LGBTQ+ people within your community–whatever that means for you.
Written by Parth Joshi