SMACKDOWN: Lies In “The Truth About GLSEN’s School Climate Report” from Anti-Gays

The mounting number of youth who have committed suicide after relentless bullying this week is staggering; the number of kids who are still experiencing that bullying is even more staggering. Most of us have taken this opportunity to try to comfort each other and our kids, and provide our community with hope that it won’t always be like this. Some people, though, would prefer to take this opportunity to tear down the organizations working on the problem, and argue that they’re probably making the problem itself up as an inscrutable move in the Radical Gay Agenda Takeover Plan. Thanks, Candi Cushman! You may remember her from Focus on the Family’s campaign AGAINST ANTI-BULLYING CAMPAIGNS. Because, you know, homosexuality! We wanted to share the pleasure of reading this article along to others, but wanted to add a little commentary of our own just in case you missed some of the nuances. Please enjoy this selection of Cushman’s insightful observations with some considered critique. (@citizenslink)

For years, GLSEN has pressured schools to introduce homosexual topics and books to kids as young as kindergarten. And its favorite method for justifying those demands is to trot out statistics from its very own National School Climate Survey (the latest report was released this September). …Hardly what you’d call an objective research team—and then there’s the little fact that they are paid by an organization that has openly acknowledged its goal of getting gay, lesbian and transgender themes “fully integrated into curricula across a variety of subject areas and grade levels.”

Ok ok ok. I see where they’re coming from with this, and it’s certainly true that we approach studies carefully when they’re done by organizations with an interest in the subject matter. For instance, studies done by cigarette manufacturers that say cigarettes will clear up acne are probably not to be taken seriously. On the other hand, though, if no one ever had an interest in the outcome of studies, who would ever do them? By definition, anyone who undertakes the time and effort and money to undertake a significant study like this is interested in the outcome.

This should be taken into account, but it doesn’t invalidate the data. Most medical studies, the results of which can save lives, are headed and funded by pharmaceutical companies who stand to make billions off them, but that doesn’t mean that the studies aren’t necessary and valid. Furthermore, I think there’s a pretty major logical fallacy when you claim that GLSEN doesn’t have “an objective research team;” in order to argue that their findings of harmful and unsafe school environments are inaccurate because they’re a gay organization, you have to assume that being gay means they WANT for schools to be scary and dangerous for queer teens. That is, simply put, stupid and crazy.

This insane woman on the internet is arguing that the stated goal of integrating GLBT education into standard curriculum is the entire point of their existence, and that they’re scrambling to make up stories of bullying and harassment in order to justify it. I shouldn’t even have to say this, but that is not true. The deplorable school environment that so many kids live with every day is the fact, and integrating GLBT acceptance into school curriculum is just one idea for trying to combat it. The only people who disagree with this point are so fervently committed to their Homosexuals Are Coming To Destroy Us stance that there’s really no point in arguing, so we won’t.

Then you have to consider how these data samples were collected… surveys were only solicited from those who “identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or a sexual orientation other than heterosexual … or identified as transgender or having a gender identity other than male, female, or transgender (e.g., genderqueer)”—which means valuable perspective from students who fell outside of this homosexual and “genderqueer” parameter was excluded. …GLSEN posted the survey on its Web site—and then advertised its availability “on LGBT-youth oriented listservs and websites.” “Notices were also emailed to GLSEN chapters” and other “advocacy” organizations. …In summary, what this means is that most of the respondents “self-selected” to participate. Self-selection is a research technique known to have the most risk of generating unreliable and tainted results.

I’m sorry, but “valuable perspective from students who fell outside of this homosexual and “genderqueer” parameter”? There is no such thing. This is like demanding that the He-Man Heros Chauvinist Club should be polled on the best way to implement access to reproductive health resources for low-income women. The point of GLSEN’s research is to shed light on the experience of queer teens. Straight teens, even if they are well-meaning, even if they are allies, do not know this. Dear Straight People: The only people who can testify to our experiences are us. Thanks for the offer, though. As for the issue of self-selection – yes, of course they did. Respectfully, how the f*ck else did they think this was going to work? As we’ve noted previously, the strategy of “knocking on randomly selected doors and hoping that people will answer deeply personal and stigmatizing questions for fun” isn’t always effective either. It’s not self-selection because the survey was advertised in places likely to reach queer teens – that’s just, uh, regular selection.

