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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Gaming in Color: An Interview with Director and Producer Philip Jones

“Prepare to have your assumptions and comforts challenged a bit, and remember that queer people are a part of your human experience,” Philip told me when I asked them what they wanted their non-queer viewers of Gaming in Color to take from the film. Of course the film, which focuses on the experiences of queer gamers in video games, from developers to simple fans, is meant to be about educating others. Philip wanted there to be an easy to consume resource for those who may not be able to influence every gamer they meet to understand the issues queer gamers face.

“Your gaming tendencies will probably feel a bit poked at and criticized, maybe even deconstructed in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. But that’s often how queer people feel just getting past the hurdle of even turning on a game, assumptions are made and questions are asked and you’re never allowed to just exist in a culture that is hostile or at best neutral but aloof to you.” As Philip states here, gaming is not always perfect when it comes to dealing with queer characters, let alone dealing with queer people within gaming experiences. However, not everything is negative when it comes to the intersections of identity and gaming.

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The Hate Culture of Gaming

“We play games to forget the hate in the world, not be reminded of it.”

This is a statement I made a long time ago and is something I stick with today about video games. I play video games to engage in fantastical worlds, far removed from my own. Video games are an escape, a retreat. Something I can do with my friends in order to get rid of some stress. I can escape the world, be whatever I choose to be. I become part of worlds where anything is possible, from dragons and werewolves, to just respawning when you happened to be killed. However there is one thing that, no matter how fantastical the world, if other players are involved, I cannot escape.

The gaming community is not only marred by this monster, it is defined by this monster. It is expected. When people log on to play a game, they brace themselves. What level of misogyny, racism, homophobia, and so forth will I experience today? How many times will I be called a f*g? How many rape jokes will I hear? Will I be told to kill myself today, repeatedly? Will I be able to speak to my team without being told to get back into the kitchen or show my breasts? We have reached a point where online gaming has become no longer a retreat for many. Our fantasies are shattered. Fantastical realms crumble.

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The Tokenization of Relationships

“But I have Black friends!” “My cousin is gay.” “That’s not true! My uncle is transgender!” We’ve all seen it before, the tokenization of relationships in order to prove a fact. Someone with friends, relatives, or ever partners who belong to a marginalized community cannot be against that community or hold ideas that are oppressive against them, right? Of course they can. The tokenization of relationships to prove a point even solidifies this point. How?

 

We’re all the same.

By saying you are friends, related to, partners with, etc. X marginalized group and thus cannot hold beliefs that harm other members of the group, you are saying that all members of the group are like your friend, family member, partner, etc. This is erasive and simplification of the complexity and variance of the group. In order for you to be supportive of the entire group, you are saying their identities and lives are just like that of the person you know.

Get Out of Jail Free Card

This tokenization also uses said relationship as an object, proving that there is nothing you can do or say that would be problematic because you have some relationship to this marginalized group and they have never said anything. This goes back to the fact that it holds the idea that these groups are all the same and cannot hold varying, let alone conflicting ideas or beliefs. If one person of a group believes something, all other beliefs must be incorrect. Interesting how this only applies to the ones who agree with the person who is defending their actions, beliefs, thoughts, etc.

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How Much Do You Hate Yourself, @RuPaul?

CW: Discussion of slurs, homophobia, and transmisogyny.

“Derogatory slurs are always an outward projection of a person’s own poisonous self-loathing” – RuPaul Charles on Twitter, June 2, 2013 in response to Amanda Bynes using the f-slur.

So I must ask you, how much do you hate yourself to loudly proclaim you love a derogatory slur aimed at trans women and trans feminine people? How much poisonous self-loathing are you harboring to proclaim this on a national level, and repeatedly? For someone who proclaims words don’t hurt you, you seemed to take personal offense when Amanda Bynes said the f-slur. How can you love yourself, when you spew these derogatory slurs from a position of self-loathing? Clearly, RuPaul, you cannot uphold your own catchy phrases.

You tell people to get stronger, that words are just words, but if words are just words, something with no meaning, why are you defending them so vehemently? Let it go. If it has no meaning and no value, you can just simply let it go. Of course, that wouldn’t happen because words have power. They have meaning and strength behind them. They have such power, that queer people rally behind boycotting companies who state anti-gay sentiments. They boycott and speak out against people using homophobic slurs, as you did with Amanda Bynes. However, if trans women do the same, requesting you remove a singular word from your vocabulary, it becomes a problem. These women are suddenly causing the end of the gay community for requesting to not be addressed in slurs, these very women who started the Gay Rights Movement, but have you forgot your mothers of Sylvia Riveria and Marsha P Johnson?

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Straight Men: Ya’ll Are GAY

It’s time to give up the act. We all know, it’s pretty obvious, straight guys. We know you are secretly hounding for the D, you talk about it all the time. I’ve seen the way you slap your best bro’s ass while loudly proclaiming “no homo!”. Give it up, we know what you mean and it SCREAMS “yes homo”. Hell, even science isn’t on your side (TW: transmisogny). You look for penises as much as you look for vaginas in porn. In fact, you don’t just love dicks, you love BIG dicks. You can’t get enough of men with huge cocks. Straight men, you are the gayest people to walk this earth.

I have never met another group of men that hounds other guys about their dicks as much as straight men do. They are always talking about dick. Seriously. They brag about their own, ask other dudes about theirs, and its one of the most common things straight men look at in porn. I have never heard gay men talk about penises in the way straight men do. It’s like it is part of bro code to talk about the dick as much as possible. They even draw penises on everything. If you’ve ever stepped foot into a men’s locker room or bathroom, you’ve seen at least 5 crudely scribbled penises on the walls, lockers, anything they can profess their love of cock on.

Who names their online accounts, passwords, and so one after penises? Straight men. SirLongSchlong? Most likely straight. Bigcoc69? Straight. Straight men spend most of their time thinking about dick. It’s their favorite past time. They compare their dicks to one another, actively engaging in staring contests at another man’s penis in order to see who is the best. It rules their world. They love giant cocks. They thrive for them!

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