Tag Archives: suicide

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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Dysphoric Reality

TW: Suicide (potentially), dysphoria

People talk about dysphoria as if its a monster. This looming beast who lurches over us, slowly pressing its weight into our bodies. This creature that lurks around every corner, in every shadow. This Blood Mary who waits in our mirrors to strike if we dare to catch a glimpse. Dysphoria is described as dark and monstrous, something ready to rip out hearts and minds out the moment we dare to acknowledge it, feeding on the small triumphs to bring us back down. Those watchful eyes that never leave, that phantom breath down our necks.

What if I were to tell you that for some, dysphoria really is a monster. It really is a creature lurking in the shadows, sucking on happiness and leaving a hollow shell. What if I were to tell you that it may kill me soon and is just waiting for the right moment to strike with blade sharp fangs and claws? If the hushed ways we speak of these feelings manifests. It twists. It warps. It becomes real. Welcome to my world. I do not only have to deal with dysphoria, I have to live with it.

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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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Collection: My Body, My Identity, My Voice

There is nothing more intimate than ourselves. There is nothing that we tend to try and know better than ourselves. What makes us? We try to figure this out from all planes, from how we function, what makes us feel good, and what even describes how and who we are. This is a collection of pieces I’ve written over the months about my body, my identity, and who exactly I am.

I am loud, flashy, and flamboyant. In fact, one of the perfect descriptors for me is a peacock, specifically a male one. Gender: Peacock is where I started talking about myself, my identity, my body, and how the intersections of these things are not always as they appear to be. They are confusing, fluid, and downright bizarre to some (including myself). Sometimes, no matter how sure we know ourselves, there are always mysteries that puzzle us.

When you are trans*, and you speak of your history and your body, a peculiar thing happens. You can feel them, the eyes slowly undressing you, as if trying to verify your story.” Personal, Political, Intimate details how when we talk about our bodies, everything becomes intimate. Our knowledge of ourselves, of our identities, everything. The personal is not just political, but intimate as well.

This intimate knowledge of ourselves is what leads us to define us, our bodies. My Body Is My Own praises bodily autonomy and calls into question those who decide what we can call ourselves. Dictating how someone controls their own body is violent bondage, anything less would be a falsehood. Removal of bodily autonomy is removal of freedom, one of the very most basic ones. It is removal of the right to exist.

It is also the removal of self-knowledge and self-determination. No one knows my body better than I do. However, whenever I talk about my body, others proclaim differently. In 22 Years: My Body, I discuss how their proclamations can never be true. How these proclamations from people who have never seen my body and most likely never will, are false, erasing, and damaging. “These people have not felt it change and shift, nor have they felt the pain or sorrow it has held. They have not experienced nearly losing it either, not the fear of losing it. No matter how close they get, they cannot inhabit me.”

It is due to this existence, one that should not exist, I consider my waking up every day a rebellion. Our Lives: Rebellion was a piece written for Permanent Wave Philly. It is meant to show that sometimes, things that we do not consider to be rebellion or even to be activism, certainly are. We live in a world of binaries and boxes, of assumptions and pre-determined destinies. To exist outside of them is rebellion and an act that shakes the foundation just a little bit more.

Growing up trans* and queer has its own issues. Throw a mental health issue on top of that and you have a whole fun equation. In Borderline Personality Disorder and My Experiences, I describe what it is like to grow up in the cross-roads of these identities and how they are still affecting me to this day.

Due to this, I wrote The Internet Saved My Life which details how the internet replaced all local support systems for me. The internet became a valuable tool in exploring who I was, creating support, and realizing that I was not honestly alone. People tend to devalue online relationships too much without examining how truly amazing and impacting these can be on someone’s life.

All of this together makes me no less valid as a person, especially a queer and trans* person. While I Am Valid was written out of anger for those questioning my identity due to my femme nature, it is also a truth when people bring up my history of mental health problems. None of these things make my identity less valid, in fact, they make me even more. I am real and I have suffered, elated and survived for my reality.

