LEESBURG, VA — On July 31, Equality Loudoun hosted its first Leadership Summit, attended by over 50 community members looking to improve the understanding and awareness of the LGBTQ+ community in Loudoun County. During that meeting, as noted in the records of that meeting, several members of our former Board of Directors transitioned to other positions or moved on to pursue other opportunities. Among them was former Director of Communications Nick Gothard, who resigned on July 22 to focus on his candidacy for Loudoun County School Board, and former Treasurer Todd Cimino-Johnson, who resigned effective on July 31 and moved into a non-executive leadership role, to focus on his candidacy for Leesburg Town Council. While we wish the best to any LGBTQ+ advocate working to improve Loudoun County, Equality Loudoun has never and will never be involved in political campaigns or efforts. Contrary to the misinformation campaigns from anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-equality organizations, neither of these individuals have been involved in the decision making or social media management of our organization since the date of their resignations.
Further, despite the malicious falsehoods being circulated to generate misinformation and fundraise on hate, Equality Loudoun has never advocated for schools or educators lying to parents. Sadly, those who work to deny basic human rights to our queer community fail to recognize that schools are an inherently unsafe place for LGBTQ+ students; with 84% reporting verbal harassment, 25% being physically attacked, and 28% dropping out of school due to harassment (1). Additionally, 34% report suffering physical violence from parents as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity and 26% are forced to leave home because of conflicts with family (1). Accordingly, we strongly advocate that there should never exist a requirement for an educator or staff member to intentionally disclose the gender identity or sexual orientation of a student in any case where the student feels that doing so may result in violence provided there is otherwise no risk to the student’s safety.
We condemn in the strongest manner those who would advocate for policies that would result in children being the victims of abuse, left homeless, and for an action that is such a clear violation of the parent-child relationship. It is neither the responsibility nor the burden of our school systems to become the arbiter of the parent-child relationship by intruding on sensitive discussions that should be borne of a trusting relationship between a parent and their child.
We have had to bear the horrendous results of such discussions in recent years, helping those who have been abused and left homeless after disclosing their identity to an unsupportive parent. In our nearly 20 years serving this community, and through our valued and active partnerships with organizations such as the Loudoun County Continuum of Care, Stop Child Abuse Now, LAWS, and the Loudoun Trauma Informed Care Network, we understand first-hand that the work of child abuse prevention and advocacy is a priority in this County. As a community, our children deserve better.
(1) GLSEN- As reported by the End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin & Milwaukee LGBT Community Center: https://www.courts.oregon.gov/programs/crb/training/Training%20Center/W11.YouthRiskFactorsHO.pdf