Coming out in school+
Research and survey amongst LGBT persons from Ireland and Denmark • 5-7 years: the period of time, during which young LGBT persons conceal their identity from others. • 12 years: the most common age that an LGBT person discovers their sexual orientation or gender identity for themselves. The average is 14. • 17 years: the most common age to start ‘coming out’ to others. The average is 21. • The period prior to coming out to others is particularly stressful because of fear of rejection and isolation. This period coincides with puberty and therefore is a critical period for social and emotional development. The statistics also show that “coming out” often happens, while the person goes to secondary/high school. • According to this study three common LGBT-specific stresses in relation to coming out are: fear of rejection, negative school experiences, and experiences of harassment and victimisation. “Supporting LGBT Lives" study by amongst other, GLEN (2009).Conducted in Ireland • 15-19 years: the age when a person starts discussing his/her sexual orientation with others • 16 % of bisexuals have never spoken openly about their sexuality. 7% of homosexuals have never spoken to anyone about their sexuality • A larger amount of men (21 %) than women (14 %) have never told anyone about their sexual orientation. LGBT-Levevilkårsundersøgelse (2009) by CASA for LGBT Denmark. Conducted in Denmark.
Complexities in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity+
Sexual orientation To define yourself as gay or lesbian does not necessarily mean that you only experience same sex attraction. Danish research indicates that some gay men experience attraction to women, some lesbians experience attraction to men, and some heterosexuals experience same sex attraction. 59 % of the interviewed gay men and 39% of the interviewed lesbian women responded that they “solely” experienced same sex attraction since the age of 15. 5% of the heterosexual men and 9% of the heterosexual women replied that they “mostly” but not exclusively were attracted to the opposite sex. Gender identity Some people identify as neither a man nor a woman. 4-8 % of the interviewed LGBT persons identified as neither a “man” nor a “woman”. 42% of the interviewed transgender persons identified as neither a “man” nor a “woman”. LGBT-Levevilkårsundersøgelse (2009) by CASA for LGBT Denmark. Conducted in Denmark.
School Challenges in Europe+
In 2008 the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights carried out a comparative study regarding discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in 27 Member States. The study highlighted that homophobia, transphobia and related discrimination is a problem occurring in most of the educational settings in EU Member States. Three main issues were identified as especially relevant in terms of conducting education for school students, teachers and policy makers: A) Bullying and harassment of LGBT youth in schools: According to a variety of studies bullying and harassment have severe consequences for LGBT youth in EU Member States: a higher level of absenteeism and truancy; they are less likely to enter higher education and are more likely to contemplate self-harm and perform high-risk behavior. B) Lack of motivation and tools to recognize and tackle homo-, bi- and transphobia among teachers: Existing research show that school authorities across the EU pay little attention to bullying towards LGBT persons, and shows that teachers lack the awareness, motivation and tools to recognize and tackle homo-, bi- and transphobia. As a consequence, LGBT related bullying and harassment often continues despite school staff awareness. C) Lack of representation of LGBT-identities in school curricula: There is a general lack of representation within curricula in most Member States, which contributes to young LGBT students’ isolation in school. The lack of representation is not necessarily explained by the motives of an individual teacher, but is a structural phenomena, present in all educational systems in the Member States. FRA Report on Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender Identity in 27 EU member states (2008).
Bullying of LGBT children and youth in schools+
Homophobic bullying and harassment of LGBT students have been addressed in research in UK, Malta, Ireland and in an ILGA-Europe (ILGA-Europe is the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) study. In the UK the conditions and experiences of LGB persons in education were examined in 2006 in a survey of 1,100 LGB youth. It is found that: Almost 65 % of young LGB persons state that they have experienced bullying in British schools because of their sexual orientation. Forms of harassment included the following: verbal abuse (92 per cent), physical abuse (41 per cent), cyber bullying (41 per cent), death threats (17 per cent) and sexual assault (12 per cent). 98 % of young LGB persons hear phrases like ‘that’s so gay’ used in a pejorative way. 97 % hear insulting remarks such as ‘poof’, ‘dyke’ and ‘rug-muncher’. R. Hunt, J. Jensen (2007) The Experiences of Young Gay People in Britain’s Schools. The School Report. Stonewall. In Ireland, research on homophobic bullying has been carried out across 365 schools. According to the findings, 79 % of the teachers surveyed are aware incidents of verbal homophobic bullying and 16 % of the teachers have encountered incidents of physical homophobic bullying. N. James, M. Galvin and G. McNamara (2006) Straight talk: Researching gay and lesbian issues in the school curriculum. Dublin: Centre for Educational Evaluation, Dublin City According to an ILGA-Europe study, adolescence is a time when “girls learn to be girls and boys learn to be boys”, i.e. the boundaries of gender expression and behaviour are enforced by others, including peer group members, friends, teachers and family members. The gender non-conforming youth, both LGBT and heterosexual, are therefore at risk of experiencing bullying, harassment or other form of exclusion in the school environment. The study shows that bullying is often interpreted by respondents as being related to or being the consequence of gender nonconforming behaviour, character and look – or what was perceived to be such by others. J. Takács (2006) Social Exclusion of young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Europe, Brussels: ILGA-Europe and IGLYO.
