Why Coming Out Day Can Be Hard for Incarcerated Youth

Did you know that 58% of girls in America’s juvenile justice facilities identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning?  That’s according to analysis of data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. And the majority of LGBTQ youth—a shocking 85%—in the juvenile justice system are youth of color, according to a national survey conducted by Ceres Policy Research.  

For these LGBTQ youth in the juvenile justice system, coming out or being out can be fraught. Coming Out Day is a national day of awareness and celebration of LGBTQ people celebrated every October. This year marks the 30th anniversary of National Coming Out Day.  

That’s because LGBTQ youth in the juvenile justice system face high rates of discrimination, harassment, and violence, as detailed in a report from the Movement Advancement Project, the Center for American Progress, and Youth First. Gay and bisexual boys, for example, were nearly 11x more likely than straight boys to report sexual violence. Many LGBTQ youth are also subjected by biased staff members to harmful conversion therapy and sex-offender counseling simply because the youth is LGBTQ, while many are also denied critical medical care. Finally, lack of supportive services and limits on family visitation mean LGBTQ youth who are incarcerated are often denied equal opportunities to successfully reenter their communities upon release. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s clear that much reform is needed to reduce the number of youth incarcerated, to improve the opportunities and safety of youth in the system, and to support youth as they reach adulthood. For example, it is still the case that youth who are 17 years old in four states (Georgia, Michigan, Texas, and Wisconsin) are automatically charged as adults. In five other states (Louisiana, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina) changes to keep children under 18 out of the adult system have not yet gone into full effect. The Michigan legislature has begun to take up reform legislation this fall.   

Especially today, as the LGBT movement and the nation highlight the need for support, acceptance, and welcoming spaces for LGBTQ youth, it is crucial that we look for ways to support LGBTQ youth in our country’s juvenile justice halls, our jails, and our adult prisons.  

Share these graphics and your own national coming out (#NCOD) for youth justice (#YJAM and) increase the visibility and awareness of the needs of LGBTQ youth in the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

LGBTQ Discrimination on College Campuses

Coming Out Week is here and for thousands of people across the country, this is a week of celebration and visibility of the LGBTQ community.

But for some students on college campuses, coming out can be dangerous—resulting in discrimination, harassment, or even expulsion.

Unfortunately, laws protecting LGBTQ students from discrimination are under attack. According a new brief released today by MAP and the National Center for Transgender Equality, Title IX, Religious Exemptions and Campus Climate: LGBT Protections in Higher Education, the expansion of the ability of colleges and universities to claim a religious exemption to federal nondiscrimination laws can have a profoundly negative impact on LGBTQ students. These risks include threats of expulsion, increased disciplinary action simply for being LGBT, being denied participation in extracurricular activities, or forced into conversion therapy or counseling.

What is Title IX?

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally-funded educational institutions, including colleges and universities. For years, Title IX protections have been a critical protection for LGBTQ students—and not just for K-12 students.

In 2014, the Obama administration issued official guidance clarifying that transgender students are protected from discrimination based on Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination. However, in 2017, the Trump administration rescinded that guidance. In February of this year, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights announced that they will no longer be investigating complaints of discrimination filed by transgender students.

What’s worse, according a recent leaked draft of new proposed rules from the Department of Education, the Department is exploring expanding the ability of schools to claim religious exemptions, and allowing schools to claim such an exemption without even notifying the Department of Education. This means schools basically have a de facto exemption from Title IX.

Importantly, federal Title IX continues to prohibit discrimination based on sex, and many courts have held explicitly includes discrimination based on gender identity and/or sexual orientation.

What does this mean for LGBTQ students?

Many campuses provide a welcoming and supportive campus climate for LGBTQ students including nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity; provide facilities access and equal housing for LGBTQ students; establish preferred name policies; and support and prioritize the needs of LGBTQ student-led organizations, including those measured by The Campus Pride Index. However, there are an increasing number of campuses that are seeking religious exemptions to following even the basic nondiscrimination requirements of Title IX. Because of the reduced oversight from the federal government guided by actions from the Trump administration, it is likely more universities will request religious exemptions with regard to LGBTQ students, allowing them to discriminate against students on their campuses.

Is there any recourse?

Yes! As the brief points out, federal courts have determined that federal sex discrimination laws, including Title IX, prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and/or sexual orientation.

Just like in K-12 schools, universities have a responsibility to ensure a safe campus environment for all students and to follow federal law. It is crucial to foster inclusion on campus so that LGBTQ students have the same chance as other students to pursue an education and be prepared to support themselves.

Click here to read Title IX, Religious Exemptions and Campus Climate: LGBT Protections in Higher Education.

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New Poll: Americans Believe Businesses Should Be Open to All

New Harris Poll data released today shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans believe that businesses should be open to all and should not be allowed to deny services to people based on their race, ethnicity or national origin (87%), sex (87%), sexual orientation (81%), gender identity (80%), religion (85%) or disability (88%).

The poll, conducted in conjunction with Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, surveyed 2,006 U.S. adults, including 184 respondents who identified as LGBT, from Sept. 13-17, 2018. Among the survey’s other key findings:

  • 75% of Americans believe when businesses open their door to the public, they should be open to all and serve everyone on the same terms—compared to the 25% of respondents who say that businesses should be able to refuse to provide services to certain customers if that would go against their religious beliefs.
  • 89% of Americans say they are likely to support, shop at, or work for a business that declares it does not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or disability.

Additional findings from the new Harris Poll can be found here.

Click here to read more about the Harris Poll and Open to All in this article in USA Today.