The U.S. needs more LGBTQ+ education


Denis Perez / The Advocate

UC Berkeley student Jack Gil (left) holds up an LGBTQ+ flag in front of UC Berkeley’s Wheeler Hall.

By Uma Mazar, Staff Editor

The U.S. is considered by many standards an LGBTQ+-friendly country, but it is also ranked third worldwide for the murder of trans people, according to the Trans Murder Monitoring Project. Just a few weeks ago, a 22-year-old gunman opened fire at a Colorado LGBTQ+ night club, killing five and injuring at least 25 other people, police reported. 

Currently, many anti-trans bills are passing or have been introduced across the country. For many, it might not sound or look like a big deal, but it is a nightmare to the trans community and their allies. Many LGBTQ+ activists are pressuring the government to abolish those bills and punish gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination – similar to efforts to eliminate racial discrimination. 

These activists believe that passing laws to protect civil rights is the solution, but would laws alone solve the problem? If we want to create change for the LGBTQ+ community but particularly for trans people’s rights, we need comprehensive access to education about this community.

These laws are important for protecting the trans community, but they must go hand-in-hand with increased education to really shift the culture.

Studies have shown that sexual orientation is neither chosen nor changed – people are born with it, and a transgender person’s brain is closer to the gender they identify with and not to the one they were assigned at birth. Unfortunately, not everyone has the chance to learn this at school. Providing accurate information regarding human sexuality and gender identity at the right age might help stop the horrors the LGBTQ+ community – especially trans people –is experiencing. 

The article “Gay Right” by History Channel references Christine Jorgensen, who became known in the U.S. in the 1950s for having sex reassignment surgery. Her story shocked the country and inspired other members of the LGBTQ+ community. The gay rights movement made some strides toward recognition and protection in the 1960s. For example, the Illinois state legislature decriminalized homosexuality in 1961, and a local TV station in California also aired the first documentary about the gay community. 

According to the article Stonewall Riots by History Channel, the individuals inside the establishment and nearby streets fought back when law enforcement started using violence. Eight years later, the riots, referred to as the Stonewall uprising, occurred after the police raided the gay bar on June 28, 1969. The incident is considered a watershed event in the fight for LGBT rights in the U.S.

Over the past years, transgender and other groups of the LGBTQ+ community have made legal progress and political growth in the U.S. Despite this progress, LGBTQ+ members, are often under attack. This community faces a higher risk of experiencing depression and committing suicide due to discrimination and rejection, and some states have placed an intense focus in recent years on stripping away their rights. For example,  the Texas Department of Family & Protective Services opened an investigation into the case of a teenager who received medical treatment for gender-affirming purposes just a few weeks ago.  The Florida legislature passed a bill that limits when and how teachers can discuss sexual orientation or gender in the classroom, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The bill prohibits the teaching of sexual orientation or gender identity to students between kindergarten to third grade. If a professor fails to follow the bill, they can get in serious trouble.

Critics of the bill say it will make it harder for young LGBTQ individuals to navigate through school and that they will also face more bullying and be at a higher risk of suicide.  A 2019 study by researchers at Harvard and Princeton examines the most common forms of discrimination against LGBTQ+ adults, sharing that slurs, sexual harassment, violence, and harassment are common. LGBTQ+ people of color experience more discrimination than those who are white, particularly in job interviews and political events. Discrimination is widely experienced by LGBTQ+ adults in health care, particularly among racial and ethnic minorities.

The Transrespect Versus Transphobia Worldwide research project released an update of Trans Murder Monitoring in 2021. They stated that between October 2020 and September 2021, the U.S. had 53 trans murders, almost double the previous year and that most of those victims were people of color. This and other human rights groups stated that the U.S. is only third to Brazil and Mexico as the most deadly place in the world to be trans right now. Let us keep something in mind: the U.S., compared to the other two countries, is praised for having one of the best education systems in the world and for being LGBTQ+-friendly. 

Many people believe that laws that punish discrimination towards the LGBQ-plus community are what they need, but some believe we need more than that. Even with laws that discriminate against racism, racism still exists. The solution to this problem will have to include teaching and learning accurate sexual and gender education at school and home. Education must be federally mandated and supported by science. The University of Southern California reported in 2016 that only 13 states in the nation require sex education to be medically accurate, and only 10 are inclusive of diverse sexual orientations.  That makes no sense for a country that is supposed to be LGBTQ+ friendly. Studies have shown that most humans start exploring their sexuality as young as 7. Sweden is one of the few countries that promote lessons in gender and sexual diversity to young students.

Sweden believes it is better for kids and young adults to learn accurate gender and sexual information at school to prevent them from learning the wrong one on TV or the internet. The 2017 Vice documentary “Raised Without Gender” talks about how in Sweden, the gender-neutral term “hen” has been used since 2015 and that in 1998, the country’s school plan prohibited gender stereotypes and made it possible for parents to raise their kids without a set gender identity. Forbes senior contributor Laura Begley Bloom reported in 2019 that Sweden is the safest place for LGBTQ+ Swedes and travelers. Their same-sex marriage law was implemented in 2009, and the country has the most Pride festivals worldwide. It is hard not to conclude that Swedes are accepting and inclusive people thanks to the sexual education they receive at school.

The LGBTQ+ community deserves to be respected as much as anyone else in the country, and all people deserve accurate information about sexual identity and orientation. The U.S. is a first-world country that needs to implement first-world sexual education at schools. Better education means more culture, inclusivity, diversity, and peace among all citizens.