On June 30, hundreds of thousands of people across the country rallied against the Trump administration’s policies of child separation and family detention.
These policies are only the latest of several moves by the administration and by individual states that show an appalling disregard for the well-being of children. No, these are not all LGBTQ-specific issues (although I don’t doubt there are LGBTQ people and families impacted by all of the policies). They are human issues, however, and as humans, we should care and act.
The threats to our children right now are far too many. Even as school shootings continue with tragic frequency, the Trump administration’s response has not been a call for stricter gun-control laws—in particular, stricter background checks and a ban on the assault weapons used in most mass shootings—but to suggest that putting more guns in schools by arming teachers could help.
A string of other federal policy changes—from shifts in health care coverage that chip away at provisions of the Affordable Care Act, to tax cuts that benefit only the wealthy—will also negatively impact many children, especially those from less financially secure families.
LGBTQ children and youth are among those particularly targeted by the administration. The U.S. Department of Education said in February, for example, that it is no longer investigating civil rights complaints from transgender students whose schools are not letting them use school bathrooms consistent with their gender identity—in contrast to guidance from the Obama administration that had said such actions by the school were a form of sex discrimination prohibited under Title IX.
On the state level, Oklahoma and Kansas in May became the eighth and ninth states to allow taxpayer-funded child welfare agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ prospective parents, LGBTQ youth, or any others, such as single or divorced people or those of different religions, if providing services to them goes against the agency’s religious or moral beliefs. This puts them in the company of Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Virginia. The harm is both to LGBTQ children in care, who could get placed in homes that try to “pray the gay away,” and to non-LGBTQ ones, whose pool of possible homes is reduced.
And bills are being considered in Delaware and Ohio that would require schools to notify parents if a student asks for the school to recognize the student’s transgender or gender creative identity. This could cause emotional or even physical trauma for students whose parents are not accepting of these identities.
These policies, laws, and bills all show a distinct lack of understanding about children’s needs, both emotional and physical. They seem particularly ironic coming from a part of the political spectrum that has long claimed to be about “family values.”
Maybe, though, part of stopping these policies—and shifting the political balance in November—is to emphasize exactly that: how they combine into a frightening picture of harm directed at the most vulnerable members of our society. Showing this threat is more than just a political strategy, though. It is a necessity on behalf of our children—all the children of our country.
Governmental threats to our children are sadly not new. Our country has separated families as part of the institution of slavery, removed indigenous children from their parents in order to “assimilate” them, and interred children with their families because of racially based fears during World War II. This is all the more reason to keep fighting, however. Our democracy is an evolving entity, and it is up to us, the people who comprise it, to shape its direction.
As a queer parent, knowing what it is like to fight unjust laws on behalf of my family and child, I feel compelled to take action to help other parents and children when their family connections, safety, and rights are threatened. I will speak out, call and write to my elected officials, donate to organizations working on the above issues, and keep myself informed. I will also pledge to vote in November and to encourage others to do so. When I feel overwhelmed or helpless, I will think about how the children targeted by the above policies must feel, and know I need to keep trying. I hope that many others will do the same, both queer parents and otherwise, for it is as a unified voice for all our country’s children that we will succeed.
Children may be the most vulnerable part of our society, but they are also the most important, for they are our future. If we do not care for them, what future do we have?
Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (mombian.com), a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBTQ parents.