Past evidence indicates that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youths have continued to face excessive discrimination in schools. Present literature indicates that LGBT youths also face increased risks for various health issues that include suicide attempts, drug abuse, homelessness, harassment and poor performance at school. In spite of increased clear visibility regarding the discrimination of gay and lesbian people, LGBT youths in schools have continued to encounter excessive social, institutional as well as legal discrimination. In deed LGBT youths have been known to be the most vulnerable subgroup in the bigger LGBT group.
Due to the high level of homophobia in the American society, youths who are struggling with the sexual orientation identification are faced with tremendous challenges and they lack support from basic supporting systems that are available to those who are heterosexual. Given that it is estimated by Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (2004) that the population of gays and lesbians is between 3% and 10%, it can be deduced that a small number of youths in schools are LGBT or are still not sure of their sexual orientation. This research paper papers aims at reviewing gay and lesbian youths in schools.
Munoz-Plaza, et al (2002) quoting Robinson (1994) explains that the prevalent social stigmatization of gays and lesbians is blamed for the numerous social and health issues that have disproportionately affected LGBT youths. Munoz-Plaza, et al (2002) further explains that that a lot of researchers have specifically centered on the absence of social support structures for gay and lesbian youths in schools. Yet, classrooms have been identified as being the most homophobic place compared to other social institutions. Heath status of gay and lesbian youths in schools
Munoz-Plaza, et al (2002) states that studies have repeatedly indicated that gay and lesbian youths are specifically at increased risk of committing suicide, being verbal and physical abused, abusing drugs, contracting sexually transmitted infections, becoming homelessness and resorting to prostitution. At the same time their performance at school is bound to drop. Citing a study carried out by U. S Department of Health and Human Services, Munoz-Plaza, et al (2002) states that the study established that suicide was the leading cause of deaths of gays and lesbian youth in schools.
More so that study found that gay and lesbian youth were 3-6 times more possibly to try suicide compared to heterosexual youths, in deed gays and lesbian youth accounts for over 30% of all youth suicide cases. Taylor (2000) agrees with the finding of this study by affirming that past offers proof that LGBT youths are likely to commit suicide. However, he clarifies that studies on this subject have linked increased risk of suicide to stress arising from the sexual orientation aspect.
Taylor (2000) explains that general studies on this subject indicates that individuals who have less social support and poor relationship with their families, partners and peers are most likely to attempt suicide than those whose relationships are strong and intact. Apart from suicide, it was also established that LGBT youths are also at risk of experiencing other social as well as health problems. In a study that focused on more than 130 gay and bisexual male youths, it was found that 76% of them used alcohol while 25% abused cocaine (Routherum-Borus, et al, 1994).
In comparing these findings with heterosexual male youths, Routherum-Borus, et al (1994) established that only 49% of heterosexual youths used alcohol while only 2% abuse cocaine. At the same time studies have also found that rates as high as 42% of runaway youths are LGBT, this implies that there is a great connection between runaway behavior LGBT, in away that those youths who are gay or lesbian are likely to runaway from their homes. At the same time this runaway youths are likely to turn to prostitution.
Indeed in a study carried out by Taylor (2000) where he reviewed studies on male prostitution among youths, he established that many studies have established that out of three male prostitutes, two were gay or bisexual. More so, youths who are identified as gay or lesbian are particularly susceptible to being harassed both physically and verbally. In reviewing a study done on violence perpetuated on LGBT youths in schools both junior and high schools, Munoz-Plaza, et al (2002) explains that 35%-50% of youths in these schools did report that they had been harassed, threatened or had experienced some kind of violence.
In another study done by Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (2004) 2,000 LGBT youths were interviewed across the country, the study established that nearly 50% of males as well as 20% of females reported being harassed either verbally or physically in school (both junior and high schools). LGBT youths lack social support Studies on key life changes for example, the loss of a partner or a loved one, indicate that social support as well as social networks can assist an individual to cope with the stressors of life.
