Gay insults in schools make students feel unsafe, survey finds
May 12, 2011
High school students are exposed to homophobic incidents that range from hearing “gay” used as a synonym for “stupid” or “worthless” to insulting and assaulting students because of their sexual or transgender identity or their perceived sexual or transgender identity.
Anti-gay comments are so common in Canadian schools that most students hear them on a daily basis, says a national survey of both homosexual and heterosexual teens.
Seventy per cent of students who took part said they hear phrases like “that’s so gay” and 48 per cent hear derogatory terms like “faggot,” “lezbo” and “dyke” every day.
Very few gay students reported never hearing homophobic comments, which suggests “that if you are a LGBTQ student in a Canadian school, it is highly likely that you will hear insulting things about your sexual orientation,” says the survey, to be released Thursday.
(LGBTQ is a term that includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, and also those questioning their sexuality. Queer is also often used as a more general term to indicate sexual orientations.)
More than 3,700 students across Canada took part, either online or in class; about 2,600 identified themselves as heterosexual.
The survey was commissioned by Egale Canada Human Rights Trust, charitable arm of the gay rights group Egale, and conducted by two university professors in Manitoba.
The authors call on school boards to implement a more inclusive education as well as better teacher training.
It also recommends schools implement gay-straight alliances — common in public high schools in Ontario, but not permitted in Catholic schools — and if no students come forward to create one, principals should ask teachers to do so.
The survey found:
75 per cent of LGBTQ students feel unsafe in at least one place at school, such as change rooms, washrooms, and hallways. Half of straight students agree that at least one part of their school is unsafe for LGBTQ students;
64 per cent of queer students and 61 per cent with queer parents feel unsafe at school;
21 per cent of queer students report physical harassment/assault;
27 per cent of queer students report physical harassment about their parents’ sexual orientation and 37 per cent report verbal harassment;
Transgender youth “are highly visible targets of harassment” who “may report experiencing particularly high levels of harassment on the basis of perceived sexual orientation” the report says;
About 10 per cent of heterosexual teens report being physically harassed or assaulted for their “perceived” sexual orientation;
Students from Catholic schools were much more likely than students from non-Catholic schools to feel their school was not supportive of LGBTQ people and that teachers were ineffective in addressing homophobic harassment;
58 per cent of heterosexual teens “find homophobic comments upsetting.” Researchers said that suggests there is a lot of common ground to help push for an improved school climate.