Like we said, trying to reach straight teens would have been pointless, and a waste of time and money, neither of which queer advocacy organizations tend to have a surplus of. The only possible nugget of truth in this criticism is that the survey may over-represent teens who have been bullied or harassed, as they’re more motivated to report their experiences than someone for whom everything is hunky-dory.

While I’m not a statistician or research methodologist, and will possibly be rabidly corrected in the comments as soon as this is published, I’m not sure how GLSEN could have gotten around it. When you’re studying a population whose identity is a) not outwardly visible, so they are not easily identifiable, and b) whose identities are stigmatized such that they face persecution for speaking about themselves publicly, it seems to me that you kind of have to settle for those willing to come forward.

There’s no way to ferret out every queer teen in American and force them to participate, thus ensuring the MOST ACCURATE DATA OMFG SO ACCURATE. You have to rely on a combination of luck and math, which is exactly what GLSEN did – calculate based on other statistics how many teens are likely to be GLBTQISIAJIOGJOIG, and then look at what number of teens said they’re experiencing bullying or harassment. What else can you do? Put a bunch of “scare quotes” around words that make you “uncomfortable,” I guess.

The GLSEN report also heavily pushes for schools to incorporate “positive representatives of LGBT topics in the curriculum.” This sounds nice on the surface. But to get an idea of what this might actually look like in practice, we need only examine the resources that GLSEN has already been promoting to educators and students, such as the “Homophobia Scale.” Described as appropriate for high school students, the scale teaches that “acceptance” and “tolerance” are “homophobic” attitudes. That’s right—even acceptance is no longer good enough. Nothing but complete “admiration” and students who are “willing to be allies and advocates” will do.

No. Don’t. I can’t even. Yes, you’re right, we do want students to be willing to support and ally themselves with their classmates, instead of attacking, abusing, tormenting, or physically harming them. And really, if you want us to defend that point, I’m going to suggest that you go home and start calling therapists instead of writing articles on the internet about things you don’t understand. “Described as appropriate for high school students?” What are you even trying to say? I hate everything.

Interestingly, GLSEN continues to promote its own resources as “solutions,” even though it acknowledges that for the last several years, “we have seen a significant increase in the availability of certain LGBT-related resources—specifically, GSAs …and LGBT-related materials in school libraries.” And still, its own surveys show that “students’ experiences of harassment and assault remained relatively constant over time.”

Yes, it does “promote its own resources as solutions,” BECAUSE THEY ARE. Maybe we’re a little bitter because our entire source of income is “hoping that advertisers maybe actually pay us this month,” but who in their right minds believes that any gay organization is somehow in it for the money or the fame? Is she saying that GLSEN is somehow profiting off of exposing the heartbreaking reality that a lot of students live with every day? What if harassment has remained relatively constant over time? Does that mean that GLSEN and PFLAG and the Trevor Project and every other group out there should just pack it in and go home, or does that maybe mean you should stop contributing to the problem by writing articles that trivialize it? I dunno, just a thought.

If you’re interested in an actual answer to that question, I would argue that while changing social attitudes have made the environments in some schools better and safer, they also mean that more teens are out than ever before, making them more likely to be targeted. It’s a Catch-22, kinda. Do you know what that classic literary reference is were you too busy bullying people all through high school to recognize it? Should I put some scare quotes around it?

And just in case not all teachers, parents and students agree with its agenda, GLSEN would like it enforced with a federal mandate. Its report calls for federal (and state) legislation that would force schools to include categories like “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in their local policies. Again, while that may sound nice on the surface, we’ve documented how similar laws have already been used to undermine the rights of parents and justify mandated homosexuality lessons for elementary school kids.

