Event Recap | We Just Want to Exist: Anti LGBTQ+ Legislation and LGBTQ+ Youth

Recent anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in Alabama, Texas, and Florida, followed by school-policy bills seeking to prohibit schools from discussing topics of gender identity or sexual orientation have garnered international attention for targeting transgender youth in schools, safe spaces meant to provide a sense of inclusion and belonging. Please join our faculty panel to discuss recent anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and their impact on LGBTQ+ youth, gender identity, and the legal battles ahead.


  • Katherine Franke, James L. Dohr Professor of Law, Columbia Law School and Director of the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law
  • Jon Freeman, Associate Professor of Psychology, Columbia University and Director of the Social Cognitive & Neural Sciences Lab
  • Yannik Thiem, Associate Professor of Religion, Columbia University


  • Che Gossett, Racial Justice Fellow, Initiative for a Just Society, Center for Contemporary Critical Thought, Columbia University, and visiting fellow at Harvard Law School’s Animal Law and Policy Program
  • The next big question is: where are the possibilities for transforming mindset? 
  • We are starting to see queer representation in religion (Atlanta case / first gay religious representation) = relgion and queerness can avoid being in opposition 
  • Psychology is very important because it 1) helps the mental health of queer people 2) helps to answer where the biases are coming from: neurobiology + ideology
  • Queer people are expected to leave their “queerness” at home. 
  • Law does not provide a remedy, especially in today's global society that leans toward the right. However, the opposition can still influence the agenda by addressing the issues to institutions such as the Supreme Court and educating those who oppose it
  • Gay rights are in a lot of cases marriage rights 
  • With legislation such as "Don't say gay," it falls on the parents, who are viewed either as "bad parents" or as the ones responsible for finding ways to overcome the system
  • The way forward: education, awareness, storytelling  
  • A significant contribution has been made by the librarians by proposing books on the narratives of queer people or/and on critical race theory
  • In sports, gender identity is a fascinating question that society must resolve, and it can definitely pose a challenge to patriarchy
  • “Shaming” strategy works only if you have enough of a “caring” element 
  • There are two types of actors: those whose rights/interests have been burdened for decades and those who must adapt to the new realities (and feel burdened now that they must respect pronouns and race terminology, for example). The current regulation protects the first group, but it should also educate the second.
  • It’s not only important to educate people on topics like HIV, but also adopt the community spaces for people with different needs
  • Reflecting on history is crucial to the mental health of queer individuals: queer problems are not new, and they can be mitigated