Sky

I wish my back was a stool
I wish my body a castle
I wish my heart an umbrella
and my arms a moat

I wish there were things I could say
I wish there were things I could do
That would simply be able
To keep you a float

There are things in this world
Monsters and demons
That wish to harm you
Wrapped in a human coat

When the wolves come howling
And scratching at your door
And you sit, shivering and scared
Remember these words I’ve wrote

There are things that will hurt us
Things that will make us cry
Things that will try to destroy us
But we can’t survive if we don’t try

There is light in this world
I know its hard to see
But all you need to do
Is turn your eyes to the sky

Even if you can’t see them
The lights are there
Shining brightly
A reminder to fly

When you hit rock bottom
When the floor is bed rock
There is only one way to go
There is no time to ask why

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Media’s Giant (Trans) Exploitation Problem

“Focus on the science, not the scientist.” That is what Caleb Hannan promised Dr. V when interviewing her about her golf putter. However, during his research for his piece, Hannan found out that Dr. V happened to be trans*. Upon this discovery, Hannan broke his promise to his client and proceeded to write a piece, focusing on Dr. V’s past, her trans* status, misgendering her, and outing her to her investors. Due to this, Dr V committed suicide. Despite this tragedy, the piece still went up.

A piece littered with misgendering, focusing on her history as a trans woman, and painting Hannan in the light of some detective uncovering the Watergate of this century. Why? Because the woman he was writing about happened to have a different birth assignment than the one he assumed? He broke the trust and privacy of the person he was writing about for a profit. His story about a golf putter suddenly became one of lies and deceit in his eyes. Why? What does the assigned gender of a person have anything to do with golf? Was this story about her overcoming misogyny? Was this a story of intelligence beating out bigotry? It was not. This was supposed to be a story about the science behind the golf putter Dr. V invented.

Forget “focus on the science” that he promised this woman. She was no more, so to the wind that went. The entire piece became about the scientist, that Hannan had killed with his own hands. This man even had the gall to call a piece full of misgendering, pointless back story, and broken promises a eulogy. Last time I checked, a eulogy was not the cause of death. He even went as far as to brag on Twitter about the “strangest story” he has ever written. Are eulogies supposed to be strange? Or are they supposed to highlight the triumphs, life, and positives of a person’s life? Hannan is directly responsible for the death of a woman. So, what will happen?

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Remembering ALL Our Dead: Transgender Day of Remembrance

Trigger Warning: Violence, assault, murder, suicide, racism, trans*phobia, transmisogyny

Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) is not without its issues. In fact, TDoR has some pretty big issues. Most of the murders of trans* people are trans women and trans feminine people of color, however, there seems to be a lack of discussion on race and how it impacts the lives of these women. There is no doubt this is not just an issue in theory, but in practice. While there have been women of color speakers at the TDoR events I have been to, they are always run by white trans* people. Clearly the event needs to be broadened and run by trans women of color.

There is another aspect that TDoR ignores. While their website chronicles the reported murders of trans* people across the world at the hands of others. This means that a large number of trans* murders are still undocumented as well due to incorrect reporting, unknown identity, undiscovered bodies, and so on. However, it does not report on the murders at the hands of the trans* people themselves. Trans* people murdered by the idea that society does not want them. Trans* people murdered by the idea that they are not worthy of life. Trans* people murdered by the fact they must face every day in a world that wishes them dead.

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Borderline Personality Disorder and My Experiences

Trigger Warning: Trans*phobia, cissexism, assault, self-harm, suicide

Queer and trans* issues are the forefront of what I write about. These are huge factors in my life and my life goals, so it makes sense I spend a great deal of time talking about them and their impact on me and others. While I do not try to hide the fact I am mentally ill, I do not generally write or openly talk about it. I feel like I need to change this. Four years ago, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Some of you may have heard it from the news or TV shows, often in an extremely negative light. Those with my mental illness are portrayed as serial killers, mass murderers, criminals, and sociopaths. People with Borderline are almost never displayed in a good light. That is why I was through the roof when I found out that one of my trans* role models, Kate Bornstein, also had Borderline.

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