Is School a Battlefield For Your Homogay Heart?

As we brought up yesterday, following the gay news is a real emotional rollercoaster. Lady Gaga has released a new single! But Lilo tweeted something mispelled about Sam Ronson. One Quaker Unitarian Universalist minister voiced their support of gay marriage! But Prop 8 passed. It’s not easy being green gay, you know? We’re going to give you the bad news first so that the good news will resonate.

SCHOOLHOUSES CONTINUE NOT TO ROCK:

The 2009 National School Climate survey has found a record number of GLBT teen suicides, and that 9 out of 10 GLBT students are harassed in school! This reflects pretty much no change whatsoever from last year. Good job, asshole schoolchildren of America.

Horribly but not surprisingly, the problem is often perpetuated by and/or caused by teachers:

Two Anoka-Hennepin School District teachers were accused last year of tag-teaming a student whom they harassed, insinuating that he was gay and embarrassing him in front of his classmates. The student, who was not gay, eventually transferred to another district and brought suit against Anoka-Hennepin. The district settled with him for $25,000. The teachers in the case were placed on leave, and remain on leave currently, the WCCO report said.”

Other findings of the study:

* 84.6% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 40.1% reported being physically harassed and 18.8% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
* 63.7% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 27.2% reported being physically harassed and 12.5% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their gender expression.
* 72.4% heard homophobic remarks, such as “faggot” or “dyke,” frequently or often at school.
* Nearly two-thirds (61.1%) of students reported that they felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, and more than a third (39.9%) felt unsafe because of their gender expression.
* 29.1% of LGBT students missed a class at least once and 30.0% missed at least one day of school in the past month because of safety concerns, compared to only 8.0% and 6.7%, respectively, of a national sample of secondary school students.
* The reported grade point average of students who were more frequently harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender expression was almost half a grade lower than that of students who were less often harassed – 2.7 vs. 3.1.
* Increased levels of victimization were related to increased levels of depression and anxiety and decreased levels of self-esteem.
* Being out in school had positive and negative repercussions for LGBT students – outness was related to higher levels of victimization, but also higher levels of psychological well-being.

This year saw two more GLBT kids, both 15-year-old boys, commit suicide after experiencing so much gay bullying. These deaths are like many others linked to anti-gay bullying, which counts among its victims children as young as 11.

That 84.6% of LGBT kids reporting being harassed is hardly surprising — how many among us made it through high school without being teased for SOMETHING, ANYTHING? But the fact that so many kids still feel unsafe at school and actually MISS SCHOOL because of it is downright terrifying. What say you, students of the world?

We interrupt this message for an inspirational speech from Hard Harry from the classic film Pump up the Volume!

What about college? Well, that’s a mixed bag. Our interns seem to enjoy matriculating at schools like Barnard, Stanford, American University, New York University, Temple  and various other institutions of higher learning. The new 2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People, however, reveals that not everyone is so pleased, as reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Whether they are students, staff members, professors, or administrators, people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender report significant harassment at their colleges and discomfort with the overall campus climates, according to a new national report.

About 25% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer students and employees said they had experienced harassment, as did more than a third of transgender and “gender nonconforming” respondents, compared with 12 percent of heterosexuals.

70% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer students and employees felt comfortable with the overall campus climate, the report says, a rate that was higher than that among transgender and gender-nonconforming respondents but lower than that of heterosexuals.

If you wanna know what schools are best for LGBT students, check out campus pride dot org.

Also um, this was printed in a paper today, even though it happened on September 7th and we maybe told you about it then, but Gov Paterson signed a bill Sep 7th protecting students in New York public schools from bias-based bullying and discrimination.

GOOD NEWS:

Things are kind of shitty, but uh, they’re better than they were in a very general sense? Most Americans now say that their definition of “family” now includes same-sex families with children and married same-sex couples. Statistically speaking, American’s don’t even consider unmarried heterosexual couples to be families! We are making huge progress in the Olympics of being approved of by statistically average Americans, kinda.

