LGBT+ Community Faces Stigma, Discrimination, and Violence
October is National Bullying Prevention Month and LGBT History Month
The gay rights movement is not a party. It is not a lifestyle. It is not a hair style. It is not a fad or a fringe or a sickness. It is not about sin or salvation. The gay rights movement is an integral part of the American promise of freedom.
Each person has a gender identity—a deeply rooted sense of themselves as male, female, both, or neither. Gender identity is distinct from sexual orientation, but it is a fundamental part of a person’s identity that cannot voluntarily be changed.1
Members of the LGBT+ community, just like everyone else, want to succeed.1 They have the potential to be tomorrow’s leaders.1 Yet, they face enormous barriers to learning and success.1 They are living in a society where stigma, discrimination, and violence against this community is pervasive.1
Research shows that bullying and peer violence based on gender identity and gender stereotypes are a serious, national issue.1 Of LGBT+ youth across the country that responded to the National School Climate Survey, many experienced a hostile school environment, with regular bullying from peers.1 In fact, 82 percent reported that they felt unsafe at school due to their gender identity.1 Nine out of 10 experience frequent harassment from peers.1 Many have been pushed, shoved, and otherwise physically harassed at school.1 Half have been punched, kicked, or injured with a weapon at least once over the last year.1 Seventy-six percent have experienced unwanted sexual remarks or touching from peers and 62 percent reported being cyberbullied.1 Transgendered youth were more likely to report the above conditions than those who are lesbian, gay, and bisexual.1
This abuse occurs all over the country, across all races and ethnic groups.1 In fact, attending school is the most traumatic experience of growing up for this community.1
One LGBT+ female reported the following incident:
On my 14th birthday, as I was walking home from school, a group of boys followed me, threw me in the trash, called me derogative names, and physically hit me over and over. I stayed home from school the rest of the year and ultimately attempted suicide. Fortunately, the attempt was not fatal.1
It is not unusual for LGBT+ youth to fear using the restrooms and going into the locker rooms as school, where they experience the most harassment.1 However, family and friends of LGBT+ youth often face abuse and harassment, as well.1
One transgendered youth reported:
My sister faces more discrimination for her support of me being transgendered than I do. When I transitioned in my senior year of high school, students would verbally harass her. She considered dropping out and getting her GED. Teachers would say, “You will go to hell for your support of that abomination.”1
Many parents of LGBT+ youth fear for their children’s safety daily.1 One parent recalled her son’s victimization in the third and fourth grade:
He was called a “gay faggot” and shoved down a flight of stairs at school. Another kid wrote in a book, drew a picture of him and put his name with a gun pointed at his head, stating “Kill him. Kill him.” That was only one of many death threats.1
Unfortunately some teachers, school officials, and parents fail to respond to this abuse, rejecting the LGBT+ youth and even joining in the abuse themselves.1 Only 33 percent of LGBT+ youth who are consistently bullied and reported the victimization to school staff and parents.1 Many are told to ignore it, to stop flaunting their sexuality, or to stop complaining.1 Many of the bullies aren’t even spoken to.1 Therefore, many have stopped reporting the abuse.1
The bullying and abuse leads many LGBT+ youths to develop major depression, suicidality, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.1 Many grow up to be unemployed, homeless, incarcerated, and substance abusers.1 So much promise destroyed by such victimization.