Here is what I learned from the book "LGBT Youth in America's Schools" by Sean Cahill and Jason Cianciotto so far:
Chapter 1 LGBT Youth: A Critical Population
It is difficult to get figures on LGBT students. A lot of conservative states won’t ask about gender identity and same-sex attraction in surveys. The numbers seem to indicate between like 4 to 6% for LGB students. That may be conservative though because some students may not know their orientation or may be embarrassed to admit it on a survey.
The word Transgender encompasses a few different things
Transsexual: Gender Identity is different than gender assigned at birth; may seek medical treatments such as hormones or reassignment surgery.
Gender non-conforming youth: have looks stereotypically associated with opposite gender assigned at birth,
Also, there are people who don’t identify with either of the traditional genders. Androgynous would be one category.
53% of Transgender students report bullying and harassment (20% more than LGB students). They also can have trouble reconciling their gender identity with family, cultural and religious expectations.
Intersex students have a medical condition that makes their anatomy ambiguous. They can be any sexual orientation or gender identity. In the past, doctors have often performed a surgery and assigned gender. It’s recommended now that you wait and let the kids decide if they want surgery. There needs to be more education about intersex individuals. Many of them live with a sense of shame about their status and fear of people knowing.
A lot of discrimination happens based on going against the stereotypes of your perceived gender. This is something that happens to boys and girls who end up being heterosexual (examples given: An athletic high school girl with a short haircut being called a “dyke” by their peers or a boy who is artistic being called a “sissy”).
What I’ve really taken away from this chapter is that activities should never be related to gender. Even a fairly common term like “tomboy” (something I remember my parents saying about my sister) can be damaging to the psyche of a child, whether they are transgendered, a lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual.
The Tricultural experience:
Things are especially difficult for LGBT youth who are also members of a minority group. They can deal with homophobia or transphobia from their culture, racism from the majority culture and a combination of both from society at large. Minorities may even face discrimination in LGBT communities and organizations that are dominated by white people. Or they may choose not to even go, perceiving them as too “white” or not understanding of their community. But basically, more studies are needed to better understand issues for LGBT youth of color.
Also covered are studies that show same-sex parents raise children equal or better to their heterosexual counterparts. It does discuss how children are sometimes bullied for having two moms or two dads. It also showed that surveyed students felt their teachers would react to discriminatory comments about skin color, religion and other things, but not to homophobic remarks. I’d be interested in talking to elementary teachers and see what kinds of insults they are hearing at their level.
LGBT youth are overrepresented in foster homes and in the teenage homeless community. However, they are very resilient, and many transgender students have sparked change in their school or community with protests or court cases. The more supportive a school is, the easier the life of these students become.
Policies like letting same-sex couples attend a dance together can make a big difference. Studies show that LGBT youth score higher on multiple scales of resilience when their school has the following:
1.Specific anti-harassment policies
2 2. Teachers who intervene when they hear slurs
3. A Gay-Straight Alliance or similar club (Is that doable here at ACS?)
4. Information and support related to sexual and gender identity.
Chapter 2: A Grave Picture of violence and harassment in schools
This chapter begins with a 6 year old boy being called “faggot” and other terrible stories of children using slurs and equating being gay with something negative. This book does cover all of the country, and I wonder how much of this is going on in our elementary, or if the Bay Area bubble of tolerance that I’m used to extends to kids we teach. I know there’s always going to name-calling but are kids still using insults like that? I haven’t heard anyone say “that’s so gay” in a while, so I’m wondering if kids didn’t grow up hearing things like that as much now. The studies they are basing it off of are also from 2007. I think it’d be important to have discussions about this at all age levels. I remember being happy that last year when we did our mock Congress only two or three kids out of 48 thought that same-sex marriage was wrong. When I first started here, it was much closer to 50/50.
Apparently violence perpetrated against LGBT youth is highest in Middle School.
While Cyber bullying is a problem for all kids, it seems to be used against LGBT students even more.
LGBT students often don’t report what happens to them and when they do, they feel that school officials do nothing to help them.
Sexual harassment is another common occurrence where students are groped, blocked or cornered in a sexual way or otherwise sexually assaulted.
The cost of all of this is frequent truancy and dropping out of school by LGBT youth. Because of truancy, some LGBT youth have lower grades and test scores etc. They were also less likely to go to college or grad school if they had suffered daily harassment. They are also sometimes drawn to binge drinking or drug use. Suicide is also more common (not from being LGB or T; from the harassment), with about 5% of LGBT youth attempting suicide vs. 1.6% of the heterosexual community. However, they do mention that there might be some problems with these studies.
The conclusion is that this kind of violence, verbal and sexual harassment is a national tragedy that affects students of all gender identities and sexual orientations. It needs to be addressed and teachers and administrators need to not turn a blind eye to this anymore.