in a stunning development file: a report from Human Rights Watch has found that harassment, violence, and bullying of gay adolescents in U.S. schools prevents millions of LGBT teenagers from receiving an adequate education. Many of the teens interviewed spend a significant amount of time just trying to figure out how to get to and from school without being harassed or assaulted; many others cut gym class to avoid being beaten up. When trying to get help from teachers or administrators they often were met with indifference or hostility; some even reported that faculty or administrators participated in the abuse.
This is not at all surprising, but it is atrocious. Not only are the direct effects of the abuse horrible, but it also leads to self-loathing and depression, which (among other things) impairs LGBT teens’ ability to learn, and leads to horrendous suicide rates amongst gay youth. Of the LGBT adolescents interviewed, about 36.1% had attempted suicide, versus 9.4% of str8 teens. Yet we know that we can easily reverse this: schools with gay-sensitive HIV training saw the rate of suicide attempts by LGBT students drop to 27.7% – still atrociously high, but a lot better. Schools where students organize Gay/Straight Alliances, where sex ed acknowledges queer sexualities and combats myths about them, and generally where queer youth and supporters of queer youth are visible and welcomed, can drastically change the horrendous environment that gay students go through today. Tragically, this kind of basic support is rarely seen, because school administrators and faculty are likely to be apathetic or hostile, and if they are supportive then they are likely to be bombarded by the Religious Right, which instantly sails in with its bullshit about the Gay Agenda and its neferious
For further reading: GT 4/09/2001 anti-queer violence in Pennsylvania, GT 5/5/2001 the Religious Right’s attacks on gay students’ safety
Take Action! You can take action in support of LGBT youth right now at Human Rights Watch’s What You Can Do page and the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network Action Center. For more on-the-ground organizing, Youth Resource and GLSEN provide information, resources, and support for organizing gay-supportive youth groups.