Letter: Charlotte McConnell, Sterling

Editor: Two years ago Equality Loudoun re-launched. I am proud to have been a part of this re-launch effort and everything we have accomplished over the past two years. I am also thankful for the work EQLOCO members did between 2003-2015.

This Saturday, Equality Loudoun will be celebrating two years of activism in Loudoun County. You are welcome to join us from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. May 4 at Twinpanzee in Sterling. More details at http://tinyurl.com/EQLOCO2Bday

After gender identity and sexual orientation was added to the Loudoun County Public School Equal Opportunity policy, Equality Loudoun wanted to do something for students to feel the impact of this policy change. We decided to organize an LGBTQIA (Lesbian Gay Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual) inclusive book drive. We reached out to every LCPS librarian to ask if they would accept free copies of LGBTQIA inclusive and affirming books to include in their collection. We ended up with 31 schools asking for 740 books.

Why do we need LGBTQIA inclusive and affirming books in our schools? We have heard from several LGBTQIA students that they don’t feel accepted, represented, or included in their school. It is important for kids to see themselves reflected in books that are available to them in their school’s library. We also need to educate our entire student body (and community as a whole) about our LGBTQIA community.

The reality is 85 percent of LGBTQ students have been verbally harassed in school. 76 percent of LGBTQ students heard “gay” used in a negative way. We also know that 20-40 percent of all homeless youth identify as LGBT. LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth. 40 percent of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. 92 percent of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25. 60 percent of LGBT students report using alcohol compared with 45 percent of non-LGBT students. 28 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual students drop out of school because of verbal or physical harassment by other students.

We think outcomes for LGBTQIA students will improve when they are included and positively portrayed in books available to them. We hope all LCPS students will read these books regardless of their own sexual orientation or gender identity. We need to learn about each other’s experiences to increase our empathy. We hope this improves school climate and reduces the use of anti-LGBTQ language. As Margaret J. Wheatley said, “You can’t hate someone whose story you know.”

So far, we have collected over 325 books and received a $500 grant from the Campaign for Southern Equality to purchase books. We hope to collect every book from our list. Check out our book list at http://tinyurl.com/LGBTQBooks4LCPS. Please purchase books or share the book list link with your friends and family.

Charlotte McConnell, Sterling

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