Baltimore, MD – September 8, 2015. The Youth Equality Alliance (YEA), a statewide coalition of service providers, nonprofits, government agencies, and individuals advocating for LGBTQ youth in Maryland, is hosting a hearing tomorrow for Maryland’s Joint Committee on Children, Youth and Family on the needs of Maryland’s LGBTQ Youth in foster care, education, and juvenile services.
The hearing will be held Wednesday, September 9th, from 10 AM to Noon in the House Office Building, Room 120, 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis. Youth and YEA coalition members will testify to the intersecting histories of discrimination, housing instability and vulnerability LGBTQ children experience statewide, and urge for concrete policy change. Delegate Mary Washington will open the hearing.
“While we are excited to witness the great steps Maryland has taken to protect the LGBTQ community, YEA recognizes that much more work is necessary to ensure the safety of our children,” said Saida Agostini, Director of Community Engagement and Youth Policy at FreeState Legal, and YEA Coordinator.
The data shows our children are not safe. The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey reports that lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are almost four times more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to seriously consider suicide. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that an astounding 81% of transgender and gender non-conforming Maryland students experienced harassment in schools. “We want our children safe and unafraid, able to attain their academic goals”, says Ingrid Lofgren, Director of the Homeless Youth Initiative at the Homeless Persons Representation Project. “This is why we continue to call for the same policy reforms we recommended in Living in the Margins, the report YEA released in 2014”.
Another YEA Member, Michael Franklin, Co-Chair of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN)-Baltimore Chapter, notes, “We know that our youth are coming out earlier and earlier, and they hope to enter a world that is affirming, but still isn’t. According to GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey, 85% of LGBTQ youth were verbally harassed in the last year, and 30% missed a day of school because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable. Specific protective policies for transgender and gender non-conforming youth, increased and mandated training and support for educators, more inclusive curricula, and student-led diversity clubs or GSAs at schools can make these spaces safe.”
Formed in May 2013, the Youth Equality Alliance members include FreeState Legal, Equality Maryland, PFLAG-Howard Columbia, The Frederick Center, Homeless Persons Representation Project, Advocates for Children and Youth, STAR TRACK Adolescent Health Program at University of Maryland School of Medicine, and the Baltimore Child Abuse Center. YEA urges that the Office of the Governor, state government agency directors, legislators, and political candidates to attend the hearing and determine how they can champion the rights of LGBTQ youth. Click here for more information about YEA and access to our reports and factsheets.