When bullying is based on sexual orientation
How can families, schools, and communities prevent and protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) youth from being bullied?
Kosciw and colleagues surveyed students 13 to 21 years of age throughout the United States. Of the 7,261 students who identified themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender or who were questioning their sexual identity (GLBTQ): 85% reported being verbally harassed in the last year; 47% had been shoved; 22% had been punched, kicked or injured with a weapon at school; 68% had been sexually harassed at school with unwanted touching or sexual remarks; 88% had felt deliberately excluded or left out by other students; 84% had rumors or lies told about them; and half reported their property had been stolen or purposefully damaged by other students.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the third leading cause of death for youth 15 to 24 years old is suicide. Furthermore, gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.
In one study, GLBT youth identified bullying problems as the second most important problem in their lives, after non-accepting families, compared to non-GLBT youth identifying classes, exams, and grades.
“Bullying is, at its core, a human rights violation. It is the abuse of the powerless at the hands of the powerful, and it is a threat against the right to receive an education free from persecution,” stated Kerry Kennedy. Visit www.stompoutbullying.org
In the 1970s, The American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association stated that homosexuality is not a disorder; sexual orientation is not a person’s individual choice; and mental health professionals cannot change the sexual orientation of their clients.
What can Schools do?
The 2011 National School Climate survey recommends that Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) be ongoing in schools. Students who attended schools with GSAs reported fewer harassing remarks about sexual orientation, more intervention from school personnel and a greater sense of connectedness.
GLBT students who reported having six or more supportive staff had higher GPAs. Principals, teachers, and other school staff can be advocates of safe schools for all students.
Schools can create comprehensive anti-bullying/harassment policies that include GLBT students.
The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and its Greater Cincinnati, Greater Dayton and Northeast Ohio chapters gave middle and high schools a Safe Space Kit as part of a campaign to build support for vulnerable students and reduce anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) name-calling, bullying and harassment in their school. Visit www.glsen.org.
The Trevor Project, created after the short film called Trevor, is a national organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (GLBTQ) young people ages 13-24. Visit www.thetrevorproject.org.
It Gets Better Project’s was created after several GLBT students committed suicide after being bullied in school. It has inspired 50,000 user-created videos viewed more than 50 million times. Visit www.itgetsbetter.org.
According to Buckeye Region Anti Violence Organization or BRAVO “homophobia is the irrational fear or hatred of Gay and Lesbian people. It can be the cause of conflicts in neighborhoods, workplaces, and homes.” Visit www.bravo-ohio.org.
The Community Relations Service of the Department of Justice helps communities develop strategies to prevent and respond to violent hate crimes committed on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion or disability. Visit www.justice.gov.
Please see a child therapist if your GLBTQ adolescent is showing signs of depression, anxiety, or making comments about suicide. Ask your pediatrician for a referral.
Dr. Missy, Ph.D., is a feelings helper, child therapist, play therapist, and child trauma therapist. She provides therapeutic services at Affirmations, Columbus, Ohio.