Prioritize the voices of queer youth

To the editor:

The article about the panel of LGBTQI-plus youth who spoke at the Saranac Lake Free Library on Monday, June 3 highlighted a crucial story: the diverse experiences of students within the Saranac Lake Central School District.

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise article about the event missed a vital point that the students on the panel made, which is that some adults in the school district have gone out of their way to be supportive and helpful, but it isn’t enough. After the students’ feedback some Board of Education members, educators and administrators felt discomfort and expressed feelings of hurt and surprise.

While these feelings are understandable, it’s vital to prioritize the well-being of the students over our own equanimity. These courageous young people shared their experiences of verbal assault and physical violence in front of a room full of strangers, mostly adults. They told us they anticipated further abuse after and because of the forum. Their bravery and vulnerability deserve our deepest respect.

There’s an opportunity for community growth here. Educators, administrators and members of the Board of Education who believe themselves to be allies and accomplices can demonstrate their commitment by taking further concrete steps away from the status quo. This includes continued proactively speaking out for love and against hate speech and biased ideas, implementing more inclusivity training, and fostering a safe and equitable learning environment for all.

Many adults have not experienced the specific kind of bullying faced by LGBTQI-plus youth. Imagine being a child, targeted with deeply personal slurs in the hallway, subjected to regular physical assault, surrounded by bystanders young and old who do nothing, and thinking about suicide because of how badly you hate yourself. This is the reality for some students in our schools since hostility to queerness began in our culture.

LGBTQI-plus young people are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers. (For citation see The Trevor Project at https://www.thetrevorproject.org.). While progress has been made with addressing bias against other marginalized groups, work remains in regard to sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity.

Positive change is not only possible but the right thing to do. It starts with individuals like you, who choose courage and stand up for what’s right, even if it’s uncomfortable or at personal risk. Listen to our students, address their concerns, and let’s pull together to create a safer, more productive school environment in Saranac Lake and beyond.

Martha Pritchard Spear

Lake Placid


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today