Monday, March 20, 2023

[Commentary] Today’s Youth Have Many Role Models in LGBTQ Community

As a high school teacher, some of my goals, beyond teaching the subject matter, are to encourage my students to do their best, to believe in themselves, and to be who they are. They know they have an advocate in me, someone that will support them unconditionally. As one of the advisors for the Gay Straight Alliance at Cox High School, I did everything I could to support LGBTQ students, and to also support their straight advocates.

One of the mantras that is heard often in the LGBTQ community is “It will get better.” In this decade, it has gotten better for the LGBTQ community in general, with the end of DOMA and DADT, and the landmark Supreme Court Case of Obergefell v. Hodges. These are great victories, but more work needs to be done, especially in our current political climate.

As I continue to meet more LGBTQ students, I want to be able to tell them something beyond “it gets better.” I want to tell them they can be whatever they want to be, and if they want to run for office, they can do that too! With the results of some recent elections, I now have examples to give them not only at the national and state level, but at the local level in Virginia Beach as well!

My election to the House of Delegates in November of 2017 was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life. It is difficult to articulate the pride and overwhelming feeling of honor that came over me when I first sat at my desk in the House of Delegates, the oldest continuous legislative body in North America. That pride and honor were taken to another level because of my seat mates. Seated on my left is Delegate Mark Levine, and on my right is Delegate Danica Roem. Behind me are Delegates Mark Sickles and fellow freshman Delegate Dawn Adams. 

These Delegates are proud members of the LGBTQ community, and they are right here in Virginia, serving in this body as the House of Delegates celebrates its 400th birthday. We have come a long, long way in 400 years. I can now tell my LGBTQ students that I sit in an elected body with people who are JUST LIKE THEM! That means so much to me, as I can combine the phrase “it gets better” with the additional statement “…and you can be whatever you want to be!” 

With the election of Councilman-elect David Nygaard in Virginia Beach as well as the spirited campaign of council candidate Allison White, I can now point to examples right here in Virginia Beach of LGBTQ candidates stepping up and doing well! The election of David Nygaard now means that Virginia Beach has LGBTQ elected officials on both the City Council and School Board, as David joins School Board Vice chairman Joel McDonald who was first elected back in 2012.

Even at the national level we see the recent elections of several LGBTQ Congresspeople and even an openly gay Governor in Colorado!

Despite the many battles that still lie ahead in terms of LGBTQ discrimination, my students now have the role models they need for the courage not only to be themselves and to believe in themselves, but to aspire to run for public office as well! I am so proud to represent Virginia Beach in the Virginia House of Delegates! 

Cheryl Turpin represents the 85th District in the Virginia House of Delegates and has lived in the Kempsville area of Virginia Beach for over 18 years.  In addition to her work in the House of Delegates, Cheryl has taught High School Science for the past 24 years.  You can learn more about Cheryl and her work in Richmond at her website.

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