An overwhelming majority of LGBT teenagers feel unsafe in school, ‘heartbreaking’ report finds
A shocking new report on LGBT+ teenagers in Ireland has revealed that almost three quarters (73 percent) feel unsafe at school.
The latest research by the activist group, BeLonG To Youth Services, is the largest survey ever conducted on LGBT+ young people in the Irish education system. It involved nearly 800 LGBT+ people between the ages of 13 and 20 from all 26 counties in the Republic of Ireland.
The alarming findings show that 77 percent of LGBT+ teenagers experience verbal harassment (name calling or being threatened), and 38 percent experience physical harassment (being shoved or pushed).
And 11 percent experience serious physical assault (punched, kicked or injured with a weapon) based on their sexual orientation, gender or gender expression.
“I was sexually abused by the guys in the PE changing room age 14 to 17 on a weekly basis,” reads one anonymous response to the survey. “They would slap my ass, put their fingers up my ass, grope me and pull at my penis. I was terrified of PE and this affected my attendance on PE days.”
Another said: “I told my friends I was gay in first year and they outed me to everyone. It was horrible. People scribbled slurs on my photos around the school and wrote a slur on my locker in marker. I told my teacher and she basically told me I shouldn’t have come out then, as if it was my choice in the first place.”
The study suggests that bullying is even more extreme in cases of transgender students, as 55 percent reported hearing transphobic remarks compared to 48 percent with homophobic remarks.
One trans student revealed: “When kids know you are trans they don’t see you as male or female or human. I am pretty much a one-man zoo. I can’t change this fact and I’m pretty suicidal because of it.”
Growing up LGBT+ [in Ireland] isn’t all rainbows post-the marriage equality referendum.
The result of this targeted harassment is that LGBT+ students are 27 percent more likely to miss school, and 8 percent less likely to pursue higher education.
Moninne Griffith, chief executive of BeLong To, said the research should be a “wake up call” for the government. She urged the Minister for Education to take immediate action to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of at-risk LGBT+ students.
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“The heart-breaking reality is that for many LGBTI+ students school is an isolating, unsafe place,” she said.
“Despite misconceptions, growing up LGBTI+ isn’t all rainbows post-the marriage equality referendum. Our findings indicate the intense discrimination, harassment, isolation and stigma that LGBTI+ students experience in Ireland.
“Worse still, the research reveals that some staff members turn a blind eye to, and sometimes even contribute, anti-LGBTI+ remarks.”
She concluded: “This report paints a picture of an Ireland we had hoped had been left behind. We are better than this and we owe it to our LGBTI+ students to do better than this.”
Among the report’s recommendations are that the Irish government should review and update professional development supports for teachers, and encourage schools to develop school-wide LGBT+ inclusion policies.
The report also calls on schools to implement a curriculum that supports diversity and respect for LGBT+ people, including an evaluation of social personal health education and sex education.
It also says the government should review the feasibility of providing gender-neutral bathrooms and changing rooms in the design guidelines for schools.