Wow, you’re really worried about things sounding nice on the surface, huh? You’re also really concerned about “mandated homosexuality lessons.” What are those, exactly? Is that the same thing as not denying to students that gay people exist if they ask? Because it seems to me like you might just be really invested in making sure things don’t “sound nice on the surface.” Trying to scare parents by implying that homosexuality might somehow nebulously exist “in the schools” was one of the primary factors of Prop 8 passing, and it was completely fabricated. There has never been any plan to introduce “gay sex ed” in any state or federal law. There has, however, been a long history of “anti-gay” organizations curiously preoccupied with the minute details of gay sex, such that references to it creep into everything they say. What a weird thing, amirite?

In short, after this emotionally draining and wholly heartbreaking few weeks, it would be great if you gave money or time to a local queer youth organization, or if you took the time to talk to a queer teen in your life. If you can’t do that, though, we would at least ask that you not write inaccurate and wildly vindictive articles about one of those embattled and underfunded organizations that actually is doing something. Ok? Ok.

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 1129 articles for us.

43 Comments

  1. I need a moratorium on depressing/infuriating news. I need one now before something terrible happens, like I develop a rather unattractive twitch in my right eye or another beautiful youth of our community gives up hope.

    (Lesbian kittens did help. Thank you for that.)

  2. Candi, when I was in high school I was one of those eeeevil Radical Gay Activist Day of Silence organizers you speak of. I even attended a conference put on by those devil-worshipers GLSEN. BE AFRAID. BE VERY AFRAID.

  3. do these people actually believe that lgbtq groups want to put homo sex lessons in to the curriculum? or are they just bullshitting to get every homophobe in murka all fired up and paranoid? either way the fact that anyone takes these people seriously is scary to me. a six year old could see how nasty, unfair, and mean these homophobic people are.

  4. God damn people fucking suck.

    a bit off topic but hey rachel k the lady that took my sonogram looked a lot like you. I tried to talk to her about howl but she told me to stop moving

  5. Oh man, all you guys with GSAs in high school and stuff are cool. We couldn’t even start one, which bugged me a hell of a lot. Not because of homophobia, or at least directly – you needed ten people to sign up to be a club, and only three or four were willing to put their names on a list. So no club.

  6. Has anyone else noticed that the only one who is really pushing a radical agenda (in this case, an anti-gay one) into schools is Candi Crushman?
    She needs a better, nicer day job.

  7. These people really are non-human/soulless robots if, in the wake of FOUR FUCKING SUICIDES BY GAY TEENS, they are going to stand on their soap boxes and say that it’s all made up–all just some scheme to get LGBT people integrated through “positive examples.” They put scare quotes around positive examples?? What exactly is dangerous about a positive example aside from telling a gay kid that there are other options besides KILLING HIMSELF. This shit makes me want to move out of the US forever

  8. it’s just so laughable. if being exposed to homosexuality or talk of homosexuality could make little straight babies gay, then all the little gay babies would be straight by now. it’s an argument that undermines itself. i will never understand people who devote time and energy to speaking against or preventing efforts intended to improve the oppressive conditions of others. god, look at yourselves.

    ps rachel – you’re a really great writer.

  9. We started a facebook event that I hope kinda sorta addresses the issue at hand. I’ve been a orientation camp counselor at university, and we had all sorts of training on how to communicate on issues such as bullying, harassment, and helping kids who are depressed or upset because they feel discriminated against. Here’s the link, invite your friends. http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=100991033300286&index=1

    People like this make me sick. Instead of acknowledging the problem, they do everything in their power to stop something that could potentially save lives just because they don’t agree with the people running it.

  10. FYI, as someone with lots of research methods training, your post did not awaken my latent rabidity. Not to be passive aggressive. I and many others are undoubtedly rabid assholes when it comes to this stuff.

    “Self-selection is a research technique known to have the most risk of generating unreliable and tainted results.” THAT is bullshit. It’s always a question of pro’s and con’s depending on the particular context. And her fucking sentence doesn’t even make sense to me. Shouldn’t she be saying “THE research technique” if she wants to be throwing superlatives around?

    I’m just super pissed not only because of this shit but because I just heard an NPR story about that kid who killed himself after his roommates had him on a webcam and the interview focused on how the internet is confusing kids. They don’t know what privacy is because of the internet. REALLY??? THAT was the FUCKING PROBLEM? THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME KNOW, NPR. BECAUSE I THOUGHT IT WAS SOMETHING ELSE. LIKE WIDESPREAD HOMOPHOBIA. Silly fucking me. Good to know. I BETTER WRITE THAT DOWN BEFORE I FUCKING FORGET.

