A 12-year-old non-binary student in Florida was attacked last month for bringing an LGBTQI+ Pride flag to a school picnic. Leo Hoffman of Seminole Middle School was dragged on the ground and stomped on by male students over the Pride flag on May 28, 2021.
Hoffman’s sister, Ashleigh, posted a video of the attack, which was viewed over 190,000 times. She pleaded with viewers to call Seminole Middle School and request #justiceforleo. Since the tweet, an investigation of the incident has begun. Six main instigators have been reportedly suspended, with the possibility of expulsion.
Teen Brought Pride Flag To Picnic
— Ashleigh 🏳️🌈 (@Mermaid_Lover_) June 2, 2021
Leo and Ashleigh’s father, Benjamin Hoffman, spoke to Florida television station Bay News, “I hate to see someone’s kid expelled from school. But you can’t lay your hands on another person. It’s just not acceptable.”
“Leo was frightened. Not so much for themselves but for their friends. Leo is very strong and would do anything to protect their friends,” said Benjamin.
LGBTQ+ YOUTH IN SCHOOLS
At the beginning of Pride Month, this violence is a reminder of the danger many LGBTQI+ youth face every day. In 2021, LGBTIQ+ Health Australia reported 74.9% of non-binary people were said to go through high levels of psychological stress. A new study by the Western Sydney University found that nine in 10 LGBTQI+ students have heard homophobic language in schools, with one in three students having witnessed homophobic language daily in schools across Australia.
The Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ+ Youth Mental Health found 40% of non-binary and transgender youth in the US were physically harmed in their lifetime due to their gender identity. 61% of non-binary and transgender youth were barred or discouraged from using the bathroom in their schools.
Support On Social Media
#JUSTICEFORLEO garnered immense support on social media. Dennis Feitosa, comedian and writer of @DefNoodles, reposted the video on Twitter, which gained traction from gay YouTuber and makeup mogul Jeffree Star, sharing their sympathies.
This is so horrible and hard to watch 💔 I'm praying Leo is ok and surrounded by love tonight. https://t.co/vST6O8rw0c
— Jeffree Star (@JeffreeStar) June 2, 2021
Another user replied, “For those wondering ‘why don’t people just come out?’ This is why. People are so evil. So sorry for Leo and what they have gone through.”
Leo’s sister Ashleigh is continuing to spread awareness and updates on the case.
Anti-Trans Bills In Florida
This year, a record-breaking number of over 100 anti-transgender bills have been introduced in states across America, mainly affecting youth. Thirty-Seven of the Fifty U.S. states have passed Anti-Transgender Legislation in 2021. Texas and Tennessee have passed the most bills, 12 and Florida has passed four.
Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, signed Florida Senate Bill 1028 on the first day of Pride Month. This bill bans transgender girls from school sports.
The Human Rights Campaign announced they planned to sue the State of Florida for passing this law, stating,“…transgender kids are kids; transgender girls are girls. Like all children, they deserve the opportunity to play sports with their friends and be part of a team.”
If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.
For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14
For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.