In deed several writers have reviewed past literature that link social support and social networks in relation to morbidity as well as mortality (Munoz-Plaza, et al, 2002) Social support is comprises of four varying behaviors; these are emotional support that is given in as love, trust caring and listening; Two, appraisal support that is given as a positive feedback; Three, instrumental support, given as tangible resource such as financial aid, time and labor; And four, information support, given as advice and ideas Munoz-Plaza, et al (2002).
Consequently, it has been established by there is lack of social, support for LBGT youths at home, within the community and also at school. This results in social isolation experienced by many LGBT youths at school and back at home. It’s against this background that a lot of literature associates social isolation in LGBT youths with increased risk of many of these LGBT youths. In a study that was done by Munoz-Plaza, et al (2002) to determine social support of LGBT youths in schools, participants reported that family members were less supportive than non-family members.
According to the study, both heterosexual and LBGT friends and peers provided emotional support to LGBT youths, however, the emotional support offered by heterosexual friends and peers was limited. Those friends and peers who were also LGBT apart from offering emotional support they as well offered valuable informative and appraisal assistance. However, it was also established that many LGBT youths in schools do not disclose their sexual orientation to their parents when they are still schooling thus they reported that their parents offered very minimal assistance of any form concerning their sexuality.
Another major problem that LGBT youths in schools suffer is identity and it interplays with sexual orientation and social support. As Taylor (2000) points out the basic role of high schools is assisting teenagers in forming a sense of individuality through the adoption of social customs. Teachers, coachers, counselors as well as administers in school strive for youths in schools to maintain heterosexual model of sexuality as the normative way; such a standpoint is in direct conflict with sexuality orientation of LGBT youths.
In addition LGBT youths in schools have pointed out that it’s a hard struggle for them to identify the sexuality both internally and externally. This is because of the overwhelming negative responses that homosexuality attracts both at home and schools. The difficult in expressing their sexuality makes the LGBT youths to feel alienated from the society. As one gay student reported by Munoz-Plaza, et al (2002) said, growing up, made him feel that he was different from others in some way. He further explained that he knew what he was feeling about his fellow guys or the opposite sex was usually different what his friends felt.
Munoz-Plaza, et al (2002) explains that such difference is normally related to reported inability of “fitting in” together with their peers and thus being alienated. Bullying of LGBT youths in schools In addition to challenges that LGBT face because of their sexuality, gay and lesbian teenagers in schools are forced to deals with daily bullying in schools in form of harassment, violence and threats that they receive day by day. LGBT youths are called anti-gay slurs for example “homo”, “sissy” or “forgot”.
In a study carried out by Savin-Williams (1994) it was established that a gay or lesbian student may hear these words 25 times each day. Even more disturbing, a study on LGBT in schools, established that 30% of gay youths in schools in only one year were injured in one way or another merely because of their sexuality (Savin-Williams, 1994). How LGBT youths are mentally affected Ryan and Futterman (1997) states that, gay and lesbian youths are particularly at high risk since, their anguish directly results from hatred as well as prejudice surrounding them.
But, don’t suffer because of their sexuality orientation. The distress that LGBT youths suffer is likely to make them attempt suicide, in deed as it has been stated before LGBT are twice likely to attempt suicide compared to heterosexual youths. How LGBT youths are academically affected LGBT youths in American schools are usually subjected to extreme bullying that they end up not performing well in school and they drop out earlier thus not getting enough education (Ryan and Futterman, 1997).
LGBT students in schools are more likely to skip some classes or because of fear, intimidation, and property destruction directed at them (Savin-Williams, 1994). In supporting this observation Savin-Williams (1994) affirms that a study by Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (2004) established that 20% of LGBT students had skipped classes in period of one month due to fearing for their safety. It has been established that the rate of LGBT students dropping out of schools is over three times the national standard for the heterosexual students.
In school, when LGBT students are bullied they many of them feel that they do not have a place or anyone to turn to. Ryan and Futterman (1997) explains that according to a number of surveys done previous, 80% of LGBT students reported that they did not know any helpful adult at their schools. Family aspects and religion Gays and lesbian youths who grow up in families that have strict religious background are prone to experience discord between their spirituality and their sexuality. At times their quilt feeling overwhelms them.
