Nine of ten LGBT kids say they are “out” to their closest friends. When asked if their friends and peers have any issues with their being LGBT, seventy-five percent say no, their peers have no problems with their being LGBT. How do we reach the other 25 percent when they don’t accept their own friends who they know?
Unfortunately youth are twice as likely to be physically assaulted, punched, kicked or knocked around in school if they are perceived as LGBT. Forty-two percent of LGBT kids live in communities that do not understand or accept their orientations. They are not tolerated or treated normally in public places. Pretty much everyone has a memory of being misunderstood or treated wrong by a teacher or bully at school or an event. Take that one experience that still brings pain or shame and think what it would have done to you emotionally had you been treated that way on a daily basis?
There is no way to really see beyond the faces of LGBT kids, they pretend to be unaffected by the taunts and harassment they face every day. They try to act strong even though every act of betrayal and rejection hurts deeply. Kids are so wrapped up in their own pain; they often don’t notice that others around them are suffering too.
In fact, the National School Climate Survey has shown that verbal harassment has actually increased to 84.6 percent in the last five years, toward LGBT students. Physical harassment and assaults on school property, due to sexual orientation has also increased in the past few years. Words like “faggot” and “dyke” are heard more often by 72.4 percent of LGBT kids in public schools each day.
Worst still, nearly two-thirds of LGBT kids surveyed report feeling unsafe in their schools because of their sexual orientation.
Because of these circumstances that lead to increased levels of depression, anxiety and decreased self-esteem, mental health appears worse among LGBT children than among the general population. Research studies on institutional barriers show a significant variance in treatment of LGBT patients over the general patient population as well.
Reasons for these treatment barriers suggest homophobia, assumptions of heterosexuality in patients, lack of appropriate knowledge, over-caution and misunderstanding, lack of patient confidentiality, absence of LGBT specific healthcare, and lack of relevant psycho-sexual professional training.
All this to say, even with LGBT kids looking for help with mental health and physical problems often stemming from bullying, the typical places kids obtain professional help are not trained and set up to offer proper support. LGBT youth are more likely to experience health issues due to their poor choice of alternative coping mechanisms.
Teenage lesbians are two hundred percent more likely to smoke tobacco than the same group in general populations. Increased usage of alcohol and drug abuse is tracked among all groups of LGBT kids, far surpassing the general teenage population statistics.
Bullying is unacceptable in any instance, but added to the effects of bullying of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and trans-gender kids, the lack of professional mental health and medical help they need causes increased numbers of suicides, and attempts that has doubled in recent years.
The doubled rate applies to LGBT kids who actually have love and support in their families and homes include family rejection, even moderate rejection, and incidents of suicide climb far above other teenage issues.
When schools provide a safe and caring environment for all students, the youth are free to pursue good grades and healthy peer relationships. Mental and physical health issues are reduced when the daily threats of violence in schools is reduced.
The effects of bullied for being gay and the threat of violence in schools has been studied nationally and the findings are devastating. In spite of efforts to educate for tolerance in schools, over 25 percent of LGBT kids report missing classes and days of school because of issues causing them to feel unsafe in their school environment.
Could this present the possibility that although the larger percentage of school peers are responding to acceptance of LGBT kids, through the programs provided over the past years, there are “unreachable” students who have become more actively involved in harassment, bullying and seriously threatening the LGBT population in distinct pockets of the educational system?
Schools already implementing and promoting tracking of clear policies and procedures relating to this issue, as well as activities designed to teach and prevent violence on school property must follow through with consequences for continued bullying. Many kids are bullied for the appearance of LGBT behaviors, before the students themselves actually know if they have any sexual preference.
Sexual orientation is defined in accordance with an internal identification in children, teens and adults as to love attractions to people of the same sex, opposite sex or both genders. This relates to a person’s self-identity of being female, male or something not the standard of gender perception. Transgender is an identity that is opposite from their external anatomical gender. Children, who believe they are a girl or boy, when medically they have opposite gender reproductive parts or both, often haven’t verbalized their perceived differences, even to their parents but are already being bullied and called names.
It is not always the case, but in some schools where the school personnel secretly uphold student’s negative perceptions and reactions to LGBT students, the bullying and harassment against these students are continually permitted and ignored. This is the primary field of need where addressing higher rates of school dropout, truancy, suicides among LGBT youth, homelessness, substance abuse and excessive bullying must be flagged.
Many school districts inhibit school personnel from “coming out” which paralyses staff from openly helping kids in situations for fear of being identified as LGBT oriented themselves. Also, school personnel who are LGBT, secretly, lack legal and contractual employment benefits. They face possible discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity themselves.
Through training student leaders, the school body can be reached more effectively using peers. It is a known element of school environments that students know more about what goes on in social areas of school culture than the adults working on site every day. Because student leaders in the school community has better chance at impacting the student population than most adults do, the GSA Network, or Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), is nationally addressing youth leadership organizations to help all schools with bullying problems and LGBT issues. They seek to build strong GSA groups to meet and work within school property to:
Fight against discrimination, harassment, bullying and violence on school premises
Educate school systems, the communities and families about gender identity, homophobia, sexual orientation issues and trans-phobia issues presenting such as where young trans-gender kids should use the restroom.
Create environments of safety for students to freely support each other through bullying threats and suppression.
There are valuable ways to support and develop networking with GSA to form clubs in local schools. Student Leaders interested in eliminating LGBT bullying in their schools are invited to join a GSA Activist Camp where they will learn to effectively interfere with prejudicial treatment of students and administrative permissive approaches to bullying.
GSA Activist Camps help to strengthen GSA clubs using coalition networking and strategic organizing methods
Teaching legal rights of students and GSA clubs to Leadership students
Illustrate ways to protect students from slurs, bullying and discrimination
Students that naturally have skills as student leaders can make an effective difference in the bullying situation in their school when given the tools to use that legally reflect the correction of prejudicial acts and violence. One of the keys to properly maintaining student safety is incorporating student leaders in the plan to effectively change the school situation in relation to violence, and attitudes against students that appear to be different.
Proven student programs have deterred behaviors in other students when the peer groups stand for change and tolerance. Leadership gifted students have an unprecedented effect on the rest of the school body when they pro-actively approach student bullied for being gay issues with a plan of action for all students.
Sources: http://www.violencepreventionworks.org/public/bullying_sexual_orientation.page, https://www.uic.edu/orgs/convening/depress.htm, http://www.chicagonow.com/portrait-of-an-adoption/2014/02/update-on-michael-morones-the-complications-of-bullying-suicidal-ideation-and-causality/, http://www.gsanetwork.org/get-involved/change-your-school