More than half of LGBTQ+ secondary school students face constant harassment, a new report from Dublin City University (DCU) shows.
Orla Dunne’s research – as part of her doctoral research at the Center for Talented Youth, Ireland (CTYI) and the DCU Institute of Education – will be presented at an education conference in The Hague later this month. It will be heard as part of the European Council for Higher Ability conference.
Some of the glaring results are:
• 61 percent of LGBTQ+ students surveyed said they had heard the word “gay” “frequently” or “often” in a negative way.
• 52 percent heard negative comments about their sexuality “often” or “often”.
• 37 percent “often” or “often” heard negative comments about transgender and gender-nonconforming people.
The study found that the most common type of abuse was occasional homophobic and transphobic slurs. As part of the study, students shared their experiences of harassment and reported problems dealing with abuse from their teachers.
One issue that came up during the study’s focus group meetings was that fellow students labeled LGBTQ+ students as “predatory” if they used communal toilets.
One student said: “I was told that some students would not go to the bathroom when I was there because they thought I was only raping them because of my sexuality.”
Others described the minimal impact on those who participate in harassment. One student said: “A group of popular boys in my year bullied a gay student and posted homophobic remarks on their social media and got away with very little punishment.”
In at least one instance, a teacher is said to have contributed to the prejudice a student felt when surrounded by classmates. One student said: “A teacher once ranted for 45 minutes about how ‘confusing’ and ‘unnecessary’ various pronouns are and how transgender people cause disruption in school and work environments when it comes to which gender toilet they use would.”
The 143 survey participants came from all over the country and ranged in age from 15 to 23 – all were either still in school or had just graduated. All participants are either currently participating in CTYI programs or have previously participated in them.
One student said, “The fa**ot bow” was commonly used by boys from first to sixth year, and you could hear it just walking down the corridors.” They said comments like “that’s so gay” were been a part of everyday life.
Students who had already come out as LGBTQ+ were treated differently and mocked behind their backs. As a result, one student who waited until college to get out said, “I would never be comfortable in a million years if I was in high school.”
Another student described the casual nature of the abuse, saying homophobic humor was “commonplace” and “not even particularly mean, nor meant to attack or belittle a particular student, more of a committed tradition.” A simple fallback joke”.
One student described “girls spreading rumors about other girls being gay” as a way to “disenfranchise” them, and recalled how girls “ended friendships when a girl came out” because the student said, “they thought she was a pervert”.
The majority of the students said they would “never” intervene, largely out of personal safety concerns and a feeling that nothing would change if they did.
One student said: “I remember being so scared because although I’m not transgender, the level of hatred was appalling and homophobia and transphobia often go hand in hand.”
One student said: “I felt it was pointless as I would not be able to change the culture of the school.” Another said: “I had no confidence whatsoever that the issue would be taken seriously, let alone that action would be taken.” would be taken to discourage such remarks, which is why I never intervened.”
The study found that 72 percent of students also said they would never report negative remarks to a teacher, although students in mixed-sex schools were more likely to report the abuse.
With 68 terms now used to describe gender and identity, Ms Dunne said she was aware of not giving participants a list of “boxes to tick” when offering their identity.
“That meant students would write really long, nuanced paragraphs about how they view their gender and sexuality. And their experience was so rich and so personal that I realized that if I had just given them a list of options, all would have been lost,” she said.
Ms Dunne said she believes access to the internet has helped a generation of teenagers and children to express themselves: “Before, they wouldn’t have known anyone in their town who felt like them. Now they have access to a world full of people who say, “Well, I feel the same way.”
She also cited a 2017 study that detailed teachers’ experiences and why some might not want to get involved.
The 2017 study found that the main barriers to addressing homophobic and transphobic bullying were students’ unease in discussing their sexuality with teachers; teachers’ discomfort when discussing LGBTQ+ issues; lack of education and priority for homophobic and transphobic bullying and parental views.
She called for more leadership within schools and additional teacher training.
Offerings such as extracurricular activities, including music and drama classes, have been found to have a positive impact on students.
One respondent (a young trans woman) said it was extremely positive to be cast as a female character in her school musical: “Individuality was celebrated and I saw many of my friends thrive in this atmosphere, which was both academically and socially so very different from school.”
Students also commented positively on spaces where there was diverse leadership among staff, which they felt gave them an increased sense of security and empowered representation in relation to their future and careers.
One student said: “My principal in particular is very supportive of LGBTQ+ issues so the rest of the staff is following suit.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/disturbing-pattern-of-abuse-is-found-in-lgbtq-school-study-41925862.html Disturbing pattern of abuse found in LGBTQ+ school study