Hello, my name’s Keira O’Neill and I’m 14 years old.
For the people on the opposing side of children getting education about queer people, you may be wondering why it’s important at all. I mean, adult LGBTQ+ only account for 7.2% of the U.S. population, right? And though that is true, 7.2% of 336 million people is a lot. It equates to over 24 million adults. And that doesn’t include all the LGBTQ+ minors.
Secondly, I’m going to share a story about myself, and why I believe my life would’ve been much different if my school taught about queer identities. When I was in the third grade, about nine years old, I developed a crush on another girl in my grade. Because I was living in such a small town, where the LGBTQ+ community was a laughing stock, I only told three or four of my friends. I was one of the only queer people in my grade, and as far as I knew, the only one at all. I was scared and confused, and it all got worse when my friend told not only the girl, our entire grade, but even her mom. I was absolutely mortified. Not only did my crush know about my feelings, everyone in the grade did. As well as an adult who could tell my mom.
It wouldn’t have mattered if it was a boy. It would’ve been normal. But I wasn’t normal. For the years following, I felt like the town pariah. I was the only out queer person in my age group, and little kids aren’t known for being the kindest. Years later, and I still have problems opening up to people because of the one time I did it to the wrong person. Whether it’s big or little things. One event can do mass damage.
Now, you may again be wondering why education about queer people would’ve changed my outcome. And my answer to that is, I wouldn’t have felt like a freak if it was normalized. If we were taught about various identities as we were taught about cisgender and heterosexual ones, it wouldn’t have become a big deal at all. It would’ve been normal grade school drama, and not still have such a negative affect on me nearly six years later.
Just because I like girls doesn’t mean I deserve to be treated like that. I was a kid just like yours. So if you really think that SF 496 is going to “save” your children, think about all the scenarios for every possible child because it doesn’t just affect yours. You never know what anyone is hiding in their mind.
Keira O’Neill of Iowa City