Consequences of homophobic bullying+
Studies in the UK, together with a youth project covering Italy, Spain, Poland and Austria—The School Mates Project 2007—highlight the negative consequences bullying can have on school performance and the general well-being of LGBT students. The consequences of homophobic environments in schools may be that LGBT youth: • Have a higher level of absenteeism and truancy in secondary school • Are less likely then their peers to enter higher or further education • Are more likely to contemplate self-harm • Are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviour In the UK, studies further indicate that bullying towards LGBT students can have serious and disempowering effects. It may cause social isolation and psychological stress, especially for those youngsters who become aware of their homosexuality at the lower school levels. Additionally, homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools have a negative impact on LGBT students' self-image, self-confidence and schoolwork. According to The School Mates Project in Spain, Poland and Austria (2007), what makes it even more challenging to be a victim of homo-, bi- or transphobic bullying is the fact, that one cannot always count on support and understanding from his/her family, friends or community, because of rejection, silencing or lack of acceptance from the later. M. Jenett (2004) Stand up for us: Challenging homophobia in schools, Yorkshire: Crown Copyright. The Schoolmates Project (2006-2008) http://www.arcigay.it/schoolmates
What do teachers think?+
An Irish survey finds that the majority of Irish second-level schools have anti-bullying and equality policies, but few of them specifically address homo-, bi- and transphobic bullying. 41 % of teachers state that it is more difficult to respond to than other forms of bullying. Some teachers do not consider this type of behaviour to be anything more than ‘horseplay’ or ‘messing around’. The fact that teachers do not take this type of bullying seriously, can by students be interpreted as condoning to bullying against LGBT persons and legitimizing inaction in this specific bullying situation. Research stemming from the Beneath the Surface project in Sweden shows, that only 8 % of teachers when asked think that they have been educated to address this type of bullying properly. N. James, M. Galvin and G. McNamara (2006) Straight talk: Researching gay and lesbian issues in the school curriculum. Dublin: Centre for Educational Evaluation, Dublin
Representation of LGBT-identities in schools and school curricula+
An important issue is a missing recognition of LGBT identities in school curricula and the general invisibility of addressing sexual and gender diversity in schools. Surveys in Malta, Slovenia, and Sweden, among others, indicate that homosexuality and bisexuality are often invisible due to the cultural predominance of heterosexuality in the school environment. Several studies in Belgium highlight an inadequate level of LGBT-relevant information and education activities for students and teachers. A study showed that one out of five Flemish LGB teachers conceals his/her sexual orientation at school. According to The School Mates Project, silence and bias from teachers and peers about sexual and gender diversity promotes and strengthens pejorative attitudes toward homosexual persons. This attitude strengthens the sense of vulnerability and isolation felt by homosexual adolescents. Naudi (2008) The situation concerning homophobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in Malta, National Sociological Report. Kuhar (2008) The situation concerning homophobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in Slovenia, Sociological Country Report. Reimers, E. (2006) ‘Always somewhere else – heteronormativity in Swedish teacher training.’ In: L. Martinsson, E. Reimers, E & J Reingarde. (Eds.) Norms at Work. Challenging Homophobia and Heteronormativity. A publication of TRACE—The Transnational Cooperation for Equality. A comprehensive two-year study in 12 Irish schools by Lynch and Lodge (2002) included classroom observations, student and staff interviews, focus groups and questionnaires. The findings show that sexual orientation is a taboo subject in a number of different respects. The institutional invisibility is reinforced by the lack of proper terminology and talk of sexual differences. Discussions about sexual orientation in class or focus groups results in silence, discomfort, fear and hostility. Furthermore, coming out as homosexual is considered a reason for termination of friendship by 55 % of the respondents. K. Lynch and A. Lodge (2002) Equality and Power in Schools. Redistribution, recognition and representation. Routledge. London. P. 181-182
