Target: Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education
Goal: Mandate classes about gender and identity for all elementary school students
The recent tragic suicide of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn brought up the issue of gender identity and its absence from the curriculum. A lot of people still shy away from talking to youth about sexuality and gender identity, and this creates confusion and distress both in young LGBTQ individuals and their peers. This can lead not only to psychological and internal struggles, but also to bullying and intolerance. Please join us in advocating for education that will help young people in navigating and accepting their own identities and respecting those of others.
In her suicide note Leelah wrote, “When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was.” But Leelah’s sad story shows us that without acceptance from family members and society, this optimism cannot last long. It might seem obvious to us as adults, but for many LGBTQ youth, just finding out that they are not the only ones with this identity is a long journey. They don’t always know that there are terms for their identities, and that supportive and accepting communities exist. In addition, their lives are made more difficult by the ignorance of their peers and families, who were also never introduced to these issues, and often result to hate.
In Leelah’s letter she wrote “The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about at schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something.” It is tragic that it had to come to this in order for us to pay attention, but let’s not disappoint another young trans girl or boy who needs their identity to be recognized and accepted by their school and family. Please join us in the demand to put in place a gender studies curriculum for all elementary school students in the US.
Dear Secretary Duncan,
Many young people go years without learning about gender diversity and sexuality. This creates a situation where youth can be very confused and frustrated about their own identities, since they often think they are the only ones in the world with those feelings, and don’t know that it is normal and common. At the same time, youth who do not identify as LGBTQ don’t get exposed to this type of diversity and often end up being homophobic and even become bullies. Please incorporate a basic gender studies curriculum into all elementary schools in the US, so we can fight against ignorance and hate.
Misinformation in the case of gender and sexual identity can have tragic outcomes. Just recently a young transgender teen, Leelah Alcorn, committed suicide after not being accepted by her family and struggling with depression. If Leelah could have gotten support elsewhere, or if the people around her were educated about issues of gender identity, maybe her life could have been saved.
In her suicide note, Leelah stated that gender should be taught in school, as early as possible. Please help make this a reality and allow youth to understand and accept themselves and others.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Thelmadatter via Wikimedia Commons