Monday, June 19, 2023

Political Attacks on LGBTQ+ Youth: The Role of the Afterschool Community and Funders

Source: Temescal Associates
By Sam Piha

As LGBTQ+ youth are being politically attacked across the country, many are asking how should the afterschool community and funders respond? Below we weigh in on this question.

The answer to the question of how the afterschool community should respond to the current anti-LGBTQ+ youth actions is complex. First and foremost, afterschool programs should focus on creating a safe and supportive environment for all youth, including LGBTQ+ youth and ensuring that all of their participants feel seen and supported. 

Afterschool programs can: 

Build Awareness
  • Stay informed by following news about LGBTQ issues in your state and around the country. Sign up for newsletters or alerts from organizations like The Trevor Project or the ACLU and follow their social media accounts to stay up-to-date on the latest developments.
  • Educate others in their networks and community.

Improve Program Practice
  • Hire knowledgeable and diverse staff, especially from the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Ensure that staff are fully informed and know the risk factors for LGBTQ+ youth.
  • Really listen to young people.
  • Build positive relationships among adults and youth.
  • Provide opportunities for all youth to express themselves.
  • Promote positive peer interaction, respect and support.
  • Provide opportunities for youth to make their voices heard in policy discussions.
  • Provide opportunities for youth to form Genders & Sexualities Alliance  or Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs.
  • Know how and when to communicate and collaborate with the school and parents regarding the importance of supporting the safety and acceptance of all youth, including LGBTQ+ youth. 
  • Introduce efforts to prevent meanness and promote kindness.
  • Provide professional development opportunities to build knowledge and skills of afterschool staff. 

Source: Hart Van Denburg/ CPR News
Directly Oppose Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation and Attacks
Afterschool programs and leaders are not equipped to end the political attacks on LGBTQ+ youth alone. However, they and their allies can still act. If history is any teacher, systemic oppression begins with targeting the most vulnerable. 
“Whatever we do, we cannot choose to ignore this moment or shrink from scrutiny. That will not make these problems go away. It simply offloads them onto the shoulders of youth. And of any of the options before us right now, that is the least conscionable.” Katy Swalwell & Noreen Naseem Rodriguez, How to Thwart an Anti-Equity Agenda: Advice for Teachers, Administrators, and Families

The afterschool community can advocate in support of LGBTQ+ youth by:
  • Speaking out against anti-LGBTQ+ attacks.
  • Finding a state or local organization that’s working to fight back against anti-LGBTQ+ bills. 
  • Reaching out to their legislators and share your views.
  • Watching or following related hearings and legislative sessions.


“It’s clear that lawmakers should be taking an intersectional approach to public policy, not working overtime to target the most marginalized young people, particularly those who are transgender or nonbinary, for partisan political points. We all must play a role in promoting LGBTQ acceptance and creating a more supportive world for all young people.” – Josh Weaver, The Trevor Project 

A Caution for Afterschool Networks and Providers
It is important that each organization determine how best to respond to the anti-LGBTQ+ youth legislation and political rhetoric, in consideration of the local climate regarding LGBTQ+ issues.

A national afterschool leader we interviewed shared, “If leaders were to speak out in opposition to the legislators in power about actions, they may be adding fuel to the “culture wars”- whether it be at the local, state or national level. They may run the risk of losing funding for the children they serve and getting into a fight where we can’t win without hurting kids we care so much about. Instead, we can showcase by actions how to treat people and children with love- not hate - and not engaging on terms that will inflame tensions and hurt our ability to serve kids.”

“Educators committed to inclusive, equitable, information-rich schooling are asking: How can we avoid becoming targets for right-wing smear campaigns? What might get us in trouble with a zealous school board? What if we get fired—or even prosecuted? Should we quit rather than comply with a policy that hurts youth?”– Katy Swalwell & Noreen Naseem Rodriguez, How to Thwart an Anti-Equity Agenda: Advice for Teachers, Administrators, and Families

Many funders are not clear as to how they can get involved. A consultant and advisor to foundations we interviewed shared “After many foundations jumped to creating statements against the George Floyd murder and other atrocities, board of directors started requesting policies regarding when it is appropriate for an organization to take a stand and when it’s not (e.g., should we make a statement for EVERYTHING?).”

However, afterschool and youth development funders can respond to this wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation and attacks in several ways. In A New Wave of Anti-LGBTQ Bills – What Can Funders Do?, author Andrew Wallace offers suggestions on how funders can respond. Below we present excerpts from this article. 

Source: Temescal Associates
“Foundations and corporations can respond to this wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation in a number of ways – and many are already doing so. Here are a few of the ways that funders are standing up for LGBTQ rights in the face of a new wave of backlash:

1. Make a public statement. As anti-LGBTQ+ bills have surfaced around the country, so has rhetoric that scapegoats LGBTQ people, especially transgender people. It can be powerful for a respected foundation to simply make a public statement that your foundation believes in full dignity and equality for LGBTQ people…”

La June Montgomery
“The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) stands with businesses, organizations and individuals seeking to protect the human rights of the LGBT communities in North Carolina, as well as other states where similar laws are being considered. We are heartened by the broad coalition of public sector, non-profit, business and civic leaders who are speaking out against this injustice. WKKF is proud to join their ranks.”
- La June Montgomery, CEO of WKKF

2. Advocate for partners to take a stand too. Foundations can have influence even when based outside of states where anti-LGBTQ laws are being considered. For example, The California Endowment sent letters to Georgia-based corporations where the Endowment held investments, asking them to take a stand against the state’s anti-LGBTQ legislation. In addition to that kind of shareholder advocacy, foundations and funder networks also hold conferences and events around the country. Many funders and networks are considering moving meetings to states that have more LGBTQ-affirming laws. Even if moving your event doesn’t make sense, you can use it as an opportunity to foster dialogue and raise awareness of the real harm caused by anti-LGBTQ laws.”

In an effort to speak out against recent political attacks on LGBTQ+ youth, Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation have posted several LIAS blogs and authored a briefing paper entitled, Supporting LGBTQ+ Youth in Afterschool Programs and Opposing Anti-LGBTQ+ Attacks. Feel free to share these resources with your network. 

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