Understanding Bullying and the LGBTQI+ Community
And What YOU Can Do
45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.
June is Pride Month. Pride Month commemorate the Stonewall Riots also known as the Stonewall uprising that occurred in June 1969. When police invaded the Stonewall Inn, a famous LGBTQ spot on June 28, 1964, the public did not stand passively by. Many historians agree this was the spark that launched the LGBTQ rights movement in the United States. Pride month is a celebration when the world’s LGBTQI+ communities come together and celebrate the freedom to be themselves. The month and the festivities are named “pride” due largely to a bisexual woman named Brenda Howard. Activist Brenda was nicknamed “mother of pride” and she organized the first parade to commemorate the Stonewall uprising.
LGBTQI+ youth = lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, intersex, nonbinary or otherwise gender non-conforming
It probably comes as no surprise to most people that those who identify themselves in the LGBTQI+ community are a greater risk of being bullied than almost any other subset of youth. In 2019, stopbullying.gov reports that nationwide more U.S. high-school students who self-identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual report having been bullied on school property (32%) and cyberbullied (26.6%) in the past year than their straight peers (17.1% and 14.1% respectively.) Also reported was that more LGB student (13.5%) than straight students (7.5%) reported not going to school because of safety concerns.
“We must recognize that LGBTQ young people face stressors simply for being who they are that their peers never have to worry about.” ~ Amit Paley (he/him) CEO and ED of The Trevor Project
The Trevor Project published the 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health recently. I highly encourage taking looking through it. The study points to the harms, stressors and mental health challenges that this community faces much more than those who identify as straight. It points to a crisis we have in our country and how these young people are struggling with suicide, depression, anxiety, access to mental health care, physical harm, and discrimination. There are two items I want to note since they are directly related to bullying and harassment. The first is 36% of LGBTQ youth reported that they have been physically threatened or harmed due to either their sexual orientation or gender identity. Secondly, 65% of LGBTQ youth reported that they have experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation.
“Recent political attacks aimed at transgender and nonbinary youth have not only threatened their access to health care, support systems and affirming spaces at school they’ve also negatively impacted their mental health.” ~Dr.Jonah DeChants (he/him) Research Scientist, The Trevor Project
WHAT CAN WE DO?
As humans, all of us like to feel safe, accepted and cared for. It is up to us, the adults, to lead the charge to create safe environments for LGBTQ+ youth. These environments need to exist in home, schools and any community where youth are part of.
Stopbullying.gov offers the following ideas for building these environments. We can all play a role in preventing bullying and helping LGBTQ+ youth feel physically and emotionally safe.
- Encourage respect for ALL students.
- Prohibit bullying, harassment, and violence against ALL students.
- Schools should engage in social-emotional learning activities. This will help foster peer-relationships and empathy among students.
- Create and identify safe spaces where LGBTQI+ can receive support.
- Encourage and help organize student-led school clubs that promote a safe and welcoming environment. (Schools MUST allow these clubs if they have other “non-curricular” clubs or groups at the school.)
- Ensure heath education materials include HIV, other STD/STI and pregnancy information that is relevant to LGBTQI+ youth.
- Use inclusive language and avoid making assumptions. Use of gender-neutral pronouns like “they/them” instead of “he/she” or “him/her.”
- School administrators and teachers should use a student’s chosen name and pronoun.
- School staff should be trained to create safe and supportive school environments for all students, including LGBTQI+ youth.
- The school should have resources and access to community-based providers who are experienced in youth health services including medical, counseling, social and psychological services and HIV/STI testing,
The 2022 Trevor Project National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health stresses the importance of access to affirming homes and schools for our youth. The report states “LGBTQ youth who lived in an accepting community, had access to LGBTQ affirming spaces and/or felt high social support from family and friends reported significantly lower rates of attempting suicide in the past year.”
“LGBTQ youth reported lower rates of attempting suicide when they felt more supported by their friends and family.”
The role that parents, caregivers and caring adults have in a young person’s life can provide the love, acceptance and stability that our LGBTQ youth need in these very challenging times. The five most common ways that LGBTQ youth reported feeling supported by their parents or caregivers are:
- Been welcoming to their LGBTQ friends or partners (62%)
- Talked with them respectively about the LGBTQ identity (48%)
- Used their name and pronouns correctly (47%)
- Supported their gender expression (45%)
- Educated themselves about LGBTQ people and issues (35%)
Just one supportive person in a LGBTQI+ person’s life can be difference between suicide and life. It is important to support our youth at home and at school. You can be that person for someone. Happy pride month!
By Dru Ahlborg
Bullying Recovery Resource Center