Tag Archives: abuse

The Impact of School Environments on LGBTQ Youth

Abstract

The impact of negative school environments were examined on LGBTQ youth, focusing on the mental and academic areas. LGBTQ students who experienced higher rates of victimization experienced more frequent school and mental health problems. Students in supportive environments experienced less frequent school issues, especially if the school staff showed support and understanding. Studies show and support that negative school environments have long-lasting repercussions for LGBTQ students that influence later life choices such as higher education as well as reported self-esteem and depression.

The Impact of School Environments on LGBTQ Youth

In the United States, the majority of youth spend most of their time in the education system. In this environment students learn not only about math, social studies, and various other topics, but about how to interact with peer groups, form life-long social relationships, and learn about themselves, their identities, and their place in the world. While school is meant to be a mostly learning environment, the social aspects of the school experience cannot be ignored. Due to this social aspect of school, LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning) youth face special hardships due to their sexuality and gender that are not faced by their heterosexual and cisgender peers (Cahill & Cianciotto, 2012). These hardships are not caused by peers alone but also from faculty and staff as well which creates an even more negative environment for LGBTQ youth.

This victimization takes many forms from vocal, to verbal, to sexual. Students face anti-queer sentiments from simply hearing their sexuality used as an insult (“That’s so gay”) to having laws and lawsuits placed against their needs such as using the correct restrooms in the case of transgender students (Biegel, 2010; Kosciw, Greytak, Palmer, & Boesen, 2014). The harsher the responses and the source of the victimization have a direct connection with the response of the LGBTQ youth. The lack of support from faculty and staff in regards to peer issues leads to greater harm than students who face victimization but have the support of the school staff (Adelman & Woods, 2006).

These negative environments also lead to a decline in school attendance, lower GPA, mental health issues, and lack of goals for future education. The impact of the negative environment is harsh, taking its toll on not only on school based activities, but mental health as well. LGBTQ youth in unsupportive and negative school environments face lower self-esteem and higher rates of depression and even more suicidal ideations/thoughts that those whose environments are supportive of them (Adelman & Woods, 2006). This impact does not stop after the student leaves school but can leave lasting mental health issues that can lead to problems with substance abuse as well as problems with maintaining relationships later on in life (Grant, Mottet, Tanis, Harrison, & Herman, 2011).

The key is not only to tackle the negative environment but to make sure that the students also have a support structure as well. This includes clubs like Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), on the books anti-bullying policies, as well as training for faculty and staff in dealing with the specific needs of LGBTQ students (Cahill & Cianciotto, 2012). These support structures are crucial in taking the epidemic of problems faced by LGBTQ youth within the school system. Without these support structures, students have no way of creating an environment that is safe for them to grow, learn, and create lasting peer groups as well as positive self-esteem (Adelman & Woods, 2006; Biegel, 2010). Negative school environments lead to problems in school with attendance and GPA as well as mental health issues that last once the student leaves school. This paper will look over these negative school environments and these various impacts on LGBTQ students throughout their school careers.

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Short and Long-Term Effects of Family Rejection on LGBTQ Youth

A family’s most basic functions include support, both emotional and financial. Our family are the first relationships we develop and are usually the ones that we hold onto the longest, from birth to death. These bonds are not only meant to integrate us into society but prepare us for our own families when the time or choice comes (Hammond & Cheney, 2009). What happens when these family units do not fulfill their most basic functions and cast out their family members for things that are often not a choice, such as gender or sexual orientation?

Family rejection can happen for a number of reasons from personal differences, religious problems, alcohol/drug use, arguments, and so forth. However, many times families can settle their differences and still continue to act as a unit, even if they do not necessarily get along. However there are occasions where this rejection is lifelong from the moment it happens. This can lead to short and long-term health effects, both mentally and physically, regardless of age. The impact is most significant if this rejection happens during youth and is over things that cannot be changed, such as gender or sexuality (Lowrey, 2010).

These effects can range from homelessness, increased depression, increased suicidal thoughts and tendencies, to higher accounts of HIV/AIDS and drug use/alcoholism (Ryan, Russell, Huebner, Diaz, & Sanchez, 2010). This rejection can also lead to being in and out of the criminal justice system due to the criminalization of homelessness as well as survival tactics such as the survival sex trade (Valentino, 2011). These problems are also affected by experiencing racism, transmisogyny (misogyny directed specifically at trans women), as well as sexism, heterosexism, and other institutional oppressions. For example, a Black trans women will face more problems on the streets than a White cisgender (meaning non-transgender) gay male (Grant, Mottet, Tanis, Harrison, & Herman, 2011). These impacts are both short and long-term, impacting a person’s life from the moment the rejection happens and beyond.

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On Tolerating Hate

Alongside the idea that you cannot fight fire with fire, exists the idea that you must extend tolerance towards those who despise and loathe you in order to make any ground. You need to love your oppressor in order to get them on your side (implying you wish this anyway). Tolerance breeds acceptance and thus, you must play nice with those who wish you dead and gone. You absolutely have to play nice or risk being the single person who brings the entire movement down. We treat people like Jenga blocks, one wrong move and everything you’ve worked for to get ahead is gone.

