“Being gay is a choice” and “You’re not really gay, it’s just a phase.” are phrases heard by young gay people almost everyday along with many other misguided or hurtful things. For many, coming to terms with their sexuality can be a challenge and being faced with claims such as these would be tough.
Discrimination against those that are different is not a new concept. Especially considering the battle that the LGBTQ community has faced. Harsh words and rude slurs are constantly thrown around and they can lower the quality of life of those who are the targets. Many members of the LGBTQ community suffer from depression and other mental illnesses as a result of the backlash they receive. In some cases, it can even escalate to much worse outcomes such as suicide.
The suicide rates for the community are high and continue to rise. Data collected by The Trevor Project, an organization working to prevent suicide of LGBT youth, shows that LGBTQ youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide than their heterosexual peers. The Trevor Project also was able to directly link these rates to the bullying they experience by stating, “Each episode of LGBTQ victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.”
Many organizations and universities have done studies and articles regarding this topic. These numerous studies have found less than pleasing information, such as “Human Rights Watch implies that verbal and physical violence is a tension that LGBT youths have gotten accustomed to; however it is damaging to their psychological well being.” An article by York College also states “Many of the LGBT youths interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported signs of depression such as: sleeplessness, excessive sleep, loss of appetite, and feelings of hopelessness.” However this article also gives an idea of possible solutions to this issue. It states that some believe “Anti-gay bullying students are perhaps ignorant to the subject” and suggest that students should be provided with a full view of the subject just like any other. This links to another solution given from a professional perspective that ”One method that can be exercised in schools is a homosexual sensitivity training for anti-gay students and school officials.”
Everyone has their own opinion on the topic of LGBTQ, as well as the discrimination surrounding it. Guadalupe Martinez, an eighth grader at Asheville Middle School, shared a couple of her opinions. Regarding Asheville Middle specifically she says “It’s not as severe in our school, but in other cases it’s very present and can really affect others.” When later asked what she thought would be a good solution to the problem, she answered “I think schools should do a better job at making it clear that they are accepting and will not tolerate homophobic language towards another student.”
A recent poll conducted in the classroom retrieved information on students’ thoughts on LGBTQ discrimination. The results were mostly positive showing that 92.3% of students who responded do support the LGBTQ community. The students at Asheville Middle School seem to be very accepting of the matter, in fact 76.9% of students answered that they have at least one LGBT person in their life. On another note, although 61.5% of students said they do believe that the treatment of LGBTQ individuals is a problem, 46.2% of them are not actually aware of the alarming suicide and bullying rates. Whilst the feedback from Asheville Middle School was largely supportive and accepting, that unfortunately is not the reality for everyone.
As cited in Human Rights Watch, “I took a call from one sixteen-year-old who came out to his counselor. The only other person he had told was his friend in California. The counselor said “I can’t help you with that.” After he left, the counselor called his mother to make sure she knew. The youth went home not knowing that he had been outed to his parents. Sitting around the dinner table, his mother said to him, “I got a call from the school counselor today. We’re not going to have any gay kids in this family.” His father took him outside and beat him.”
A poll conducted by Gallup showed that ten million Americans identify as LGBTQ, that’s about 4.1% of the entire population. Many of these people face discrimination, especially the youth. LGBTQ youth are much more likely to experience bullying than their cis or straight peers. In fact, 34% of lesbian,gay, and bisexual students say they have been bullied on school property, while 28% have been bullied electronically. For many of these students, the bullying is their reality day after day. These statistics do raise concerns of many people, however students are being harassed on the daily and it’s often not taken as seriously as it should be as studies report that “LGBTQ youth lack support and guidance.” The Gallup polling also revealed that 13% of LGBT students have missed school due to safety concerns from peers. The schools play an important role in these students’ lives and must do a better job of supervising and controlling their students use of harsh words as well as making LGBTQ students feel welcome.
Despite all the hatred they receive, LGBT individuals have built a very strong community for themselves. The community creates a sense of belonging to all those who consider themselves a part of it. LGBTQ has a very clear mission to sustain the wellbeing of all gay, bi, lesbian, and transgender individuals. The community is all about being proud of who they are and the pride parades that are held throughout the year are one of the most well known ways to do so. Even though LGBTQ discrimination is alive and well in the modern society, as one of the communities’ most popular phrases says, “Love Wins”.
Story by Krislynn Hawkins