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Don’t Let Extremists Deny LGBTQ+ Students an Education

Don’t Let Extremists Deny LGBTQ+ Students an Education

Queer graduation

The executive director of Point Foundation discusses the affects of anti-LGBTQ+ laws on students who seek to continue their education.

I’ve met a lot of college graduates in my life. This shouldn’t come as a surprise: I’m the executive director and CEO of Point Foundation, the nation’s largest scholarship-granting organization for LGBTQ students. But as I stood before an audience celebrating the 2023 Point graduating students in Los Angeles, my speech celebrating the success of our scholars was tinged with a mix of sadness and anger. As I reflected on our collective progress, I had to caution our community about the fight that we have ahead of us.

The state of our nation for LGBTQ+ people is frightening. The American Civil Liberties Union has reported a shocking surge of nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in state legislatures in just the first four months of this year alone. This number surpasses the total of the past five years combined. Furthermore, schools across the country are actively banning diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs that are vital to the well-being of our LGBTQ+ scholars. The atmosphere has become so hostile that teachers and staff are afraid to provide the smallest bit of help for fear of jeopardizing their own careers.

Though Point continues to see a growing number of LGBTQ+ applicants for our scholarships and programming, and LGBTQ+ people are courageously embracing their identities more than ever, the hard-won progress we have achieved over the years is under threat by a vocal few who seek to force us back into the closet, unraveling the advancements we have fought so hard for.

The reality facing LGBTQ+ students is even more unsettling. Trans students are particularly vulnerable as they fear going to college in states like Florida where anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments have been enshrined in law. We must combat this alarming extremism by standing up for LGBTQ+ students and safeguarding a better future for LGBTQ+ people everywhere. Recent events, such as the Dobbs case, have reminded us that the hard-fought rights we’ve won can be alarmingly fragile. We must advocate for safe and inclusive campuses for LGBTQ+ students now, before hatred intensifies and enrollment for out LGBTQ+ individuals plummets.

This pride month and year-round, channel your energy into action and support organizations like Point that are committed to nurturing the LGBTQ+ leaders of tomorrow. Make pride a battle cry for the year ahead so that our LGBTQ students have a chance to succeed in school and move on to make a difference in their communities. Volunteer, donate to causes that support LGBTQ+ safety, or find alternative avenues to uplift LGBTQ+ student leaders.

Over the past 21 years, Point Foundation's growth has mirrored the exponential progress in LGBTQ+ rights and visibility. From an inaugural class of eight scholars in 2002, we have grown to support 574 scholars in the upcoming academic year. But no matter how much we have grown, the demand for assistance from LGBTQ+ students remains high, as evidenced by the record number of applicants we received this year.

So whether it's through supporting us, your local LGBTQ+ youth center, housing fund, or student group, do your part to fight back. I’m pleased to say that students, especially LGBTQ+ ones, are ready and eager to join the push for a future framed by equality and inclusion. We need to support them, guide them, and help them lead. And most importantly, we need to protect them.

Jorge Valencia is the executive director and CEO of the Point Foundation, the LGBTQ+ scholarship fund. Follow him at @jvalencia.

Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.

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