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LGBTQ Nation: GOP governor’s administration removes info about LGBTQ+ suicide helplines from state website

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The administration of Virginia’s Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin removed a page dedicated to resources for LGBTQ+ youth from the state’s Department of Health website after the far-right outlet The Daily Wire

The Virginia Mercury reports that the Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) “Resources for LGBTQ Youth” page included links to Virginia Pride, the Trevor Project, the Virginia Antiviolence Project, and other organizations and resources providing helplines, suicide prevention programs, and medical and counseling services for queer youth.

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Emails obtained by Virginia Mercury under the state’s Freedom of Information Act indicate that on May 31, a reporter for The Daily Wire sent a list of questions focused primarily on two sites linked on the page: Q Chat Space, which offers live chat discussion groups for LGBTQ+ and question in teens, and Queer Kid Stuff, which features a kid-friendly video series discussing LGBTQ+ topics as well as resources for parents and educators.

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“How are resources selected by the Virginia Department of Health?” the Daily Wire reporter, Spencer Lindquist wrote. “Queer Kid Stuff has previously promoted child transgenderism. Does the Virginia Department of Health take a stance on the medical transitioning of minors? Is the Virginia Department of Health aware that the QChat Space, which is marketed to those as young as 13 who identify as LGBT, has a special quick escape feature that allows users to swiftly exit the site?” 

VDH Division of Child and Family Health supervisor Emily Yeatts and adolescent health coordinator Rachel Brown reportedly drafted a response to Lindquist the same day.

“One of VDH’s goals is to be a trusted source of public health information for all Virginians. All Virginians includes people of all ages, races, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, and ability statuses,” their statement read. “VDH does not have a ‘stance’ on medical transition; as a state agency, VDH provides information, and the administration takes a position on issues.”

“VDH’s webpage includes information for all people, including transgender youth, and strives to include information consistent with best public health practices,” it continued. “QChat Space is not managed by VDH, but we can share that ‘quick escape’ features are typical for a variety of websites, particularly websites that could put a person at risk for violence from others. Intimate partner violence/sexual violence/domestic violence webpages often have this feature. LGBT people are at increased risk for violence.”

The statement was reportedly never sent, and Lindquist published his May 31 story on the two sites noting that the VDH had not responded to his request for comment.

VDH’s LGBTQ+ youth resources page was reportedly removed the same day, prompting emails from VDH staffers who were not consulted about the decision.

“Did someone request this?” Yeatts asked in a May 31 email to other staff members. “This request did not come from the program.”

“I’m noticing that the referenced webpage is no longer accessible and I’m having a bad case of deja vu,” Vanessa Walker Harris, director of the Office of Family Health Services, wrote in an email to staff and Deputy VDH Commissioner Robert Hicks. “What am I missing? I’m very concerned that staff were directed to remove the webpage without engaging [subject matter experts] in response to a politically motivated inquiry, yet again.”

As LGBTQ Nation’s Robert Rigby wrote last September, like so many Republicans in recent years, Youngkin has used so-called “parents’ rights” as a rallying cry to push his agenda, which has included book banning, restricting classroom discussion of so-called “divisive concepts” like LGBTQ+ issues and issues around racism, and limiting the rights of transgender young people.

“In Virginia, the governor will always reaffirm a parent’s role in their child’s life. Children belong to their parents, not the state,” Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter said in a statement regarding the removal of the VDH’s LGBTQ+ youth resources page.

“The webpage in question outsourced conversations where adults directly speak with children about sex to a third party,” she continued. “The governor supports providing resources that are age appropriate however the government should not facilitate anonymous conversations between adults and children without a parent’s approval. Sexualizing children against a parent’s wishes doesn’t belong on a taxpayer supported website.”

As The Washington Post reports, since taking office in January 2022, Youngkin’s administration has removed information about sexual health, abortion resources, and reproductive justice from the VDH website.

Critics blasted the administration for its removal of the LGBTQ+ youth resources page.

In a tweet, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) accused Youngkin of caving to The Daily Wire, while Equality Virginia noted the toll the removal could take on young people.

.@GlennYoungkin is hoping you won’t notice that he caved to the Daily Wire and secretly eliminated suicide prevention resources for LGBTQ youth.

You should DEFINITELY not retweet this so others know as well.

— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) July 6, 2023

Youngkin officials quietly pulled LGBTQ+ youth resources off a VA Dept. of Health website.

LGBTQ+ youth do better socially, emotionally and academically when they have access to resources and feel connected to a supportive community.

— Equality Virginia (@EqualityVA) July 6, 2023

In a statement, Equality Virginia executive director Narissa Rahaman called the administration’s move “craven and politically motivated.”

“This is part of a pattern with this administration, where it’s more important to appeal to an anti-LGBTQ+ political base rather than serve LGBTQ+ Virginians in any capacity,” Rahaman said.

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