Gay and lesbian bullying is very rampant among many schools and neighborhoods today and many schools and LGBT support groups are doing everything they can to help combat against homophobia and misunderstandings of homosexuality. Despite this, stories such as that of Destin Holmes of Mosspoint, Missippi, who was allegedly forced to use the men’s room and to sit in the middle of the classroom during a boys vs. girls game, are, unfortunately, still all too common.
According to bullyingstatistics.org, one of the main reasons that students who are out as homosexuals are more likely to be bullied is due to the fact that it is still considered to be a differing from the norms in a way that many people, including other students still don’t understand. Unfortunately, many still believe that being gay makes you less than human and often proceed to act accordingly.
-Adolescents who are out as gay or lesbian are up to three times more likely to end up committing suicide because they often believe that the bullying will never stop and come to be convinced that taking themselves out of the world is the answer. The national statistics for suicides related to sexual identity remains at roughly 30 percent.
-They are also around five times more likely to cut classes and/or be truant in their school attendance.
-Around 28 percent still feel that dropping out of school together is the only answer.
-Around 9 out of 10 open LGBT students have reported that they were bullied in some form and around half have reported physical harassment and another quarter have reported being physically assaulted.
-Most are reluctant to share their experiences with any adult because of the fear of being accused of being a “tattle tale” or worsening the bullying, about a third of those who have tried to report it to the school authorities have reported that they wouldn’t budge on the issue. Unfortunately, most give up from there and don’t understand that there is almost always another option such as members of the school board who they can also try.
Other more subtle forms of bullying can include:
-spreading false rumors. Many adolescents seem to possess a natural knack for doing that either way and gay and lesbian students are more especially likely to be targeted.
-deliberate exclusion from social groups with very indirect or no obvious explanation at all.
-cyberbullying. This is bullying through use of social media, such as Facebook, e-mails, text messaging, etc.
According to makebeatsnotbeatdowns.org, some closely related include that:
According to a 2007 study conducted by GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network), about 86% of openly LGBT students had experienced harassment in some form. Of those:
-around 44% reported being physically harassed and 22% reported having been physically assaulted.
-60% of those never reported the incidents and around 31% of those who tried complained that the school staff would not be budged to do anything about it.
According to the National Youth Association, openly LGBT students are up to three times more likely to be bullied than the average student and are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than the average student and over a third at a time often do. Those who live with anti-gay families and choose to come out to them before being independent of them have also been shown to be up to eight times more likely to attempt suicide. According to a national 2010 NMHA (National Mental Health Association) survey asking students how they felt about LGBT bullying, 78 percent disapproved and only 3 percent found it humorous. This finding alone may indicate positive progress being made in convincing students that gay and lesbian bullying is just as wrong as any other form of bullying.
GSLEN’s 2011 National School Climate Survey showed an even greater decrease in sexual orientation-related bullying although overall levels of verbal harassment and physical assaults are still high:
-around 84% of students reported hearing the word “gay” in a negative connotation (e.g. the word “gay” being used as a substitute for words like “stupid” or “absurd”) and over 90% reported feeling distressed because of it
-over 70% reported hearing words like “faggot” or “dyke” used in a rather derogatory way
-over 50% reported hearing homophobic remarks from teachers and/or other school staff on a frequently, the exact same percentage also reported hearing negative gender-related remarks (ex. “not man enough”) from teachers and/or other school staff frequently. Over 60% reported having heard the latter remarks frequently overall
-over 63% reported feeling unsafe at school due to sexual orientation-related bullying, over 40% reported feeling unsafe due to the negative gender expressions
-over 80% had experienced verbal harassment due to their sexual orientation and over 27% due to the negative gender remarks
-over 38% had experienced physical harassment due to sexual orientation, over 27% due to gender expression
-over 18% were experienced physical assault due to their sexual orientation, over 12% due to gender expression
-over 60% did not report the incident and of those who did, over 36% reported that the school staff made no move to do anything about it
-around 30% skipped a class and over 31% had missed an entire day at school at some point due to feeling unsafe there
What is Less Well-Known
But here’s a kicker: out of every actual LGBT student who is bullied, about four straight students who are falsely suspected to be gay fall victim to gay and lesbian bullying.
Among youth and young adults today, there is a tendency to over-guess who is gay by the way they dress, move, act and the sound of their voices. For example, a boy who has a tenor voice or a girl who is a tomboy is more likely to fall victim to being suspected of being gay. In reality, there is only one thing that makes a person gay: having romantic and sexual attractions to those of the same gender as them. They look and act like anyone else. Some lesbian girls are quite feminine and some gay males play sports and are quite masculine.
Some ways in which you, as the parent can help to combat bullying:
-all teens need parental boundaries so don’t stop setting those for them like you would for any of your other children but simultaneously, make it so that your teen feels comfortable talking and venting to you. Also, don’t hesitate to suggest others who you know are supportive and whom your child probably could talk to.
-join support groups such as PFLAG (Parents, Families of Friends of Lesbians and Gays), support your child in appealing to the school board and other authorities, and/or help them establish a gay/straight alliance group at their school. Do whatever you can to help your child’s school establish a safer environment.
-Be very careful to maintain your child’s confidentiality and not to start discussing the LGBT issue with just anyone, particularly other parents of students at your child’s school. Remember that the decision of who to come out is a very personal one and that’s one that should be left up your child. You can offer to give your child moral support and guidance along the way but as a parent, your main job here is to ensure your child’s safety and even though it may be well-intended, discussing the issue with those you don’t know well can very easily pose a very dangerous risk to your child, which is the opposite of what you want. Also, be aware that you will not be able to convince everyone who is homophobic that being gay is not a choice-some are homophobic due to vicariously conditioned religious beliefs. Some people, believe it or not also mistakenly believe that their bullying is a form of love and a means to “right” that person.
As the parent, your main job here is to do your best to ensure your child’s safety and to offer moral support in helping him or her along the way. Unlike what some believe, people who are gay and lesbian can’t help being so any more than most of the rest of us can help being straight. As a result, the best thing you can do is love and respect your child for who he or she is and not let the issue of sexual orientation get in the way of it.
Sources: http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/gay-bullying-statistics.html, http://www.makebeatsnotbeatdowns.org/facts_new.html, http://www.glsen.org/sites/default/files/2011%20National%20School%20Climate%20Survey%20Full%20Report.pdf, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/school-staff-bullies-lesbian-student-anti-gay-slurs-calls-lawsuit-article-1.1560922