Bullying and Harassment Among the LGTBQ Youth
Adolescence is a difficult stage in life because it is a time for many when social status is seen as very important and self-esteem can be fragile. One’s social status can directly affect one’s self esteem and overall happiness. Unfortunately, many of those who possess a higher social status in middle and high school use it against those who are deemed socially inferior to them, whether that is due to race, attractiveness, intelligence or sexuality. In other words, the adolescents at the bottom of the social pyramid are often subjected to bullying and harassment from their socially “superior” classmates. Bullying and harassment have become a widespread problem in schools all around the United States and have proved to have serious implications, such as problems in academics for those who are victimized by bullies. Victimization from bullying and harassment can be linked to lowered self-esteem, anxiety, depression, avoidance of school, and suicide (Hawker & Boulton, 2000).
Unfortunately, one of the most victimized groups of students subjected to bullying and harassment is the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer youth. According to the National Youth Association, 9 out of 10 LGBT students have experienced harassment while at school. It also states that LGBT teens are bullied two to three times as much as straight teens. These high rates of bullying may explain why more than one-third of LGBT kids have attempted suicide (Hawker & Boulton, 2000). Specific harm aimed towards LGBTQ community, known as gay bashing and gay bullying can be defined as verbal or physical abuse against a person who is perceived by the antagonist to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. This also includes those who are actually heterosexual but may appear to be non-heterosexual due to stereotypes. The three main types of bullying the LGBTQ youth is most subjected to are verbal harassment, physical assault, and cyber bullying.
The first main type of bullying, verbal harassment may be hard to detect because it leaves no physical proof, but rather mental and emotional trauma. However, it is still a popular and damaging tactic used by bullies to hurt the LGBTQ youth everyday. In fact, according to River’s study in 1996, it is the most popular tactic among bullies. Also, according to bullyingstatistics.org, many victims of verbal bullying experience lowered self-image, and can have lasting effects in emotional and psychological ways. This type of bullying can lead to low self-esteem, as well as depression and other problems (Hawker & Boulton, 2000). According to River’s study in 2001, many LGBTQ adolescents report being exposed to verbal harassment and stigmatization. River’s recent survey shows that 82% of the LGBTQ youth in schools are subjected to verbal slurs (Rivers 2001). According to another study from the Mental Health of America in 1998 on verbal abuse, students hear anti-gay slurs such as “homo”, “faggot” and “sissy” about 26 times a day, which would be about once every 14 minutes throughout their school day.
Anti-gay language used on a regular basis in school settings is creating an unfriendly and unwelcoming atmosphere for the LGTBQ students, which may be causing them to be isolated and socially withdrawn (Swearer, Turner, Givens, &Pollack, 2008). Although not all anti-gay slurs heard in school are meant to be malicious, it is still hurtful for the gay youth to hear. Many adolescents who use gay slurs may not be homophobic, but more ignorant to LGBTQ issues. Obviously not all homophobic name-calling is directed at young gay and lesbians. For example, researchers found that terms such as ‘‘gay’’ and “homo” are often used to refer to anything unmasculine or ‘‘uncool’’ (Duncan, 1999). Regardless of intention, the constant degradation of these words causes a hostile and...
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