It’s been a tough time for the LGBTQ community around the United States lately — especially for LGBTQ youth. From Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which attempts to restrict all discussion of non-hetero sexual orientations and non-cis gender identities from Florida public schools (and make teachers criminally liable if they do speak about these things) to the push in Texas to prosecute as child abusers parents and medical professionals who’ve affirmed the identities of trans youth, we’re seeing all kinds of terrible things around the country.
Here in Virginia, many of us thought we were out of the woods when, after the 2019 state election, Democrats gained control of the Governor’s mansion and both Houses of the General Assembly. A variety of pro-LGBTQ bills were passed into law during the sessions that followed, most prominently the Virginia Values Act. In addition to outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in the realms of housing, employment, and public accomodation, the Virginia Values Act required Virginia’s Department of Education to craft a model policy for local school boards to implement in order to protect transgender and non-binary students within all of the different school systems in the commonwealth.
Here’s the problem — those policies had to be implemented by different school boards at the county and city level, all across the state. And while some school districts did so without complaint, others in more conservative areas of the state have continually refused to do so, even when not doing so put them in violation of state law.
Loudoun County’s initial refusal to implement a policy to protect transgender and non-binary students got more attention over the past couple of years, but there’s another place that has also refused to do so, and they’re a lot closer to us right here in Richmond. I am, of course, talking about Hanover County, just 20 minutes up the road from Richmond. Over a year after their deadline, Hanover County is still talking about whether and how they will implement the policy. And on March 8, the Hanover County School Board voted to allow Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to make a presentation to the school board saying how they think the school board should handle this situation.
If you’ve been paying attention to the activities of anti-LGBTQ hate groups over the past decade or so, you know that this is a bad situation. From attempting to re-criminalize sexual acts between LGBTQ adults to arguing that LGBTQ people have a “gay agenda” to destroy Christianity, these people are way out there on the anti-LGBTQ limb. Their big push in recent years has been to push “religious freedom” as an argument in favor of allowing goods and services, and even medical care, to be denied people based on their LGBTQ status. They also, as a matter of fact, played an important role in the kerfuffle over Loudoun County’s transgender student policy. The Southern Poverty Law Center is right: these people hate us.
Thankfully, we do still have powerful allies that are on the side of Hanover County’s LGBTQ youth. Tonight, Equality Virginia is kicking off a Week Of Action to push back on Hanover County’s decision to work with ADF. They’ll be hosting a virtual community meeting at 6 pm, featuring representatives from ACLU of Virginia, Side By Side, He She Ze and We, and the Hanover chapter of the NAACP, as well as students, parents, and teachers from Hanover County. They’ll be passing on the info you need to know exactly what’s going on in Hanover County, and how we can all help Hanover’s trans and non-binary youth.
This meeting is free for all who wish to attend, but you must register in advance to be part of it. You can do so by clicking here. Do it! The youth of Hanover are counting on you.