To the Editor:
Let’s consider these terms: preferred pronoun. Cisgender. Heteronormativity. LGBTQIA. How many of us would be hard-pressed to explain them accurately, even those of us who express a general solidarity with the LGBT community with rainbow flags, solidarity stickers, or an occasional petition signature?
Most probably know that LGBT kids, in particular, experience a higher risk than straight youths of bullying and other forms of harm that are detrimental to their health and well-being. Recent survey results from stopbullying.gov indicate that 33% of LGBT high-schoolers experienced bullying on school grounds, compared to 17.1% of their heterosexual peers. Similarly, the cyber-bullying rate among LGBT teens was nearly double that experienced by straight teens.
As community members, what concrete actions can we take to address such troubling statistics, starting here in our own backyard? We might first consider two additional terms: ally and accomplice. If as allies we tried to open hearts and minds, as accomplices we roll up our sleeves and get to work. What will it take to establish a truly inclusive community that not only honors and protects the experiences of LGBT students, but also helps these at-risk youth flourish and thrive here in our neighborhoods and schools?
Next week, Indivisible Swarthmore: Moving the Needle will host a discussion to shed more light on the support needed for LGBT students. Three local experts will share their knowledge and propose initial steps: pediatrician and proud parent Melissa Kennedy, M.D.; school social worker and Swarthmore Borough Council member Sarah Graden; and Bryn Mawr College Associate Professor of Social Work Sara Bressi, PhD, LSW.
All are welcome. The discussion will take place Wednesday, May 22, at Swarthmore United Methodist Church, 129 Park Avenue (light refreshments at 7:30 p.m.; program follows at 8 p.m.). Please join us to learn how we can grow together from allies to accomplices in service of a more supportive and inclusive community for all kids.