Most people who realized that their sexuality was gay or LGBT+ in their teenage years have had to experience negativity from an early age: hiding a secret from everyone, being worried about being bullied, and holding themselves back from their secret.
Yes, growing up as gay, or LGBT+ in school is very difficult. Most people reading this would also agree that it is not easy, nor a pleasant experience, but it is something that should be brought to the attention of teachers, professors, and principals alike. In a world where “the norm” is a desired status, being different can be an unnerving experience, especially for teens and pre-teens in an environment where kids can be particularly singled out and picked on for being different.
Bullying of LGBT+ children in schools
Bullying. A word that triggers strong emotions and reactions from a large group of people, and a major problem in schools. Bullying is an experience all of its own; it can degrade even the strongest-willed, self-confident individuals down to nothing. Studies have shown that LGBT children who are bullied are twice as likely to attempt suicide. This is a major concern. Not only are these children being exposed to mental and physical violence, but due to this exposure, their grades and self-esteem drop significantly. This affects the well-being of these children not only in the short-term, but also the long-term. Harassment by individuals can lead the target to believe that school is an unsafe place to be, and in the mind of the target, it is. This often leads to the bullied child skipping class, and in some cases, dropping out, inevitably leading to stress down the road for the victim. Some schools offer support through guidance systems and LGBT+ groups, but that is often not enough. Schools must crack down on this unacceptable treatment of kids, through disciplinary measures to those who bully.
Depending on the location, it may be “easier” or “harder” to be LGBT+ in school. Places such as the American South or the Middle East tend to show less support of LGBT+ people, therefore the youth in schools in these locations tend to be bullied more, leading to higher rates of depression, substance abuse, and suicide. One of the major goals of the LGBT+ community is to at least create tolerance of people in areas where there isn’t acceptance. Because of certain backgrounds (religious, historical, social, etc.), non-acceptance and intolerance of LGBT+ activity and individuals may be higher, again depending on location.
LGBT+ youth face danger in school. Those who are brave enough to be open about their sexuality/gender face the most social danger. Often, those who “come out” will change friendships. Friends will be lost, new will be made. This isn’t really a bad thing. It shows who the real friends are, and surrounds the child with friendly people. At the same time, those who choose not to confide about their sexuality/gender tend to become depressed and drained of energy, often even denying their own true self to follow the crowd in the “accepted” norm. The one who comes out faces a higher risk of harassment, while the “closeted” one may be safe from harassment by peers, but is still hurting inside. Neither of those situations are very healthy to the child, so acceptance is key.
LGBT children benefit schools
Though bullying is a major problem that most LGBT+ youth face, there are also opportunities for these children in schools. When there are more of these youth in schools, it adds diversity to the student body, and when the student populace is more diverse, acceptance rates are higher.
When more people create and strongly manage groups supportive of LGBT+ people, such as civil rights teams and GSAs (Gay/Straight Alliances), education can lead to the acceptance and lower harassment rates of individuals who are different. Although many non-accepting individuals have their reasons for not accepting, it is completely unacceptable to call out others for those differences.
Education is key
The education of individuals who do not tolerate or accept LGBT+ individuals is the key to the safety and mental stability of youth. Once these intolerant individuals realize that these LGBT+ children do not affect them in any way, nor can they change, then they would more likely leave them be, and worry about their own life. Education can only be a willing experience, or it won’t be effective. Through education comes tolerance and acceptance. Through tolerance and acceptance comes happiness for all individuals, regardless of their sexuality/gender.
Do you have a thought to contribute? Are you still at school? Share your experiences in the comments box below.