Ensuring that schools are as inclusive and welcoming as possible for LGBTQ students is personal for longtime LGBTQ advocate Garry Bevel. 

“My inspiration came from my own experience as a gay man,” Bevel told HRC. “When I first started my professional career and I represented kids in foster care, I noticed there were many more young people of color who were gender non-conforming or queer-identified that were getting treated in a way that wasn’t affirming of who they were.” 

Bevel, who is a children’s ombudsperson at the Children's Home Society of Florida, is one of HRC Foundation’s – All Children All Families’ master trainers in LGBTQ competency and has been on the ACAF Advisory Council for several years. He works with the HRC Foundation to create safe spaces for LGBTQ students and implement LGBTQ competent policies with educators, social workers and welfare agencies. 

As children and educators head back to school, Bevel knows that a supportive environment is important to the well-being of LGBTQ young people. A new CDC report found that there are health benefits that reach far into adulthood when an LGBTQ student has support both at home and school. 

“We’ve seen the difference it can make for parents when they’re being supportive. From asking questions about what to do when they have a young person who identifies as LGBTQ to prospective parents who identify as LGBTQ … Our commitment is to ensure that in our work with schools, our work with home placements and our work with other people that we are advocating and celebrating the benefits of welcoming LGBTQ people,” he said. 

This approach has proven successful. Bevel recalled the story of a transgender teen who said that if it wasn’t for working directly with staff at his high school, he wouldn’t be in his currently positive position. Through counseling services and having the support of educators and counselors who welcomed LGBTQ students, he was able to thrive. 

“I always like to share with [educators that] environments that are supportive of LGBTQ youth are better for all youth, because at their core they are more accepting and more responsive to the individual needs of students, and the more we do this, whether it is because of gender, ability and religion … the more we create a broader sense of equity and inclusion, everyone will thrive,” Bevel said.  

Through his work with ACAF, Bevel has traveled across the country helping social workers, teachers, educators and psychologists find a common ground that provides safe and welcoming environments. 

“ACAF is a great training as it provides people a safe space … and gives them a chance to open their minds and be more intentional about practicing welcoming behaviors,” he said. “Because of the type of work that we’re doing, we always find people that are open to provide an opportunity to LGBTQ youth … it [also] makes people aware of the great work HRC is doing that they might not have been made aware of … as well as lead them to other resources that can help them in their work.” 

To learn more about HRC Foundation’s ACAF program and its trainings visit hrc.org/acaf.


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