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SF students join nationwide walkout over attacks on LGBTQ+ youth

A group stands outside City Hall during a pro queer and trans youth march and rally in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, March 31, 2023. | Benjamin Fanjoy for The Standard

A couple hundred San Francisco students joined a nationwide walkout on Friday to stand with queer and trans youth at the center of conservative crackdowns. 

The walkout, held on the Transgender Day of Visibility, brought students from the city’s public, parochial and private schools to Patricia’s Green before marching to City Hall. Supervisor Matt Dorsey and noted trans advocate Honey Mahogany spoke before youth read demands and shared their stories. 

“It’s still important for trans and queer people to know we have community,” said Cole Tao, a Lick-Wilmerding High School student who helped organize the walkout. “It can feel really lonely sometimes—especially when you’re first coming out and exposed to this kind of world.” 

A group marches during a trans youth march and rally in San Francisco, on Friday, March 31, 2023.. | Benjamin Fanjoy for The Standard

Organized nationally through Queer Youth Assemble, the walkout protested a wave of bills targeting LGBTQ+ rights nationwide, particularly geared toward minors. Florida’s 2022 “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity through third grade and allows parents to sue if violated, is the most infamous to lead the pack, and proposals to expand it are already underway.  

Even in largely LGBTQ+-affirming California, Assembly Bill 1314 was proposed in an attempt to force school districts to notify parents that their child is gender non-conforming or transgender. Santiago Herrera, a student at San Francisco University High School said even in San Francisco schools, negative attitudes toward queer culture are easy to find.

“Private or public school, there’s still so much homophobia,” Herrera said. “It’s so normalized where … people kind of go with it if they’re indifferent.”

The San Francisco students will echo a range of demands made by Queer Youth Assemble around nationwide laws and in schools to protect LBGTQ+ youth confidentiality, mental health and physical safety. 

This includes an end to the outing of LGBTQ+ students in schools, for staff to undergo mandatory training specific to queer youth, and plans for trans youth to use chosen names over legal names. Students also seek LGBTQ+-inclusive sex education and funding for gender-neutral bathrooms in every school. 

Mahogany rallied the teens to stay involved and to organize around elections to vote out lawmakers putting the bills forward. Earlier, she told The Standard that she felt a lot of joy seeing them active but also found it heartbreaking.

Trans advocate Honey Mahogany speaks during a pro queer and trans youth march and rally in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, March 31, 2023. | Benjamin Fanjoy for The Standard

“Our youth and our kids shouldn’t have to do this,” Mahogany said. “We were fighting so this didn’t have to happen. We’re still unpacking a lot of the sins of the past.” 

On the legal front, students want to see a nationwide ban on all forms of conversion therapy, a ban on non-medically necessary surgeries on non-consenting intersex patients, an end to state-sponsored misinformation on gender-affirming care and a requirement for all states to form commissions on LGBTQ+ youth. 

They also seek federal civil rights to equal education, known as Title IX, that includes sexuality, gender identity and gender expression to be codified. 

Kena Hazelwood, the coordinator for LGBTQ student services in the city’s public schools, encouraged the crowd to have uncomfortable conversations. 

“We’ve come so far and yet we see people trying to rip us back,” Hazelwood said. “We will not go back. We will not be silent. It’s our right to be in daylight and to be seen and to be safe.”

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