The Massachusetts Commission on GLBT Youth will are holding State House hearings on the state of life today for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth in our schools and in our communities. LGBT youth, anti-bullying experts, policy makers, parents, educators, and elected officials will testify.
“We welcome, we support, and we are here for the youth of the Massachusetts GLBT community,” said Governor Deval Patrick, who will testify at the hearing at 4:30 p.m. “We will continue to work together with the Commission to build on our efforts to prohibit violence and bullying, promote healthy environments, and better provide services so that all youth have the opportunity to thrive.”
“We welcome the support of our governor and all of the other elected officials, policy-makers, and experts who back our efforts to improve the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth,” said Arthur Lipkin, Chair of the GLBT Youth Commission. “Despite this support, LGBT youth are disproportionately represented in our social service agencies, they have shockingly higher rates of homelessness and suicide attempts, and there is much we need to do to make the Commonwealth a more welcoming and safer space for all of our young people.”
In addition to Gov. Patrick, among those expected to testify are Auditor Suzanne Bump; Treasurer Steve Grossman; Assistant Attorney General Maura Healey; and Secretary of Executive Office of Health and Human Services JudyAnn Bigby.
Today’s hearing will be held 20 years after the first statewide hearings were held in Massachusetts featuring testimony from gay and lesbian youth about what they experienced in schools. As a result of those hearings in 1992, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld created the first-in-the-nation Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth and released a groundbreaking report making policy recommendations for how to make Massachusetts schools safer educational spaces for LGBT youth.
In 2006, former Gov. Mitt Romney disbanded the governor’s commission and lawmakers reformed it as a legislative commission. The Boston Globe recently reported that while he was governor, Romney suppressed publication of an anti-bullying guide with policy recommendations for making schools safer for LGBT youth because of the guide’s inclusion of bisexual and transgender youth in its recommendations.
According to the recently released 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey of Massachusetts High School Students, students who described themselves as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (the survey does not ask if students are transgender) are over seven times more likely to have attempted suicide in the past year; over twice as likely to have skipped school in the past month because of feeling unsafe; and over twice as likely to have been injured or threatened with a weapon at school as the general population of students. These results track with data from studies published in dozens of peer-reviewed academic journals, which indicate that LGBT youth are at greater risk than their heterosexual peers of violence and victimization, self-harm and suicidality, substance use, sexual risk behavior, and skipping school because they feel unsafe.
The GLBT Commission will also hold a hearing on Thursday, June 21, 2012 from 2-6 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center, Holyoke Co