When The Conversation Doesn't Include You: LGBTQ+ Sex Ed In A Small Town

For the past year, residents in Allendale, Mich., have been debating whether to include LGBTQ+ people and perspectives in the school district's sex education program and anti-bullying campaign.
Robinson plays Red Dead Redemption 2 in her bedroom. Source: Jarod Lew for NPR

Quinn Robinson is only 18 years old, but she has already learned some hard lessons about the world. "It's scary being a trans person because I know there are people out there who just hate me for being myself," she says. "There's been kids who have approached me and say, 'Hey, you should burn in hell.' "

Robinson is a high school senior in Allendale, Mich., a small but growing town about 30 minutes outside Grand Rapids and smack dab in the middle of what's known as the state's "Bible Belt." Drive off the main road and you quickly find yourself in farm country.

This is where, for the past year, parents have been fighting over sex education. Specifically: any mention of LGBTQ+ identities in the school district's curriculum.

"Everyone's so conservative, and they're like, 'You must be this way,' " says Robinson, who has lived in Allendale almost all her life. "But I don't want to be that way."

When we met her, Robinson had long, platinum blond hair with blue tips. Since then she has dyed it a deep brown. A pink and blue transgender pride flag hangs above her bed, which is adorned with a comforter covered with giraffes and zebras.

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