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An Open Letter to Representative Tom Brinkman on Ohio House Bill 658

“Parents have the right to decide what is best for their children,” says Ohio Rep. Tom Brinkman.

Last May Tom Brinkman and Paul Zeltwanger introduced legislation that would, among other things, compel teachers to ‘out’ transgender students.

After seeing headlines popping up all over social media, I wanted to read the full text of HB 658 for myself. It didn’t get any better.

The bill is stated to prevent a parent’s refusal to support gender-based treatment from being a considering factor when determining custody.

Additionally, there are provisions that address responsibilities and limitations of a “government agent or entity” when a child appears to be gender non-conforming.

Beyond that, this bill criminalizes a teacher (or school district volunteer) when they provide gender-related educational materials, classes or programs to students. They can be charged with a fourth-degree felony; carrying a prison sentence of 6-18 months and a maximum fine of $5,000.

Other examples of fourth-degree felonies in Ohio? Unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, and vehicular assault. Breaking and entering is considered a fifth-degree felony; that’s right, a lesser charge.

Ironically, the informed consent section requires parental review of the “treatment’s” effectiveness.

Sec. 2131.145 (A) Short- and long-term effects of the treatment. (B) A comprehensive review of the safety and efficacy of the treatment, supported by controlled, randomized research. (C) A review of whether relevant agencies have approved the treatment for the purpose for which it is to be administered.

Representative Brinkman, where is your evidence of this bill’s safety and efficacy?

Can you demonstrate the short and long-term effects? Are they supported by controlled, randomized research?

You are attempting to bully caring adults into silence, and also bully potentially vulnerable kids back into a very dangerous closet. By removing access to a critical support network, this legislation puts kids at risk.

To borrow a line from the incomparable Bianca Del Rio, “Not today, Satan, not today.”

Meanwhile, here is my evidence that indicates your proposed bill increases the likelihood of immediate, long-term, and irrevocable harm to children.

Study after study reflect the damaging influence of a non-supportive home environment for LGTBQ youth. Systemic, institutionalized bullying (such as proposed in HB 658) contributes to higher rates of negative outcomes for gender and sexual minorities.

Being ‘out’ in a non-supportive environment is unsafe. Emotional, physical, and psychological abuse at the hands of family members are stark realities for many LGBTQ youth.
Adult sexual minorities report higher instances of parental maltreatment during childhood than do their heterosexual counterparts (Corliss, Cochran, & Mays, 2002). Another study of sexual minority adolescents (Martin, 2009) reflected similar expressions about participants feeling the need to hide their orientation from family or the community, due to cultural expectations and negative beliefs about homosexuals.

Sexual minorities also report higher levels of depression when victimized and experience suicidal ideation more frequently than do their straight peers when subjected to bullying behaviors (Mustanski et al., 2014; Russell, Ryan, Toomey, Diaz, & Sanchez, 2011). The damage isn’t limited to the gender variant kids who are outed. Students who are exposed the bullying of peers also express helplessness and diminished self-esteem, even when they are not being targeted (Espelage & Swearer, 2008).

Conversely, supportive influences in the child’s environment can mitigate other factors; contributing to a lower risk of negative outcomes and mental distress (Kwon, 2013; Shilo & Savaya, 2011). There is also a clear relationship between degree of support within a child’s immediate environment and their capacity for resiliency later in life (Harney, 2007).

Within the school system, students who identify as sexual minorities report a higher sense of inclusion and safety among their peers when anti-bullying policies are in place and enforced (Russell, 2010). Sexual minorities and those still exploring their orientation are at lower risk for depression or substance abuse in accepting school environments (Espelage, Aragon, Birkett, & Koenig, 2008).

Professionals working with kids in the classroom or community risk alienating LGTBQ youth by diminishing same-sex attractions; preventing the youth from expressing themselves as fully integrated individuals (Shelton & Delgado-Romero, 2013).

Promoting access to age-appropriate materials increases students’ awareness, understanding, and visibility.

Responses to a child’s emerging gender identity or orientation can convey a level of rejection or acceptance; either negatively through bias or prejudice from authority figures (Miller, Miller, & Stull, 2007), or positively by having access to a series of safe and supportive resources (Diaz, Kosciw, & Greytak, 2010).

So, Representative Brinkman, please take time and review the references listed below. I look forward to reviewing the scholarly peer-reviewed sources that substantiate your proposed legislation.

Link to HB 658 full text.


Corliss, H. L., Cochran, S. D., & Mays, V. M. (2002). Reports of parental maltreatment during childhood in a United States population-based survey of homosexual, bisexual, and heterosexual adults. Child Abuse & Neglect, 26(11), 1165-1178. doi: 10.1016/S0145-2134(02)00385-X

Diaz, E. M., Kosciw, J. G., & Greytak, E. A. (2010). School connectedness for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth: In-school victimization and institutional supports. Prevention Researcher, 17(3), 15-17. Retrieved from

Espelage, D. L., Aragon, S. R., Birkett, M., & Koenig, B. W. (2008). Homophobic teasing, psychological outcomes, and sexual orientation among high school students: What influence do parents and schools have?. School Psychology Review, 37(2), 202-216. Retrieved from

Espelage, D. L., & Swearer, S. M. (2008). Addressing research gaps in the intersection between homophobia and bullying. School Psychology Review, 37(2), 155-159. Retrieved from

Harney, P. (2007). Resilience processes in context: Contributions and implications of Bronfenbrenner’s person-process-context model. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma, 14(3), 73-87. doi:10.1300/J146v14n03_05

Kwon, P. (2013). Resilience in lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 17(4), 371-383. doi:10.1177/1088868313490248

Martin, K. A. (2009). Normalizing heterosexuality: Mothers’ assumptions, talk, and strategies with young children. American Sociological Review, 74(2), 190-207. doi: 10.1177/000312240907400202

Miller, K. L., Miller, S. M., & Stull, J. C. (2007). Predictors of counselor educators’ cultural discriminatory behaviors. Journal of Counseling and Development: JCD, 85(3), 325-336. doi: DOI: 10.1002/j.1556-6678.2007.tb00481.x

Mustanski, B., Andrews, R., Herrick, A., Stall, Ron, & Schnarrs, P. (2014). A syndemic of psychosocial health disparities and associations with risk for attempting suicide among young sexual minority men. American Journal of Public Health, 104(2), 287-294. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301744

Russell, S. T. (2010). Supportive social services for LGBT youth: Lessons from the safe schools movement. Prevention Researcher, 17(4), 14-16. Retrieved from

Russell, S. T., Ryan, C., Toomey, R. B., Diaz, R. M., & Sanchez, J. (2011). Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Adolescent School Victimization: Implications for Young Adult Health and Adjustment. Journal of School Health, 81(5), 223-230. doi:10.1111/j.1746-1561.2011.00583.x

Shelton, K., & Delgado-Romero, E. A. (2013). Sexual orientation microaggressions: The experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer clients in psychotherapy. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 1(S), 59-70. doi:10.1037/2329-0382.1.S.59

Shilo, G., & Savaya, R. (2011). Effects of family and friend support on LGB youths’ mental health and sexual orientation milestones. Family Relations, 60(3), 318-330. Retrieved from

Originally published at on July 2, 2018.

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