Tag Archives: support

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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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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Gaming Culture and Safe Spaces

As of Tuesday, April 8th, the trans- prefix has been uncensored! We did it! I am continuing to work with Blizzard as they are also overlooking how they deal with issues like this in the future. For more on that, please see the coverage over on Ars Technica.

Diablo III’s most recent patch allows for the creation of clans. As someone who created several trans gaming groups, my girlfriend (Olivia Quin) and I thought this would be a wonderful time to create a trans gaming clan on Diablo III. There was already as Gaymers clan, why would there be an issue for a trans-related gaming clan? We were wrong. So very wrong.

It turns out that the prefix trans- or tran- is banned. I can understand that tran- would be banned to prevent people from creating groups using t****y, but why not just ban that slur and several variations for it? That should be enough, correct? Apparently not. Anything involving the prefix trans- is forbidden in clan creation. This means that clans with involving non-trasnsgender are also banned as well such as transformers, transdimensional, transcend, and any of the words beginning with the extremely common trans- prefix.

So, I contacted Diablo III support. I had to do it in a slightly roundabout way. This is the exact message I sent to them:

Hello!

I am contacting you in regards to creating clans in the newest Diablo III patch. I am trying to make a clan for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals who would like to play the game together in a relatively safe space of like identified individuals. However, I have come to find out that the prefix trans is banned in clan creation! I understand this is to prevent people from creating offensive clans, but it is doing just the opposite. You allow the word gay as a prefix for clans, as there is a Gaymers clan, yet do not allow the same for transgender individuals. In fact, this forbids words such as transdimensional and so forth. The word gay has much more room for offensive and harmful clan names than trans does and deletes the possibility of safe spaces for transgender people to get together and enjoy your games. This creates a harmful environment for people like myself who wish you play your game and know that I will be a respected member of my clan, regardless of my gender identity, presentation, how my voice sounds over Vent/Skype, and so on. This sends a message that gay people are allowed to create their own clans and freely interact on your servers, but trans people are not. Please reconsider your ban of the prefix trans- and thus banning all transgender related clans and groups.

Thank you for your time.

I was told to post something on the forums as that was the best way to contact the developers. As someone who knew nothing of the Blizzard forums, I did just that, adding in this statement as well:

Banning the prefix trans while allowing the word gay sends a message. You can be an openly gay gamer, but you cannot be openly trans. They allow for clans to be created around being gay, such as the Gaymers clan, but will not allow a similar TransGamers clan (which is what was trying to be created). This creates an environment that allows for people to be openly gay, but not openly trans, and requires people to create codewords, and in community buzzwords to create a similar clan for a similar experience, gaming with people who share the same identity and will respect you for who you are. Blizzard is sending a very poor message to the trans gaming community by not allowing people to create safe clan experiences for themselves while allowing others to do that with words which can be used in a much more harmful sense (such as gay).

This seems pretty straight forward. There are no negative drawbacks to unbanning the prefix trans- and allows for people to create safe spaces for like-minded trans gamers and their allies, friends, partners, and so forth. The unbanning of the trans- prefix would allow people to also create a variety of non-transgender related clans in the game. The filter system was already pretty disliked by the Blizzard community due to how strict is can be, why would something this small be seen as anything but positive?

I was wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.

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The Myth of Slacktivism

A ‘slacktivist’ is someone who chooses to do all or most of their activist work through online mediums such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and so on. These people are often disregarded as lesser and lazy activists when compared to those who are able to do activism work offline. For example, UrbanDictionary.com defines slacktivism as, “The act of participating in obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem”. The example given is people signing online petitions as opposed to getting involved in neighborhood watches or other offline activities. The concept of ‘slacktivism’ and that people who focus their ideas online are ‘slacktivists’ is extremely problematic and downplays the importance and reach of online activism.

The idea of slacktivism is rooted in ableism. Not everyone has the ability to mentally or physically engage in activism offline. For example, someone who has to deal with social anxiety may not be able to attend marches or large gatherings. Someone who suffers from a pain disorder may not be able to walk in marches or stand for long periods of time. Implying that people who participate in online activism are inherently lazy, ignores the fact that some of these people may not be able to physically attend activist events, no matter how much they want to. These people do important work in the ways they can, such as online work that is so quickly discredited without thinking about the reasons someone may not be able to attend or do offline work.

The idea of slackitvism is also classist. I live in an area with no public transportation. There is no way for me to attend many meetings, marches, and so one without a ride. The idea that people who participate in online activism have the means to travel or to take time off of work in order to participate in offline work is classist. For example, people may not be able to take off work in order to attend offline events and thus may spend valuable and limited free time doing online work. For people in areas with limited resources, the closest areas that have a large enough resource pool may be hours away. These people may not have the resources in order to set up their own grassroots organizations or the money and time to travel and thus, resort to online activism in order to be a part of events and causes they feel are important to them.

 

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The Families We Create

Blood is thicker than water is something we are taught from birth. We are taught that our families are made of blood as opposed to the relationships that we form with those closest to us. For many queer people, we know the reality of this statement. Blood is just as thin as water, if not thinner. Families may cut ties at the drop of a hat due to a child or relative coming out. If they do not immediately cut the relative out, they may harass, assault, abuse, the person mentally, physically, and even sexually in an attempt to change them or chase them from the family.

Often our families are those who support and love us for who we are. If there is one thing queer people know about, its how to make families from scratch. We create our families from the friends who accept up after we have seemingly lost everything for simply existing. We make patchwork families, held together by legitimate love, something that may be lacking from our family of origin, whether they are truly related by blood, legal documents, or formalities. Among these families we create, we create safety and comfort.

 

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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.