This is a simplification to damaging degrees. It implies that the reactions of one person represent the entire group and that for oppression to be gone, one must be tolerant and accepting of said oppression. You are in the spotlight at all times. Every move you make must be calculated or else, not only do you lose, you bring everyone else under your banner with you, whether they are actually with you or not. One wrong step and your entire label is tainted. It all comes down to you. Don’t rock the boat, or else you’ll cause everyone to drown. You must nod you head and bow to the status quo, hoping if you dance well enough, you will be granted a token of basic humanity, if they even see you as human at all.

CW: Mentions of rape, murder, harassment, and assault.

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When (MTV’s) ‘Faking It’ Becomes Reality

MTV has just launched a pilot of a new TV show called ‘Faking It’. Here is the synopsis from MTV’s own website:

‘Faking It’ is a new romantic comedy about two best friends who love each other — in slightly different ways. After numerous failed attempts to become popular, the girls are mistakenly outed as lesbians, which launches them to instant celebrity status. Seduced by their newfound fame, Karma and Amy decide to keep up their romantic ruse.

MTV’s new TV show is about two straight high school girl’s pretending to be lesbians in order to become popular. This is a little more than just problematic. I mean, lesbians are constantly held up on pedestals by their straight peers, right? Being an out and proud queer kid in school totally makes everyone want to be your friend, right?

Let’s ignore the fact that lesbians are constantly mocked by their peers. That teachers often engage in homophobic bullying of queer students. Let’s ignore that fact that out queer women, especially those who are gender non-conforming, are more likely to be harassed and face harsh disciplinary treatment from faculty. Let’s ignore the high suicide rates of LGBT teens, which is AT MINIMUM four times higher than that of their straight counterparts.

Of course we can ignore the fact that corrective rape is a severe problem in our society that believes that most lesbians just need the ‘right man’ to show them the way? Let’s ignore the fact that there is a heavy stereotype that lesbians and bisexual women are just acting out a fantasy for the gaze of straight men. In fact, let’s just take this stereotype that actively damages queer women, leads them to be raped and sexually assaulted to ‘turn them straight’ and make it into a TV show! Sounds like a wonderful idea!

fakingit1

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You Mean Laugh AT Us

“You need to learn to laugh at yourself” is something I’ve often heard. It’s true. We need to laugh at ourselves. When people who have oppressed trans women for decades, erased them from the very riots they started, deny their existence, and even helped passed legislation against them, tell these same people to ‘laugh’ they are saying, “let us laugh at you, your lives, your identities. Let us laugh at your suffering, your pain, your dehumanization, and your objectification!” Not so funny now, is it?

When people defend the use of slurs, by telling those affected to just laugh, this is what they are saying. The use of slurs is funny! The pain, the assault, the murder, the rape, the dehumanization, it’s all hilarious! Comedy based on the age old trope that you can tell a trans woman from a cis woman because they are obviously male is hilarious! Who cares if it is not only fake, but run into the ground! Everyone loves beating dead unicorns!

This is not an issue that is just present in drag either. This isn’t and issue contained to RuPaul and his supporters/defenders (who are being rightfully called out). This is an issue that is deeply ingrained in the idea that jokes suddenly make everything ok. They erase the history and power of words, under the guise of humor. Suddenly these realities do not exist because the joke totally isn’t funny only because these ideas are rooted as truths! …Right?

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Bathrooms and Prejudice

This piece is going to be relatively short. I am tired of the trope that trans women are harassing or a potential danger to cis women in washrooms, locker rooms, and other semi-private spaces. This piece on TransAdvocate by Zinnia Jones goes into wonderful detail about how the idea of trans women being a threat to cis women is an entirely imaginary harm. I want to slightly expand on her example, and make it more broad, encompassing how some cis women believe trans women are inherently a threat to them.

Chrissy Lee Polis was beaten to the point of having a seizure at a McDonald’s in Maryland. Her assailants were cis women. Polis’s crime? Trying to use the bathroom.

This teen girl was videotaped being beaten by a group of cis women at her school. Her crime? Being trans*.

Then there is the young girl who is currently being singled out by the Pacific Justice Institute. She has been pushed to the brink of suicide due to the lies being pushed by the organization. In fact, PJI went as far as to manufacture complaints about her harassing cis women in the locker room, which has been proven to be untrue.

These are just a few examples. However, I know the argument of “they should just use the men’s room instead” if cis women are under such a threat. Well… Let’s talk about that, shall we?

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You Can’t Ignore the Bug

Trigger Warning: Trans*phobia, transmisogyny, cissexism, rape, assault, violence, harassment

I write this piece from a position of privilege and thus, my beliefs and opinions on this are also tainted by this privilege. As a white trans man who has no worry about being outed for being trans*, I am able to write and discuss something that has little effect on my personal life (in terms of my identity, rights, and body). Thus, I respect and understand beliefs, reactions, and thoughts that are different than mine. Not everyone is afforded the same luxury I have with this.

I see many people talk about how ignoring Cathy Brennan is the best course of action. How is we stop feeding into her trans*phobia, cissexism, and especially her transmisogyny, that she will just go away. I have a major problem with this approach. Cathy Brennan is more than just a very vocal TERF, Cathy Brennan is a very active person in the queer community. She actively works against trans* people, especially trans women, and their supporters. She slanders their names and posts them to websites along with murderers and rapists. She accuses their existence of raping cis women and that they are actively homophobic against lesbians. She contacts their places of employment, sometimes outing them as trans* which puts their livelihoods (both physical and monetary) in danger. More recently, Brennan and her crew have pushed a young trans* teen to be put on suicide watch.

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