Too often we assume that to be gay means to be white. This bias leaves LGBT people of color and LGBT youth of color unrecognized as part of a demographic often hit hardest by discrimination and violence of all kinds. In school, this translates to hampered academic achievement, missed school days and fearful students. Daily fear and threat of violence, and extreme stress can trigger the development of traumatic reactions, anxiety, depression, panic attacks and suicidal thoughts and behavior. I s0metimes challenge adults to imagine what it would be like to come into work every day and fear that you will be attacked and harassed by co-workers or your boss and that no one would do a thing about it. Add to that experiencing racism and cultural misunderstandings on a daily basis. Unfortunately, many adults do go to work under similar circumstances but at least get to speak about it to their spouses, friends and family. LGBT children most often do not.
Making schools safe for all students, regardless of sexual orientation, also means examining and acting upon the impact of racism and other forms of discrimination on our LGBTQ students (and indeed, all students). Thanks to GLSEN’s study which came out early this year on the experiences of LGBT students of color in school.
GLSEN’s Press Release:
NEW YORK: LGBT students of color face unique and diverse challenges regarding victimization at school, according to Shared Differences: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Students of Color in Our Nation’s Schools
, a report released today by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.The report documents the experiences of over 2,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) middle and high school students of color who were African American or Black, Latino/a, Asian or Pacific Islander, Native American, and multiracial, using 2007 data collected as part of GLSEN’s biennial survey of LGBT students, the National School Climate Survey, along with results from in-depth individual and group interviews.
“While research on the experiences of LGBT students has increased in recent years, few studies have examined the specific victimization of students who identify as people of color and LGBT,” said GLSEN Executive
Director Dr. Eliza Byard. “Our schools are diverse environments, and it is important to understand how our students experiences differ based on personal characteristics such as race and ethnicity. This report provides alarming evidence that we must act now to ensure sure that America�s LGBT students of color are safe in school.”
The report also provides descriptions of the experiences of LGBT students of color in their own words.
“You could very well on any day hear someone yelling across the hall, ‘fag,’ etc,” said a 10th grade Latino male student in the report. “I’ve heard it before. … It’s hurtful because it’s just not something that you say. And it’s just generally hurtful. And I know that I’ll just be walking in a hallway, and someone will just say under their breath with a group of friends, “fag” … and hearing things like that in my school – it kind of brings me down almost. It kind of negates any hope that I have for our school to be a better place.”
Across all groups, sexual orientation and gender expression were the most common reasons LGBT students of color reported feeling unsafe in school. More than four out of five students, within each racial/ethnic group, reported verbal harassment in school because of sexual orientation and about two-thirds because of gender expression. At least a third of each group reported physical violence in school because of sexual orientation.
More than half of African American/Black, Latino/a, Asian/Pacific Islander, and multiracial students also reported verbal harassment in school based on their race or ethnicity. Native American students (43%) were less likely than other students to report experiencing racially motivated verbal harassment.
About a quarter of African American/Black and Asian/Pacific Islander students had missed class or days of school in the past month because they felt unsafe. Latino/a, Native American, and multiracial students were even more likely to be absent for for safety reasons – about a third or more skipped class at least once or missed at least one day of school in the past month for safety reasons.
Native American students experienced particularly high levels of victimization because of their religion, with more than half reporting the highest levels of verbal harassment (54%), and a quarter experiencing physical violence (26%).
Less than half of students of color who had been harassed or assaulted in school in the past year said that they ever reported the incident to school staff. Furthermore, for those students who did report incidents to school staff, less than half believed that staff’s resulting response was effective.
Native American (57%) and multiracial (50%) students were more likely than other students of color in our survey to report incidents to a family member.
Performance at school also suffered when students experienced high levels of victimization. Students� overall GPA dropped when they reported high severities of harassment based on sexual orientation and/or race/ethnicity. Students experiencing high severities of harassment also reported missing school more often.
The report also looks at differing experiences based on the racial/ethnic make-up of students’ schools. For all groups, LGBT students of color who were minorities in their school were much more likely to feel unsafe and experience harassment because of their race or ethnicity than those who were in the racial/ethnic majority.
GLSEN is releasing the report in conjunction with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Organizing Weekend, which takes place January 16-19. Dr. MLK Jr. Organizing Weekend provides an opportunity for students and Gay-Straight Alliances to honor the coalition-building work of Dr. King and other civil rights leaders, such as Bayard Rustin, by reaching out to others committed to working toward safe schools for all students.
To download the full report, CLICK HERE.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. For more information on GLSEN’s educational resources, public policy agenda, student organizing programs, research, public education or development initiatives, visit http://www.glsen.org.