All derision aside, this is actually a really good thing, because even if you can’t force yourself to get excited about a nebulous sense of tolerance by a hypothetical mainstream America that brings you closer to enjoying the status that every straight person in America enjoys, think of it this way: general public acceptance is what gets us things like votes on Prop 8, which get us laws that give us pensions and health benefits and enable us to sponsor the people we love for citizenship, and that allow us to see our children if there’s a custody dispute, and that save us thousands of dollars in taxes and living expenses per year that will enable us to provide for those children, as well as feed and clothe ourselves.

General public acceptance makes it that much more likely that you can walk from the grocery store to the bus stop without being physically assaulted for looking visibly queer. It’s not the same thing as concrete change, but it’s a necessary step to get there.

And the nicest part of the article is that it makes it sound like not only are we in a better place, but all the homophobia and antigay agitating has actually helped get us there. “This indicates a more open social environment in which individuals now feel more comfortable discussing and acknowledging sexuality. Ironically with all the antigay initiatives, all of a sudden people were saying the word ‘gay’ out loud. Just the discussion about it made people more comfortable.”

Isn’t that an optimistic and refreshing thought? That as bad as Fred Phelps and Maggie Gallagher are, we’re still better off than we were in a place of silence. What’s that Gandhi once said? “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.” Maybe we’re just in the “they fight you” stage, which sucks, but also means that the next step is “you win.”


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internrachel

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.

24 Comments

    • Same here. I was harassed by my entire class in 9th grade after a few kids started a rumor that me and my best friend were gay and had been making out behind the school. This was before I even realized I was gay. Then, after that year it was never mentioned again. Odd.

    • You can’t accuse someone of being gay when they are, cause then you’re just stating a fact. I think a lot of people realize that, but “You’re (so) gay” should just stop being an insult to begin with.

  1. I have a LOT of feelings about gay-in-school things, probably because I’m gay, and I’m a high school teacher. I hate that I’m not 100% out because, quite honestly, I don’t want to deal with the repercussions of kids going home and telling their parents that their teacher is a homo, and blah blah blah, you just know that could somehow get ugly. Of course, some of my kids pay attention, and about 75% figure it out by the end of the year.

    The cool part about my job (and there are few cool parts lately; I need a new job-life) is that there are at least 10 out teachers here. Out in the sense that we all know we’re gay, our colleagues know we’re gay, but we don’t announce it to the kids.

    WITH THAT SAID. We’re having trouble getting our GSA started up again. It went underground/away a few years ago; no idea why. I don’t notice students being harassed. There are plenty of out kids here, probably more boys than girls, though a lot of girls identify as bi, which seems to be “safer.”

    Anyway. I could go on & on.
    It mostly just made my day to see Riley & Zane, caught in a mysterious glance. But, seriously, Riley needs a haircut. Greek shag is not sexy on him.

    • as a soon to be teacher, i have absolutely no hope of being out and working in my hometown. just the other day some staff members were talking about a new position being opened and the people who were interviewing for it. someone brought up a guy who everyone thinks is gay but isn’t out, and how even if he did have the best resume, he could never get the job. it’s ridiculous how behind some corners of the country really are…

      • That’s sad — it makes me feel worse for the under-the-radar gay kids who won’t be able to have a strong, capable homo to look up to. Or, for that matter, it’s sad for the hetero kids who won’t be able to see a strong, capable homo in a socially visible career.

        Yeah, that’s all shades of not okay.

  2. Why aren’t things better? I would hope that having some gay role models and the Internet helps a little? But it still feels like the gay community itself has a lot of misconceptions about what it’s like to be openly gay in high school. A lot of the types of gays who get harassed (more because they get clocked as gay before they even know they are rather than choosing to be out) continue to get dumped on by the gay community itself (for apparently being responsible for every stereotype). And it does put me in a bad mood because I wanna know where the solidarity is.

