by Ken Schneck, Editor
A new report out of the Mid-Ohio Valley region details that LGBTQ+ youth in the Mid-Ohio Valley are suffering as a result of discrimination and a lack of protection under the law. “LGBTQ+ Youth in the Mid-Ohio Valley: An Empirical Report” was compiled by Danielle Thrasher, an 18-year-old member of the Board of Directors of Out MOV in coordination with a course she was taking as part of the Washington State Community College Honors Program. The April report collected data on the experiences of 13 to 18-year-olds who reside in Washington County, Ohio and Wood County, West Virginia with eye-opening results including:
- 51.4% of respondents experiencing cyber-bullying and 62.5% experiencing verbal harassment as a result of their sexuality/gender identity.
- 52.4% of respondents said the bullying happened on school property.
- 54.2% of respondents disagreed with the stated, “I feel that I can comfortably live as LGBTQ+ in my school.”
- 73.6% of respondents asserting that the lack of LGBTQ+ acceptance around them has made their mental health worse.
The Buckeye Flame editor Ken Schneck chatted spoke with Danielle Thrasher to discuss her findings and what we can all do with the results.
First, tell us what it’s like to be gay in the Mid-Ohio Valley.
Not so easy. <laughs> Not so easy. It’s gotten better because there are people us Out MOV and Parkersburg Pride who are out there trying to put visibility on the LGBT community. But just a few years ago, there was a nondiscrimination ordinance trying to put through the Parkersburg City Council. It was an excruciating time for the queer and trans communities in our area. It didn’t pass. There was a lot “this doesn’t happen here,” a lot of “why should they have more rights.” It was a huge wake-up call.
How did this report come about?
We were in the midst of creating Out MOV in September. At the time, there was a post that went around on Facebook from a concerned mother who child had been hospitalized because they attempted suicide. This post had very much detailed their child’s problem with bullying and the how the school system pretty much did nothing about it. This post made a lot of waves around the Marietta and Parkersburg area. Having gone through those experiences myself, it hit very close to home for me. Being where I was at the moment, helping to create this organization, but also in my last year of high school and college—because I was a College Credit Plus student— the first thought that came to my mind was, Let’s write a paper about this!
In addition to the clear findings of LGBTQ+ youth experiencing bullying, what else should readers note?
One of the biggest findings was actually put in the end and this question wasn’t inspired until a conversation that had happened at a lobbying day in West Virginia between our Out MOV representatives and State Senator Mike Azinger. We were lobbying in support of the West Virginia Fairness Act and trying to tell him that people are leaving the area at a rapid rate because there is no legislation in the area protecting us. He looked us in the face and said, You have no data for that. So I put in a question, on a scale of 1 (not likely) to 5 (most likely), how likely are you to leave the Mid-Ohio Valley for somewhere more LGBT inclusive given the opportunity. 48.6% answered 5. It was pretty clear and compelling statistic.
What other findings jumped out at you?
It’s important to note 47.2% of the participants are dually enrolled, meaning that they are taking some form of advance education classes, either AP or CCP or something of that form. That means queer and trans people are advancing their education and that we are not being pushed to the back any longer. And that could not be more important.
What can readers actually do with this report?
I want people to wake up. I want people to change the legislation. Ohio’s been around for over 220 years now, it’s about time we passed the Fairness Act.
- Read the LGBTQ+ Youth in the Mid-Ohio Valley: An Empirical Report and learn more about Out MOV.
- Contact John Eklund (Senate) Stephen Hambley (House) to ask for hearings on the Ohio Fairness Act.