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Protecting the Rights of Your LGBTQ+ Child

Protecting lgbtq+ rights for children

On May 20th, Samantha Lebling and Cassidy Stoneback presented at the 20th Annual Rainbow Families Conference about how parents and guardians can protect their LGBTQ+ children at home and at school. Their presentation is the basis for this article.

The recent wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation that has spread across the country has focused on children. Legislatures have realized that LGBTQ+ children make for an easy target since children already lack many of the basic rights adults in the U.S. enjoy. 

These laws are designed to make LGBTQ+ children feel isolated and attacked. It is more important than ever that parents and guardians understand how to protect and support their children.

Protecting Your Child at School

So far, no laws restricting the rights of LGBTQ+ children in schools have been passed in DC, MD, or VA, but many have been proposed in the region and across the country, creating an atmosphere of fear and hatred. Additionally, there have been some policy shifts, like the 2022 Model Policies introduced by the Virginia Department of Education. 

Since these are not laws, implementation is left up to the school districts, which has resulted in some school boards pledging to protect trans students while others have doubled down on attacks against them.

For LGBTQ+ students, specifically, trans students, going to school can be an incredibly stressful and invalidating experience if the classroom environment is not accepting. And with limited legislation concerning how LGBTQ+ students should be treated, experiences can vary depending on the district and even the student’s classroom. 

Parents should take time to research any policies their district may have and connect with their child’s teacher to determine if their child will be safe in school. If you are worried about how your child may be treated in the classroom, you should be their biggest supporter. Many schools will give parents the final say as to how staff should refer to their students, so a supportive parent can have a huge impact on a student’s experience.

Some schools may require further legal documentation to refer to your child by a name other than their birth name. In cases like this, you may want to consider a legal name and gender for your child. This can help protect your child at school and in many aspects of their lives, especially as they get older.

While you can support your child from outside the classroom, having an advocate for your child in school is another great way to make your child feel safe. Even if the school as a whole is a safe place, having a teacher, counselor, or other staff member that your child can talk to and rely on in school can give them some extra comfort during stressful times.

Protecting Your Child at Home

Beyond the classroom, there are many steps you can take to protect your child and your family from anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. Talking to your child is often the first step. 

While you may be reluctant to bring up these difficult topics, it’s important that your child understands how they can protect themselves. These conversations also give you the opportunity to counteract any hate they may have been exposed to, reminding them that they are loved and that any anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric they have heard is just that, rhetoric.

Additionally, you can protect your entire family through basic legal documents. You should have a will, trust, advanced medical directive, and power of attorney prepared for yourself, and if applicable, you can also prepare a limited power of attorney for your minor child. Each document protects your family in a slightly different way:

  • Wills: A document that contains your direct wishes for your property and assets, as well as the care of your dependents
  • Trusts: An estate planning tool that offers more flexibility than a will and less administrative burden, which can allow a third party, or trustee, to manage and distribute assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries depending on their needs
  • Advance Medical Directives: A legal document that appoints someone to make medical decisions for another when that person can no longer able to do so on their own and states a person’s wishes about receiving certain medical treatments
  • Power of Attorney: A legally binding document that allows you to appoint someone to manage your legal or financial affairs
  • Limited Power of Attorney for Minor Child: A legal document that allows you to appoint temporary guardianship rights over your child to another person

Together these legal documents ensure that your wishes for yourself, your family, and your property and assets are respected. They allow you the peace of mind that people you trust and know you well are making important decisions that will impact your family.

Documents like these can be especially important if there are people in your family that do not accept your LGBTQ+ child. Protecting your child from unaccepting family members can be especially complicated, both legally and emotionally. 

Once again, being open and honest with your child is important to help them feel less isolated and targeted. Additionally, document any instances of a family member discriminating against your child, especially in joint custody cases, as this could be used in court to protect your child.

Hateful legislation is putting LGBTQ+ children across the country at risk. They are scared and without support from their parents or guardians, these bills can uproot their lives. As these laws spread, it is immensely important to take steps to protect your children and your family. 

Speaking with a lawyer will help you know how these laws may impact your family. The Geller Law Group is prepared to help you get the documents you need to protect your family.

Key Takeaways

  • Children do not have many rights without support from their parents and guardians.
  • Parents and guardians of LGBTQ+ students need to advocate for the rights of their children.
  • Having your legal documents in order is the best way to protect your family.
  • Find a lawyer that you can trust to handle your and your family’s legal matters.

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