    I mean seriously, the next time someone says “gold star lesbian” like it’s a privilege…please stop and think about how a girl gets to be a girl that’s never had sex with a guy. Because you know, maybe it’s because guys were asking her if she had a penis in junior high and by high school the only time guys came near her was to whisper “fucking dyke” in her ear and knock her into a locker. I think maybe people don’t want to look at that. It’s depressing and they’d rather think of happier things.

    Now that I’m older, I can claim a lot of the stuff I went through as a badge of honor. Like, I came out in 1993, go me. But I only came out because I had no choice but to face, own and be proud of being a “fucking dyke,” “pussy licker,” “freak,” “queer” and even a “faggot” (my gender isn’t always obvious)…or run away. And from the looks of the study it appears that there are gay kids still going through those same things.

    The single most important thing that got me through that was a local gay youth group. Which I only found because a random gay boy gave me a card because I looked like I needed it.

  3. As a white student at a historically black, southern university, I stick out regardless and expected to encounter prejudice based on race. What naive me didn’t expect, however, is the rampant homophobia that exists in communities like mine – this is my third university, and I’ve been out at all three and have never encountered any problems. Just last week I was followed from the dining hall back to my dorm room by a pack of (presumably) straight males slinging every derogatory thing you can think of from “faggot” to “carpet muncher” to being told that all I need “to be fixed” is some of a particular guy’s dick, to the point that I now feel unsafe to leave my building without a group. Reporting harassment is barely worth it, since sexual orientation and identity aren’t listed in the school’s (incredibly outdated) discrimination policy.

    Students that are promised that college is better by understanding high school staff need to understand that it is not always the case.

  4. Pingback: BiFemLounge.Com » Is School a Battlefield For Your Homogay Heart? – Autostraddle

  5. I was out (as was my girlfriend) during my last two years of school and I never experienced any bullying, but I realise that my school was different from average. I went to an all girls selective grammar school, and everyone was very socially liberal and accepting. In my year alone there were at least 7 people who were also out, 3 of whom wore tuxes to prom and took female dates.
    Damn, I miss my school…

  6. As a professional staff member who works in Housing at a very conservative public midwest university, I made a conscious effort to be openly gay when I started working here. I can’t tell you how many students I have come to me on the sly, just wanting to talk to SOMEONE who understands, and it breaks me heart.

  7. Wow…
    I’m so lucky to attend an amazing and tolerant highschool with gay and straight friends and talented teachers who support me where I can be open about who I am and wear my tux to the formal with out being harrassed.
    America needs many more schools like the one i am privilliged to attend and I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to learn in a place where you felt unsafe.

  8. I’m going to forward this to my English Language Arts Honours class.
    yesterday, we spent about 40 minutes arguing with our, uh, liberal-identified ELA teacher who insisted that discrimination wasn’t a big problem anymore. She shot down most of our arguments with big words we didn’t understand, except.
    “What about the gays?” Someone asked finally, and kind of blinked, and went “Oh. That doesn’t count.”
    We all just kind of sat there and stared at her, LIKE OMGWTFBBQ, until she grew extremely uncomfortable and scolded us a bunch. LIKE. SRSLY.

  9. Well hello i’m Leann and I am in fact bisexual the whole school know not my mother and only my two cousins and my two sister . I have no dad , my mother yell at me and cuss’s me out and hits me at time i have cut my self try too make the pain go away wishing some day god would kill me because i was made fun of or called ugly a bitch a bisexual bitch a whore face and stuff like that every day i would be unhappy im at the age of 13 still thinking of getting a gun and trying to shoot my self my mother wouldn’t have care always but i want other people know that i have been though lot of shit i dont want kids are bisexuals/gays/lesbians any one to do the stuff i had im 13 right now i have done stupid ass shit drugs beer cutting my self hurting my self and lots of thing i would want to talk to the other that are like me going through the thing i have . hey the have called me a crazy but im a loveing careing person .

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