Meet a Lucerna Author: Maggie Agee

What is your Lucerna project about?

My Lucerna project is about the mental health struggles that many kids in the LGBTQIA+ community face as well as ways in which schools, parents, and peers can help. The main area of concern is the impact of ignorance and homophobia on healthy identity development and their influence on anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation in youth. This essay examines how the lack of inclusive education and positive role models can weaken a child’s spirit, and how poor support from family and peers can lead to homelessness or conversion therapy programs that can be traumatic. In addition, I explore potential methods for mediating the stress on queer youth and promoting acceptance, such as family therapies and queer inclusive lesson plans. The goal is ultimately to educate people about a problem that typically goes under the radar and to let people in the LGBTQIA+ community know that they matter, and things can get better.

Why are you interested in this topic?

I’m interested in this topic because it is rarely spoken about, especially in academic circles. A lot of discussion of queer-related topics are restricted to adults, and they often revolve around sexual attraction or gender reassignment procedures. I noticed this when I was doing my research because there were very few scholarly articles about identity development and the effects of homophobia on children. I imagine it’s because there is a common belief that sexual orientation and gender identity are not established until one is older or that they shouldn’t be in the conversation at all because it’s supposedly inappropriate for children to talk about it. However, this is far from the truth. First of all, sexual orientation and gender identity are much more than sex itself. There are emotions and elements of expression in both gender and sexuality that are present from a young age and that shape the type of person they grow up to be. While these things are fluid and can change as one ages, I think it’s important to talk about it when people are young because in all the examples I’ve seen people went through years of confusion and fear because they didn’t know who they were or what they wanted. All they knew was that the feelings they were having were deemed wrong by society, and it caused a lot of internal torment. I think that the stigma surrounding these topics limits people from being 100% true to themselves, and it also limits our understanding of differences in human experience. For me, this project is meant to open up the conversation about such topics so that we can break this stigma and promote not only tolerance but acceptance and encouragement.

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?

I’d say that one of the challenges was definitely finding sources related to the material I wanted to cover. I had to do a lot of digging, and there are a lot of individual stories about people who have been through tough situations, which I think both helps and hurts my argument. Emotional appeals help strengthen my point that this is a problem deserving of urgent attention, but I also understand that scholarly information and statistics is important for credibility. Balancing the two was difficult at times, but I’m happy with the result. I’d also say that it was a challenge to keep my own experiences out of the equation because it is a topic that hits close to home for me. That said, I’ve definitely benefitted from this work as well. It’s been inspiring for me because I see now that there are realistic solutions available to make life a bit easier for queer kids. I’ve also been given an opportunity to explore my own identity and experiences a little better which has made me more confident for the long run.

What is your advice for students who are interested in publishing their work in Lucerna?

My advice to anyone that is interested in potentially publishing their work in Lucerna or any publication really is to start early and give yourself time to develop your ideas. I began work on this project in Fall of 2018 in a Discourse class, and I continued to work on it under my teacher’s mentorship in Spring 2019, and on my own in Fall 2019. It has been a long journey, and I’ve made a lot of changes along the way, but I’m much happier with it than I was with my first draft. I think that the more effort you put into it, the more satisfied you feel about your work and the prouder you feel about being given an opportunity to share it. I’d also like to advise people to not hold back or be afraid to showcase bits of themselves in their work. It makes it unique, and it can strengthen the argument because it shows passion and a commitment. For me, I want people to see my commitment and passion for social justice, so that’s something I’d encourage others to do as well.

What are your professional plans or goals?

My career goals are to attend graduate school and work towards earning a PhD in clinical psychology. My current plan is to go into gerontology and work with older adults. While I am not interested in working with children, I think that the things I have discussed in this project like identity development and formation of healthy self-concepts at a young age have long-lasting effects that may be evident in some of my adult patients. I also think sexual orientation and gender identity fall into the area of intersectionality, which is crucial to consider when trying to figure out the best way to help a person. I need to be able to think about things from their point of view which means taking into account individual struggles as well as their resources for coping with those struggles.