Many of us in the LGBTQIA+ community are all too familiar with the pain of being rejected by our communities, and while we have fought to improve our rights in many areas, much work remains to be done.
Today I ask for you to join me in supporting an organization that is fighting to protect more than 100,000 LGBTQIA+ students who are currently struggling to gain acceptance and receive basic civil rights protections at universities around the nation.
While Title IX protects many LGBTQIA+ students from on-campus discrimination, over 100,000 LGBTQIA+ students attend universities which have been exempted from Title IX’s civil rights protections under the banner of religious accommodation. The Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP) a fiscally sponsored project of the national non-profit, Soulforce, is the only organization dedicated to supporting these students and shining a light on the stories of heartbreaking discrimination they have suffered.
REAP was founded and is led by Attorney Paul Southwick, who himself was placed in conversion therapy while attending one of these universities, taking him to “one of the darkest periods” of his life. REAP defends and empowers queer, trans and non-binary students at more than 200 taxpayer-funded religious schools that actively discriminate against students on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, through civil rights litigation, documentary film, oral history, research and public policy, fighting for a world where LGBTQIA+ students on all campuses are treated equally, with safety and respect.
These student’s stories are painful to hear. They include denial of admission and housing, academic discipline, intimidation, subjection to conversion therapy, and expulsion. Students are denied the right to form campus groups where they can find affirming voices and allies, must hide or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity, and are banned from advocating for LGBTQIA+ rights.
Youth attending these universities are in an especially vulnerable position, and the burden of hate and discrimination is heavy, leading many to experience deep levels of depression with some reverting to self-harm and even suicide. We have left them alone and unprotected for too long.
University is a formative period of self-discovery where young adults begin to live their authentic lives, and many of these students come from communities and homes where they have been told they are damaged, broken, sinful, evil. Not only do they fight to overcome those poisonous messages, they must do so while navigating life at universities which continue to perpetuate and affirm those harms.
Today I am raising money for a group doing everything in their power to fight for these students, and change the societal narratives that these students are undeserving of protections in our society. Together REAP and I are raising money to support the incredibly brave and courageous students who have put themselves at personal risk to prevent the discrimination they experience from happening to another young person. Their stories deserve to be told, and we want them to have the resources to tell them.
Funds will be used to continue to provide resources, guidance, and support to LGBTQIA+ students who are actively experiencing discrimination on college campuses across the nation, to amplify these students' stories on social and traditional media platforms, provide legal representation to these students in the litigation Hunter et al v. The U.S. Department of Education, and assist students in filing and pursuing discrimination complaints through Title IX.
Join me in donating so LGBTQIA+ students can continue to have REAP in their corner.