I recently attended the Human Rights Campaign Nashville annual fundraising dinner. It was my first time at an LGBTQIA+ event since coming out as transgender and starting hormone replacement therapy. It was very special for me to be there, especially at a time when the leaders of our state are proposing and passing such hateful legislation targeting the LGBTQIA+ community. Just last June, the Human Rights Campaign declared a national state of emergency for LGBTQIA+ people, the first time they have ever done so (Yan, 2023). The hatred towards my community has been stoked and inflamed by bigoted politicians. This hatred escalates to the point of physical violence and sometimes death. Recently in Oklahoma, a non-binary teen, Nex Benedict, died a day after being beaten in a bathroom by classmates. This tragedy has devastated LGBTQIA+ people of all ages, including other teens.

In addition to the fact that this has, without a doubt, been horrific beyond words for Nex’s family and friends, this type of violence also has a vicarious trauma impact on the entire LGBTQIA+ community. According to CNN, one particular LGBTQIA+ youth mental health hotline in Oklahoma usually fields approximately 325 calls in a month. However, in the two weeks after Nex’s death, the call frequency increased by over 200% to 1,097 calls (Gamble, 2024). The Trevor Project’s 2023 national survey also painted a grim picture for LGBTQIA+ youth experiencing this community-wide vicarious trauma and other forms of psychological disturbance. According to the survey, 41% of LGBTQIA+ young people seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year- and young people who are transgender, nonbinary, and/or people of color reported higher rates than their peers. A majority of LGBTQIA+ young people reported being harassed at school because people thought they were LGBTQIA+. Nearly 1 in 3 LGBTQIA+ young people said their mental health was poor most of the time or always due to anti-LGBTQIA+ policies and legislation. Lastly, the survey reported that 56% of LGBTQIA+ young people who wanted mental health care in the past year did not receive care, including nearly 3 in 5 transgender and nonbinary young people and more than 2 in 5 cisgender people. The fourth highest reason for not receiving care was affordability (a whopping 38% of those surveyed put this as a reason). This reflects the very clear and definitive gap in access to affordable mental healthcare in our nation.

What does all of this tell us? We have an LGBTQIA+ mental health crisis that is, in part, being fueled by anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation. Anti-LGBTQIA+ politicians have done quite a bit of talking about a mental health crisis, but the research into LGBTQIA+ mental health shows that their policies are contributing to the mental health crisis, not lessening it. To Governor Lee, Speaker Sexton, Lieutenant Governor McNally, and the rest of the supermajority: stop proposing and passing such hateful and anti-LGBTQIA+ bills. It’s not too late for you to change course. The well-being of thousands of Tennesseans is at stake here, and if you really value life like you say you do, work with us to make this state a place for everyone.


Gamble, J. (2024, March 9). Oklahoma LGBTQ suicide prevention line sees more than 230% increase in calls since Nex Benedict’s death. CNN.

The Trevor Project. (2023). 2023 U.S. national survey on the mental health of LGBTQ young people. [PDF]

Yan, H. (2023, June 6). Human Rights Campaign declares a national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people. CNN.