VIDEO: HRC Projects Message to Betsy DeVos on U.S. Department of Education Building

by Elliott Kozuch

Washington - Tonight, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and artist Robin Bell projected a message to Betsy DeVos to raise awareness about how the Trump-Pence Administration’s policies are harming already vulnerable LGBTQ youth. HRC recently released the results of a groundbreaking survey of 12,000 LGBTQ teens performed by HRC and researchers at the University of Connecticut on to the U.S. Department of Education building in Washington, D.C. The survey found that LGBTQ teenagers are not only experiencing heartbreaking levels of stress, anxiety and rejection, but also overwhelmingly feel unsafe in their own schools.

The projection, which included a survey finding that 95 percent of LGBTQ teens report trouble getting to sleep at night, asked U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, “how do you sleep at night?”

“Betsy DeVos has spent the last year and half relentlessly attacking the rights of transgender students, youth of color, survivors of sexual assault and students with disabilities,” said Ellen Kahn, HRC’s Director of Children, Youth and Families Programs. “While these survey results underscore the challenges facing LGBTQ youth, it also reflects their perseverance and strength in the face of bullies -- whether in their classrooms or the federal government. Given the disastrous and dangerous actions of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, the question must be asked of everyone in this administration, ‘how do you sleep at night?’”

HRC’s projection took place one day after DeVos told a U.S. House committee that she would not take action on civil rights violations against transgender students “[u]ntil the Supreme Court opines or until [U.S. Congress] takes action.”

The results of the largest-of-its-kind survey highlight the challenges facing LGBTQ youth, particularly transgender young people and people of color, who have experienced ongoing efforts by the Trump-Pence administration to undermine their rights -- from rescinding lifesaving guidance promoting equitable treatment of transgender students and refusing to investigate complaints filed by transgender students who face discrimination in school facilities, to racist immigration policies and giving shameful passes to hate groups and white supremacists.

HRC and researchers at the University of Connecticut found that:

  • Seventy-seven percent of LGBTQ teenagers surveyed report feeling depressed or down over the past week;
  • Ninety-five percent of LGBTQ youth report trouble sleeping at night;
  • LGBTQ youth of color and transgender teenagers experience unique challenges and elevated stress -- only 11 percent of youth of color surveyed believe their racial or ethnic group is regarded positively in the U.S., and over 50 percent of trans and gender expansive youth said they can never use school restrooms that align with their gender identity;
  • More than 70 percent report feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness in the past week;
  • Only 26 percent say they always feel safe in their school classrooms -- and just five percent say all of their teachers and school staff are supportive of LGBTQ people;
  • Sixty-seven percent report that they’ve heard family members make negative comments about LGBTQ people

This survey comes five years after HRC’s groundbreaking 2012 study of LGBTQ youth -- one of the first initiatives launched by the organization under HRC President Chad Griffin’s leadership. They comprise the most reliable data collected about the experiences of LGBTQ young people in America.

The U.S. lacks reliable data about LGBTQ people, especially about the experiences of LGBTQ youth. In light of this, and in the face of consistent attacks on LGBTQ youth, HRC is committed to ensuring this data is in the hands of teachers, counselors, coaches, doctors and other youth-serving professionals across the country. These findings will inform a variety of HRC Foundation programs for youth and youth-serving professionals, including the Welcoming Schools program, the All Children-All Families program and the Time to THRIVE conference.

A high resolution photo of the light display is attached. A video of the display is available here.


The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.


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