Are you a young person living in a 'progressive' state? Don't get complacent.

the voice and vision of a new generation
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Are you a young person living in a 'progressive' state? Don't get complacent.

September 26, 2017

This National Voter Registration Day, register to protect queer and marginalized youth from state and local representatives using their political platforms to target their most vulnerable constituents. Backed by the authority of their office, anti-LGBTQ politicians hiding in the shadows of so-called equality states are making it more difficult for youth to identity as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer through their discriminatory positions on topics important to their LGBTQ constituents.  

From elementary grades onwards, public school students nationwide learn about the role and importance of state and local government.  They develop respect for the legislators elected to represent them.  When these same political representatives marginalize their most vulnerable constituents, they are not only passively harming queer youth by adding to the culture of exclusion in their tight knit communities, but increasing the risk for direct harm to youth that are already more susceptible to bullying, mental health issues, and violence.  

Small town and state representatives must realize that their words and actions carry weight and create perceptions about their communities and the people that reside within them.  Their words matter.  Their voting records matter. Unfortunately, it seems that some of these representatives forget that children and teens with marginalized identities are constituents deserving of the same respect and representation as all others. Queer youth require greater support and understanding as they grow and seek inclusion within anti-LGBTQ pockets of their home states.  

When we think of states like Oregon, Connecticut, California, and New York, we often think of champions and leaders of the legalization of LGBTQ equality. As activists, we feel as if our work is better spent in those states that stand in harsh opposition to our community. Meanwhile, anti-LGBTQ representatives in equality states are making it harder and harder to be queer in their districts.

As a nonbinary queer person growing up in Connecticut, I was fortunate to experience an accelerated acceptance towards the LGBTQ community. In my hometown, however, the climate has always been much different than that of the state overall. State Representative Rob Sampson has routinely spoken and voted in favor of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. In May 2017, Rep. Sampson voted against HB 6695 to preserve the outdated and dangerous practice of conversion therapy thought to convert LGBTQ youth to a perceived heterosexual or cisgender “norm”. Studies show that this practice is both ineffective and incredibly damaging to the mental health of young people. In 2011, Rep. Sampson voted Nay on HB 6599, a bill prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or expression. This voting record indicates that Rep. Sampson condones discrimination and oppression of LGBTQ folks in his district.

There is a nationwide epidemic of local politicians flying under the radar while discriminating against the LGBTQ community. Rep. Greg Barreto of Oregon voted against HB 2307, a bill that prohibits practices of conversion therapy on minors. While Oregon is known to be forerunner in equality, many state representatives voted against these protections.

California is a firmly pro-LGBTQ state, however 32% of the State Legislature is comprised of representatives who routinely vote against equality. In 2016, Rep. Brian Dahle voted against AB 1732, a bill that requires single user restrooms to be gender neutral. Dahle also voted Nay on AB 1266, a bill that desegregated school programs and activities based on gender.  Unfortunately, these are not single votes. AB 1732 received 19 votes of Nay from Republican members of the state legislature.

Earlier this year, The New York Times deemed New York State as one of the best places in the country to identify as LGBTQ. Meanwhile, Rep. Dean Murray cast votes of against  S 1523, a bill allowing unmarried partners to adopt a child,  A 4953, a bill that classifies conversion therapy on minors as professional misconduct, and A 8354, enacting marriage equality statewide.

While anti-LGBTQ votes are the minority in these states, the few representatives I’ve named share company with many others. When these representatives speak in favor of discrimination and oppression, they tell queer people in their districts that they do not consider them to be equal members of the community. Equal representation and visibility are critically necessary in small districts for marginalized youth. Imagine if the voices of these representatives are the only voices of leadership that queer children hear growing up.  

This issue runs much deeper than policy. The language and rhetoric often used by these politicians in regard to issues of gender and sexuality directly belittles the humanity of vulnerable youth needing local voices with the courage and knowledge to represent them fairly as they grow.

This National Voting Registration Day, I urge you to consider the impact of your vote in the state that you live in. Every vote matters to protect and preserve the rights of LGBTQ citizens nationwide.

It is the responsibility of all representatives to uphold the youth voice and the importance of diversity in their communities. Young people have keen vision and long memories. They are informed and they are monitoring the words and actions of their local representatives. Exclusionary and uninformed votes in favor of oppression are witnessed. New and future voters are watching. We will remember at election time.

If you're worried about registering, voting, or just curious about the process, check out these helpful links for young voters:


This piece is a guest post by L. Juliett, a GLAAD Campus Ambassador, who attends Western Connecticut State University. GLAAD's Campus Ambassadors are a volunteer network of LGBTQ and ally university and college students advocating online and in their communities to create change.

the voice and vision of a new generation