    • i am actually really really relieved by that, thank you for the reassurance.

      also, goddamn, that was really on NPR? jesus christ. that’s like saying overdoses on heroin have increased because hypodermic needles are now cheaper to produce. it’s okay to not try for a quirky new angle on every news story. really.

  11. Ugh. I still have to go to church with people who think thisaways, and fake being straight around them, and then I read this sort of thing, and it all just makes me want to COME OUT OF THE FREAKING CLOSET… geez. Feelings.

      • A place to live. My father thinks that our culture’s acceptance of gays is the reason why our nation has problems (name a problem, any problem). He believes God is judging us just as he did Sodom and Gomorrah, and that the rain of fire probably isn’t far off. My father believes this. I personally do not understand it, but I know that until I graduate high school and can begin to pay for my own life, I have to work around it if I want a place to live and food to eat. I will come out someday. Just not right now.

        • Hey you,

          My dad sounds a lot like your dad. He’s a crazy born-again Christian, donated to Prop 8, sent me to ex-gay therapy, the whole nine yards. But I want you to know that you have the strength to hang in there! It’s been about 10 years since I came out — and it was one of the scariest, most hellish things I ever did. My parents, well actually my entire family, totally freaked out in bad abusive ways. So I know there is a lot to lose–your family, your church community, all of that.

          But believe me, you do have the strength to stay true to yourself, to live a lovely life, and find your own spiritual path. I’m not saying it gets 100% better–it’s hard to when you’re rejected by your parents. But I am saying that by sticking it out I have been able to carve out a pretty amazing life — wonderful friends, a loving partner, good community. You’ll get there too. Be safe.

        • i’m sending hugs and rainbows and kittens to you right now. while my parents don’t have as extreme/strong beliefs as yours, there’s no way I feel comfortable coming out until I’m fully independent. many times, however, I just wanna shout it at the top my lungs. we’ll make it, though.

  12. I actually tend to agree with her about not collecting the perspectives of straight students, I was ‘straight’ throughout highschool and I privy to a tonne of stuff that people would certainly not mention directly to out gay students. Further people who are straight are bullied over perceived sexual orientation too, is this really not worth collecting information on? Experiences of queer students they may not be, but these things have everything to do with the climate of homophobia in school and just because they are not directly experienced by gay students it makes them irrelevant somehow?

    Perhaps if they did invite straight students to participate too then there would be less disincentives for gay students to participate.

    I think that it does leave one with the feeling that the data may not be adequate.

    It’s the only part i agree with her on however.

  13. “…the stated goal of integrating GLBT education into standard curriculum is the entire point of their existence, and that they’re scrambling to make up stories of bullying and harassment in order to justify it.”

    UUUUUH! How come all these straight people know more about our “Agenda” than, like, me? Who’s letting them into the meetings? COME ON, GANG!

  14. I think you make good points. But I hear that as an argument for more research, not necessarily a problem with this study.

    From what I understand, these researchers were/ are trying to fill a gap — when they started this study ten years ago there was basically zero information on queer kids’ experiences in school. And if you don’t have endless amounts of money, you have to make some choices in what you are going to research. I imagine the authors of this study would love to do a big-ass survey like the one you suggest.

  15. so, can I take this to mean that she’s pro-bullying & pro-suicide? ’cause that’s what I got out of it. I’ve heard people say that bullying is just something everybody goes through as a kid, and basically, these kids need to suck it up. ’cause you know that shit builds character. this crazy bitch with her nonsense about the BIG EVIL GAY AGENDA is just adding to the problem by telling all the bullies out there that it’s okay and even noble, almost, to combat said AGENDA through bullying & harassment. I mean, how would they like it if gay parents demanded their children’s schools to remove positive hetero images, because they themselves had no experience or understanding of said heterosexuality?

    ADKLFAHG’JA;LDFJAJDFA;A

    ^those are my feelings attempting to process themselves. i’m gonna stop typing now, because I could write an essay on this bullshit.

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