Tag Archives: sexuality

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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Implied and Rarely Said: Queer Sexualities and Genders in Media

Kung Jin is the name of Mortal Kombat’s first gay character. After numerous games, adaptions, and so forth, Mortal Kombat has its first gay character. However, you have to be pretty observant to catch the reference. During a flashback he is talking about the gods accepting him.

“I can’t… They won’t accept…” He says, only to have Raiden respond with They care about only what is in your heart; not whom your heart desires.” And that’s it. That sole line. It’s subtle. It’s nice. But it is far from perfect.

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Queering Religion

Religion and queer identities- often these two things are seen as conflicting forces. If you are one, you cannot be the opposite. Religion and being queer cannot exist hand-in-hand and when they do, it is often not only in conflict with the person, but within their community at large as well. Religion and queer are seen as conflict and negative, rarely as something ever positive. Even when the topic of queering religion comes up, it often comes up in the form of gay and lesbian members of the Judeo-Christian churches. Narratives focus on them and their sexuality, within the context of how they manage to reconcile their sexuality with their religion. These forces are still seen at odds as opposed to complimentary modes of support that create a whole rather than conflicting parts.

Rarely is the queering of religion spoken about as the involvement of transgender and gender non-conforming religious and spiritual people. Maybe occasionally, but not in the same vein as queer sexualities in regards to religions. Then again, this tends to be the case with anything that does not follow the Big Gay focus of marriage and assimilation.

Thus, religion as a positive force is rarely ever explored when it comes to queer identities, let alone gender. Even rarer is the exploration of how religion can help one better express their gender and their identities and relationship with their gender and their religion or spirituality. Religion is often such a negative influence that we often forget the positive that religion can do for people and communities, the help religion can provide as well as the guidance it can bring.

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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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The Feminine Threat

When people critique femininity, they proclaim that femininity is weak, unnatural, and artificial. Many of the traits that people associate with femininity are seen as inferior, such as emotional, sensitive, grace, innocence, feminine styles of dress (such as colorful attire), especially when compared to their masculine counterparts. However, I find this kind of absurd when compared to how fragile masculinity actually is. It is threatened and questioned, potentially even destroyed, by being near femininity. Even associations with femininity cause chaos in the stability of masculinity.

Masculinity, especially the masculinity of cisgender straight men, is constantly under threat from femininity. Masculinity is something so fragile, that they fear to breathe the same air as someone who is feminine, especially someone they perceive as male (whether this is correct or not). For something seen as so weak and so inferior, masculinity is certainly on shaky ground. This ground becomes increasingly shakier the more masculine a person becomes. It becomes increasingly fragile the closer someone gets to hypermasculinity or idealized masculinity. It becomes threatened by something as small as painted nails.

In an attempt to stop biting my nails, I wore fake nails with sparkling purple nail polish on them. People stared at my hands. They refused to touch me. They acted as if touching me would somehow have them catch The Gay. People would take bags from me at work, avoiding at all cost touching me. The overwhelming majority were men. They were threatened by my blatant display of femininity, seen as more over the line than my long hair. It’s absurd that we see femininity as weak when masculinity is defeated and threatened so easily. How can femininity be seen as weak when masculinity is threatened by a dude with painted fingernails? A small dude, nonetheless, with painted fingernails who is 100lbs soaking wet. Yet we see masculinity as strength?

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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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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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We Are Failing Our Queer Youth

For many, the most difficult times of our lives are high school, or even middle school. Years of turmoil for everyone, no matter who they are. Emotions run high and wild. Puberty blossoms and devastates. Youth struggle between homework, friendships, and their own budding senses of self. It is due to this, among many other reasons, that we often fail queer youth and their power, their bravery, their courage, and their strength. This bravery does not come for free though.

Queer youth are four to seven times more likely to try and commit suicide. They face extreme family rejection as well as peer rejection. They face mockery from student and staff alike in an environment that is supposed to protect, nurture, and educate. They suffer. They suffer during one of the most difficult times during a person’s life. So why, why do we never praise them for their strength and their courage? In fact, we tell them to shut up. We tell them to take it. Programs like the It Gets Better and Day of Silence campaigns promises queer youth that if they just suffer through, it gets better, do not fight. Do not challenge. Silently suffer.

Why do we not support our queer youth more? Whether they are in the closet or living open and proud, with a target on their backs or even their foreheads? Why do we not support their choices? Why do we not fight for them to be open and proud, without the risk of being driven from school or their homes? Why do we not address the hostile environments that make 20-40% of youth on the streets queer? Why? Why are we failing our children so horribly?
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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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