Protect LGBTQ Youth from Homophobia

Megh Hollowell General Blog

Over the weekend, Ann Arbor City Council member, Jeff Hayner shared a highly offensive and hate filled quote including a homophobic slur on his personal Facebook page. His remarks also used a derogatory term for individuals experiencing homelessness. His decision to use the quote was dangerous and perpetuated stigma that is already pervasive. This kind of hateful language, even when quoting someone else’s rhetoric, conveys to the community that this type of speech is acceptable when in fact, it contributes to hate crimes against our most vulnerable communities. It affirms the idea that these acts of violence and hate speech are acceptable, directing people to believe that our vulnerable communities don’t matter. The implications of homophobic and hate filled words are especially harmful to our LGBTQ youth who are already targets of hate crimes, homelessness and acts of violence. According to a recent survey conducted by the Trevor Project, LGBTQ youth are 40% more likely to experience homelessness than their peers, 60% of LGBTQ youth who experience homelessness are more likely to attempt suicide, and 71% of LGBTQ youth reported discrimination and bullying based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Many local elected officials have released statements condemning Hayner’s action, including Ann Arbor City Councilmember, Travis Radina, who quickly responded to Hayner’s post challenging his behavior. The following is a quote from the letter:

“…the thoughtlessness and disregard you displayed for our LGBTQ residents in sharing such a quote is extremely concerning and hurtful. In 2021, LGBTQ residents – especially LGBTQ youth – in one of the most progressive cities in Michigan should never be subjected to elected officials cavalierly utilizing homophobic slurs to insult their perceived adversaries or to advance a political point of view. It is disappointing. It is harmful. And frankly, it makes me question the sincerity of your supposed support for the LGBTQ community.”

Ozone House continues to support youth in crisis throughout Washtenaw county and surrounding areas, many of whom identify as LGBTQ. We see first-hand what this kind of abusive and dangerous language leads to. This is not who we are as a community and we demand that Jeff Hayner be held accountable for his actions. We condemn the use of this hateful language and encourage others to reach out to Jeff Hayner and the Ann Arbor Council to express their concerns as well.