Lakeridge students walk out in support of LGBTQ+ youth
On Friday, March 11, over 100 students streamed out of Lakeridge High in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.
In light of an influx of legislation across the nation that targets transgender and queer youth, the school's Students Demand Action Club and the Gender Sexuality Alliance staged a walkout just before their second period to stand against hate.
Three days before the walkout, on Tuesday, March 8, Florida's Senate passed the bill Parental Rights in Education. It is also known as the Don't Say Gay bill by advocates and prohibits any discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade classrooms.
The student organizers also educated their classmates on how gun violence and the LGBTQ+ community intersect too commonly. SDA member, Peren Thienmen said that in 2021, over 50 transgender people were shot and killed across the country and over 40% of queer youth have seriously considered suicide, according to national data.
The students held a minute of silence for all LGBTQ+ lives that have been taken.
One unidentified speaker said the controversial bill hits home as they plan to study elementary education in college next fall.
"I'm queer and nonbinary and I'm planning to go into elementary school education in the fall. This bill prohibits classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. I wouldn't be able to discuss my gender or any possible partner with any of my students. … We will not stand for this, and we will continue to work in solidarity to rectify this horrendous bill," the speaker said.
Other legislation protested at the Friday event included a Texas-issued order that instructs child protective service workers to investigate the families of transgender minors for "child abuse," as well as an Indiana bill that bans transgender youth from taking part in sports alongside their peers.
Another speaker said that while growing up in Arizona, they struggled to find acceptance and educational resources as they navigated their sexuality. They said they were the first student in the school to come out while in the seventh grade.
"Outside of my fifth grade math teacher, I had never met a lesbian. I could not have told you a thing about that word or (what) anything in the spectrum of gender meant. I had no education in the LGBTQI+ community, and the only way any of us learned was from one another through conversations here and a whisper there," the student said.
During the walkout, other Lakeridge students showed their support by joining the organizers on the school's tennis courts — some holding pride flags.
Sophomores Sophie Kim-Gervey and Chloe Andin attended the walkout to show support to not only their community, but students across the nation.
"As a member of the community, it's important to support each other no matter where you are, and support each other through local events like this," Andin said.
Kim-Gervey said that other students or community members who didn't attend the rally can still show support for LGBTQ+ lives.
"I think it's important to keep offering constant support and an understanding voice for LGBTQ+ youth — even if you aren't a part of the community," she said.
As the rally came to a close, the organizers reminded their peers that despite everything, no one can take away youth voices.
"It's important to keep queer voices from being silenced. Even if you are just an ally. Simply standing in solidarity with your peers shows that we are stronger and you are not exempt from our struggles. Because as a society, we must shoulder these burdens together," said organizer Lily Fraiser.
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