Cultivating Queer Culture for Kids

Content Warning: mentions of self-harm and suicide.

We both volunteered at the Annual Gay Straight Alliance Summit hosted by the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition that took place at our very own campus. Upon reflection, we were inspired to see so many young members of the community exploring the variety of identities and lives in the LGBTQ+ community. We realized that it is essential to create safe spaces that allow youth to explore their identity and be able to bond with their peers, who are also along the path to self-discovery.

Middle-high school years (target range of the GSA Summit) tend to be considered a vulnerable stage of development in life and having safe spaces like this allows for more discussion beyond the heteronormative binary. One of Audrey’s first introductions to the Queer community was in college when she took a class on Queer Studies her first year. The class followed the development of the LGBTQ+ community in terms of structured organizations and scholarship. This was Audrey’s first time learning about politics surrounding LGBTQ+ folks in class. While taking the class, she realized how queer people have existed and influenced American history in general. To get a complete picture of the history of the United States, queer history must be included in general history classes starting from a young age. We believe that the reason queer history is not mentioned to us in our early education is that LGBTQ+ identities are considered inappropriate for younger audiences. The lack of cultural awareness leads to young LGBTQ+ folks in particular feeling like their existence is immoral or not wanted. The following statistics from the Trevor Project (a non-profit organization and 24-hour toll-free suicide prevention hotline that tailors to LGBTQ+ youth: http://www.thetrevorproject.org) display facts about suicide in LGBTQ+ youth communities:

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24.

  • The rate of suicide attempts is 4 times greater for LGB youth and 2 times greater for questioning youth than that of straight youth.

  • LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.

  • Each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.

The statistics suggest that rejection from peers and family members are factors in increased rates of suicide. Therefore, it is essential to create safe spaces not only for youth to discuss their experiences, but allow for them to receive resources from mentors and gain support from family members who are taking part in the learning process. This process can include learning about the history of LGBTQ+ communities and what they can do to support their loved ones.