By V. Sorce
“You can’t hide from everything, and gay people are real.” – X, age 16
CVU – Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” bill 1557, commonly coined the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, prohibits discussion of topics relating to sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom up to grade three and beyond. Policies in some other states restrict schools from teaching Lgbtq+ related topics around gender and sexuality, restrict the use of gender-neutral bathrooms, or even prohibit the display of pride flags in schools. Over half of all US states, including Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, and Ohio, have laws which impinge upon the rights of millions of young individuals.
Here in Vermont, however, the direction of law seems to be different. But is Vermont actually so different?
According to an NBC article dated March 20, 2022, a staggering 238 anti-Lgbtq+ bills have been introduced in the US thus far in 2022 alone; 23 states in the US have proposed anti Lgbtq+ bills, and thirteen states have signed those bills into law since the beginning of 2022. The ‘Don’t Say Gay Bill’ and rest of policies throughout these areas effect over 20 million adults and 21% of Gen Z in the US who are Lgbtq+.
Students in many affected schools are taking action by leading walkouts from school. Three states – Arizona, Virginia, and Ohio – instituted more restrictions in September regarding pronouns and gender markers in school. The bills that have been passed aren’t just seen as numbers in a pile of laws to sort through; thousands of high school students in those states organized walkouts from school on September 29th to protest for their safety and rights.
The laws aren’t just affecting their rights; it’s affecting their lives: “I nearly committed suicide. These are really kids who are scared out of their minds because of this policy,” Calabia– a high school student in Virginia–said (as quoted in the Guardian).
While these students fight for their basic rights in school, it is remarkable to consider how different the circumstances are here in Vermont. For exaxmple, during the spring of 2022, Vermont was in the process of legalizing gender affirming hormone blockers for transgender children without parental consent. As of 5/12/2022, however, the law failed to pass. Although it didn’t pass, the law was an attempted step towards equality.
And here at CVU there has been a visible increase in progress for equality over the years, such as the growth of the GSA network and the uptick of pronoun usage in class. Despite the changes, though, Lgbtq+ teens at CVU still face some difficulty. So despite such examples of “progress”, is Vermont really so different from other states?
Being inevitably stuck in awkward situations because of their identity is often a daily occurrence, and since homophobia is so ingrained in society, it will take every effort for LGBTQ+ normalcy at least reach ‘acceptance’, at a minimum. Slurs and misgendering are among many forms of how homophobia and transphobia are experienced in the halls of our own school.
X is a junior at CVU. They are out as transgender and express some changes they would want to address in US law. They stress the importance of equal rights everywhere, not only in some states: “There should be legal protections for Lgbtq+ people in all states. We can’t be discriminated out of jobs or Healthcare or housing because that’s a very real thing in certain places and it makes it very difficult for people to live their lives.”
A long-standing goal of Lgbtq+ people and allies have been how to educate society in understanding trans and gay identities to create a more inclusive world; the main place that education is taking place is, yes, school— yet schools and the education of Lgbtq+ identities are the places most of these new laws target.
It can be hard to imagine that queer Vermonters are actually in a extremely supportive space compared to the environment Lgbtq+ people might be living through in other US states. X tries to define that difference: “I think in Vermont we have definitely more protections in place, that when we go to get a job or adopt a child or need medical care, there’s a lot less in place that prevents us from getting it.”
However, “I find them [anti- Lgbtq+ laws] highly infuriating. I think they create a lot of unnecessary road blocks in the person’s development trends or just to access of information which is a big thing for rolling into being an adult you actually have to understand the world around you—you can’t hide from everything and gay people are real… Hello…!”
They also say some of the best ways to help these populations, no matter who you are, is “doing research and understanding what’s happening”. T, another student at CVU, wishes more people can “reach out to them in some capacity.” By staying connected and understanding what they’re going through, awareness can always be spread.
With still three months left in 2022, even more bills will be piling up to restrict people from equal rights. Positive Lgbtq+ laws granting rights are hardly balancing the scale currently as tensions rise, and our generation awaits a time when instead of trying to prevent negative bills, the focus can shift to the possibility of progressive protections for Lgbtq+ people. It’s hard to move forward when half the country is still moving in reverse.