Gender identity describes how you see yourself in the world – she, he, they, or anything in between. Sexual orientation describes who you are attracted to, which can range from homosexual to bisexual to heterosexual and more. Because everyone has a gender identity and sexual orientation, discrimination against the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer and/or Questioning) community is an issue that transcends and affects all of us. You have the right to express who you are, safely and proudly, and so does everyone else.
Unfortunately, many members of the LGBTQ community, and especially youth, are often the targets of violence, ranging from teasing to bullying to physical assault and suicide-related behaviors. According to one survey, the percentage of lesbian, gay or bisexual students threatened or injured with a weapon on school property in the prior year ranged from 12% to 28%. LGBTQ youth are also at increased risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors, suicide attempts, and suicide; a nationally representative study of adolescents in grades 7–12 found that LGBTQ youth were more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide as their heterosexual peers.
What can you do as a peacemaker? Creating a safe and supportive school environment is critical for ensuring all students can achieve good grades and maintain good mental and physical health. Accepting friends, families and communities are equally important.