Sadly, in American schools, the religious rights prevent the school systems from tackling the same issue of LGBT. Thus, as Taylor, (2000) asserts homophobia is widespread in schools, and teachers who could have assisted keep quite for fear of being sacked. Harm reduction The high cases of suicide, stress disorder and drug abuse among LGBT youths in schools is a clear indication of internalized homophobia which, results from a LGBT youth growing up with minority sexuality in heterosexist society.
The effects of internalizing the rejection that this group faces are loss of self assurance that most likely leads to high-risk behaviors like drug abuse (van Wormer and McKinney, 2003). Strategies of addressing LBGT in schools Due to the risks that gay as well as lesbian youth are bound to suffer, gay and lesbian problems ought to be tackled in middle schools. In order to assist teachers in this attempt the following suggestions are offered. Teachers are knowledgeable and dedicated to young youths
Teachers have to learn more and understand well issues of homophobia, gay and lesbian history. This information can be found in books, journals, and the internet. Through this understanding they will able to be objective and assist those LGBT students without prejudice (van Wormer and McKinney, 2003). Curriculum changes Whenever it is appropriate, teachers could incorporate information regarding gays and lesbians individuals who have made major contributions to the society, Such as, Socrates, Virginia Woolf, Leonardo da Vinci and others (van Wormer and McKinney (2003).
Through, discussing the contribution that such great gay and lesbian people made, it will assist the LGBT students to feel more optimistic and less isolated about their future. Fostering a caring and sensitive climate In addition, van Wormer and McKinney (2003) asserts that, teachers are not just supposed to assume that each student is a heterosexual, on the contra they need to use a language that is all inclusive that is sensitive to gay and lesbian individuals; For example, using words like date instead of boy/girl friend and spouse instead of wife or husband.
In addition, owing to the extensiveness of homophobia within American schools, teachers and other staff should be sensitive to gay and lesbian students’ requirements. Creating Safe and respectful environment As Howard Taylor (2000) explains, schools ought to provide a safe as well as a respectful learning atmosphere for every student. When bullying and other forms of harassment are permitted to occur, it impacts everybody. It is understood that many schools violence and shootings such as the Columbine school shooting are contributed by bullying.
Teachers, school administrators as well as other students who ignore bullying of LGBT students in their schools contribute to the problems endured by the LGBT students. On contra, those LGBT students who are given support and understanding of their sexuality report that they feel a sense of belong to the school they are in. Conclusion Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youths usually start experiencing their sexuality identification during their adolescent years just like the heterosexual youths.
These are normal developmental processes and though they could affect the student’s development as well as achievements, they are not a symptom of mental disorder, sickness, or emotional problems. However, many LGBT students in schools experience a number of obstacles and problems that include being harassed both physically and mentally, being isolated, being denied social support all because of sexual orientation. Schools counselors warn that these issues result in LGBT being at high risk of, stress, poor performance at school, kipped class, dropping out of school entirely, or even attempting suicide.
Thus, schools are encouraged to create an enabling and safe atmosphere for LGBT students in schools to prevent such incidents. References Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (2004): The 2003 National School Climate Survey: The School Related Experiences of Our Nations Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth: New York; GLSEN. Munoz-Plaza, C; Quinn, S and, Round, K (2002): Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Students: perceived social support in the high school environment.
High school journal 85. 4 p 52-12 Robinson, K (1994): Addressing the needs of gay and lesbian students: the school counselor’ role; The school counselor, 41; p, 326-330 Routherum-Borus, M, et al (1994): Sexuality and Substance use acts of gay and Bisexual male adolescents in New York city; Journal of Sex Research; V. 31; 47-56 Ryan, C & Futterman, D (1997): Lesbian and Gay Youth; Care and Counseling; Adolescent Medicine State-of-the-Art Reviews, 8(2).
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