Topic 4 Experience and Difficulties for LGBTQ Children in School

  • Schools are often viewed as unsafe places for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) students; they often experience negative school environments, where they are subject to victimization based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. As a result, LGBTQ students are more likely to report negative physical and mental health outcomes than their peers.
  • Many LGBTQ students face additional challenges when interacting with peers, teachers, administrators or the overall community (i.e the word “gay”, when used in a negative or contemptuous way, can make a student feel distressed).These kinds of challenges can potentially discourage and detach children from the learning process; a process that should be the number one priority of every student when they enter school.
  • LGBTQ students are likely to be victims of bullying (bullying reported by transgender students was characterized by more explicit targeting of their gender identity, and more extreme physical assault (often in bathrooms), especially on students transitioning from male to female. Other forms of bullying and harassment included being dead named and misgendered (verbal bullying) (Earnshaw et al., 2020).

Contrary to the experiences of bullying reported by students, which were described as frequent and sometimes severe, over half of SHPs reported that they had not witnessed LGBTQ bullying at their schools. A reason for this could be the fact that they’re absent when such behaviors take place or the fact that they do not have regular contact with particular groups of students, where these jokes get made. Earnshaw et al. (2020) states that students generally report having mixed experiences when trying to report bullying behaviors to SHP’s. Disregard, refusal to help and / or lack of knowledge and skills to support LGBTQ students are few of the main reasons for that. On the other hand, SHP’s consider their responses more effective and positive. All the above pinpoint the necessity of continuous training and sensitization in the context of an inclusive education.

Over the last decade, four main strategies have emerged in the research literature to prevent or at least minimize these risks: specifically inclusive anti-bullying policies, professional development on LGBTQ issues, LGBTQ-related resources, and student-led clubs like Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs).

  • LGBT students in districts with antibullying policies that were inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression were less likely to feel unsafe, to experience victimization, and to experience social aggression at school relative to peers in districts that had only generic antibullying policies or no identifiable policy.
  • There are findings demonstrating that students in districts with inclusive antibullying policies were significantly less likely to report experiencing verbal harassment and physical assaults related to their gender expression when compared with peers in districts without an identifiable policy. Such robust findings add to others (e.g.Hatzenbuehler & Keyes, 2013) and clearly support the enumeration of antibullying policies (as well as federal nondiscrimination legislation) that protect students on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

Activity 4: “All the colours of the rainbow”