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Bullying

Bullying and LGBT Youth

Bullying and LGBT Youth Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) youth identified bullying problems as the second most important problem in their lives, after non-accepting families. LGBT youth are nearly twice as likely to be called names, verbally harassed or physically assaulted at school compared to their non-LGBT peers. It is also important to note that for every LGBT student that reports being harassed, 4 straight students report being harassed because they are perceived as being gay or lesbian (GLSEN, 2005).

In a national study of middle and high school students, LGBT youth (61.1%) were more likely than their non-LGBT peers to feel unsafe or uncomfortable at school because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, nearly half (42 percent) of LGBT youth reported being harassed or bullied online; this is three times more than non-LGBT youth.

All of these stressors create a social environment that places LGBT youth at risk for depression, absenteeism from school, alcohol and drug use, and other risky behaviors. Alarmingly, they are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their non-LGBT peers (Bontempo & D’Augelli, 2002). Unfortunately, the risks are the same whether youth are actually LGBT, wrongly perceived to be LGBT, or choose to hide their sexual orientation.

Adults must step in to help. Many youth report that their teachers do not label homophobic name-calling as bullying and do nothing to punish the behavior (Phoenix, et al., 2003). The lack of adult interventions for homophobic name-calling and other forms of bullying may serve to support and maintain the harassment and make matters worse.

What can we do?

Research from the Family Acceptance Project shows that families and caregivers have a major impact on their LGBT children’s risk and well-being. Therefore it is important to:

  • Value your child regardless of their sexual orientation. Being valued by their parents and family helps children learn to value and care about themselves.
  • Tell and show them that they are loved.
  • Stand up for your child when he or she is mistreated because of their LGBT identity.
  • Find support for yourself and your family so you can better understand your child’s sexual identity.

Resources:

Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)

It Gets Better Project

Helping Families support LGBT Youth

Bontempo, D.E. & D’Augelli, A.R. (2002). Effects of at-school victimization and sexual orientation on lesbian, gay, or bisexual youths’ health risk behavior. Journal of Adolescent Health, 30, 364-374.

CDC. (2011). Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Risk Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

IMPACT. (2010). Mental health disorders, psychological distress, and suicidality in a diverse sample of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths. American Journal of Public Health. 100(12), 2426-32.

Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Bartkiewicz, M. J., Boesen, M. J., & Palmer, N. A. (2012). The 2011 National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in our nation’s schools. New York: GLSEN.

Ryan, C. (2009). Helping families support their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) children. Retrieved at http://nccc.georgetown.edu/documents/LGBT_Brief.pdf

Teasing and Torment Report (GLSEN 2005), National Mental Health Association. Gay, Lesbian, Straight Educators Network.