Representation of LGB-Identities on Youth TV+
Research from England In July 2010 Stonewall published research into the representation of gay people on youth television. Over a 16 week period researchers monitored 20 TV programs most popular with young people on TV. The sample comprised 126 hours, 42 minutes and 17 seconds of programming. Key findings from the sample: Lack of representation: Lesbian, gay and bisexual people were portrayed for 5 hours and 43 minutes - 4.5 per cent of total programming. 3/4 of portrayal was confined to just 4 programs. Negative portrayal: Lesbian, gay and bisexual people were portrayed negatively for 2 hours and 3 minutes – accounting for 36 % of all portrayal. Lesbian, gay and bisexual people were positively and realistically portrayed for just 46 minutes, 0.6 per cent of total programs monitored. Stereotypes: 49 % of all portrayal was stereotypical. Gay people were depicted as figures of fun, predatory or promiscuous. Just Gay Men: 77 % of portrayal of gay people depicted gay men. 21 % of portrayal depicted lesbians. Just 7 minutes featured lesbians and was both positive and realistic. Challenging homophobia: Just 7 minutes featured scenes where homophobia was challenged. The Stonewall research Living Together found that almost a fifth of people think TV is responsible for anti-gay prejudice and 38 % feel that TV and other media have a duty to reduce anti-gay prejudice. A. Guasp (2010) Unseen on screen, Stonewall 2010
In Denmark, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden the criminal law contains provisions making it a criminal offence to incite hatred, violence or discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation as well as the law to consider homophobic intent as an aggravation factor in common crime. FRA (2009) Homophobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the EU Member States. Publications Office. Wien. In Ireland the criminal law contains provisions making it a criminal offence to incite hatred, violence or discrimination on ground of sexual orientation, but the law does not consider homophobic intent as an aggravating factor in common crime. FRA (2009) Homophobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the EU Member States. Publications Office. Wien. In Latvia, Poland and Bulgaria hate crime is neither a criminal offence nor an aggravating factor. FRA (2009) Homophobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the EU Member States. Publications Office. Wien. An analysis carried out by The Danish Institute for Human Rights concludes that there is discrepancy between the actual reported numbers of hate crimes and the experienced number of hate crimes. In 2008 the Danish Ministry of Justice conducted a “victim report” that shows that 3176 people experienced hate crimes on the ground of sexual orientation. One year after in 2009, the Danish Police started to register reports on hate crimes on the ground of sexual orientation and the results were in comparison only 17 reported crimes with a biased motive that year. Analysis from Denmark The reason for the discrepancy between the actual reported number of hate crimes and the number of experienced hate crimes are according to the analysis: • Few cases are reported to the police • The reported cases of hate crimes on the ground of sexual orientation are not sufficiently categorized as hate crimes by the police • Lack of knowledge that a hate crime is a criminal offence and that the motivation in bias is an aggregating factor • The idea, based on lack of trust in the police, that a report will not make a change • The feeling of the victim that it is their own fault • The consequences of reporting a hate crime are too personal such as to speak out ones sexuality in court, the fact that one has to meet the offender in court or the victim is afraid to meet homophobia among the police officers The Danish Institute for Human Rights (2011) Hate Crimes in Denmark, The avenue to an effective protection. Analysis no 8. Statistics from Poland 18 % of LGB respondents reported experiencing physical violence due to their sexual orientation within the last two years. 42 % reported three or more incidents 85,1 % of the cases were not reported to the police. FRA (2009) Homophobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the EU Member States. Publications Office. Wien. Statistics from Spain 17 assaults causing injuries and 8 cases of threats with a bias against sexual orientation or gender identity were reported ODIHR, TANDIS (2011) Hate crimes in the OSCE region incidents and responses. Warsaw. Statistics from Sweden 770 reported hate crimes motivated by bias against sexual orientation and 13 hate crimes against transgender persons ODIHR, TANDIS (2011) Hate crimes in the OSCE region incidents and responses. Warsaw.