Thursday, May 12, 2011

Latest Findings Regarding Homophobia in Canadian Schools

Study finds startling new data on homophobia in Canadian classrooms
By Nick Martin, Winnipeg Free Press

WINNIPEG—Rampant homophobia stalks the hallways and classrooms of Canadian schools, according to a key finding of a national study on homophobia in Canadian schools to be released Thursday evening at the University of Winnipeg.
According to the report, homophobic comments are a common and accepted part of school life, even uttered by some teachers. Almost two out of three non-heterosexual students do not feel safe in their schools.
“LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirited, queer, or questioning) students are exposed to language that insults their dignity as part of everyday school experiences, and youth with LGBTQ family members are constantly hearing their loved ones being denigrated,” says the study being released at the annual general meeting of Egale Canada, an anti-homophobia human rights organization.
The survey of 3,700 Canadian high school students between December 2007 and June 2009 was conducted by University of Winnipeg education professor Catherine Taylor and University of Manitoba sociology professor Tracey Peter.
While no one should be surprised that homophobia still exists in schools, the report highlights the extent of homophobia and its impact on young students, and discovered some surprising data.
Girls and young women are more likely than boys and young men to suffer verbal and physical harassment because of their sexual orientation.
That surprised the researchers, who said the popular misconception is that straight boys are more likely to be bullies, and have the opportunity to bully gay boys in gym locker rooms and washrooms where there is no adult supervision.
Aboriginal students are most likely to know a student who is ‘‘out,’’ and are most likely to see classroom discussions about sexual orientation as positive. All other visible minorities combined, whom the researchers described as students of colour, are least likely to know an ‘‘out’’ student or to see discussion of sexual orientation as a positive.
While many schools have well-developed human rights policies based on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, few specifically include LGBTQ people in those policies, the report says.
The report says teachers are not automatically allies and supportive adults of students suffering discrimination, nor do they always intervene: “Teachers often look the other way when they hear homophobic and transphobic comments, and some of them even make these kinds of comments themselves.”
The report found that close to 10% of straight students have experienced homophobic insults and physical harassment because of perceptions about their sexual orientation.
Almost three out of five straight students find homophobic comments upsetting, a finding that the researchers considered “striking.”
“There is a great deal of potential of solidarity for LGBTQ-inclusive education among heterosexual students,” said Taylor and Peter.
They recommend provinces and school divisions develop and implement specific anti-homophobia programs in the curriculum and in safe schools policies, and provide teachers with professional development on issues of sexual orientation.
The report strongly recommends that schools encourage students to start gay straight alliances, and that if students don’t come forward, that the school approach teachers to help start a GSA.
Major findings of Every Class in Every School, The Final Report of the First National Climate Survey on Homophobia in Canadian Schools, a survey of 3,700 Canadian high school students being released Thursday at the University of Winnipeg:
• 14% of students, close to one in seven, self-identified as not being exclusively heterosexual
• 70% of all participating students heard expressions such as “That’s so gay” in school on a daily basis, and 48% heard words such as “faggot,” “lezbo” and “dyke” every day in school.
• Almost 10% of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirited, queer or questioning) students heard homophobic comments from teachers daily or weekly
• 55% of sexual minority students were verbally harassed in school
• 21% of LGBTQ students were physically harassed or assaulted in school
• 64% of LGBTQ students feel unsafe at school, and by far, the least safe places are gym change rooms and the student washrooms
• Verbal and physical harassment are reported occurring significantly less frequently in schools with anti-homophobia policies, but there is no significant difference in LGBTQ students feeling unsafe in schools with such policies
• Students whose schools have gay straight alliances are more likely to be open with fellow students about their sexual orientation.
• “Students of colour” are less likely to know an “out’’ student than are white and aboriginal students, and are more likely to perceive an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum as negative. A higher percentage of aboriginal students know ‘‘out’’ students than do white students, and aboriginal students are most likely to see an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum as positive.
• Students with LGBTQ parents are far more likely to feel unsafe in school, and far more likely to perceive homophobic comments from fellow students and teachers
• 58% of straight students find homophobic comments upsetting.
• One in 12 straight students reported being verbally harassed about their perceived sexual orientation, and even more, close to 10%, of straight students were physically harassed or assaulted about their perceived sexual orientation.

From on Thursday, May 12, 2011

When I published this on my blog earlier today, I included a comment from STAN2 that I thought demonstrated the battle gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people remain up against, even in 2011. Then, later, when I returned to the National Post website to read other comments, I was so struck by the amount of ignorance still out there, I decided to remove the comment.

Anyone interested in reading the comments, and bringing down their day, is welcome to access the website here.  I've had enough of this and have no intention of giving these folks a forum on my blog.

We're moving on!   


  1. I like to think any minority discriminated against relates easier to the kind of discrimination gays and lesbians have faced. I guess that just makes sense.

    But, at the risk of being accused of reverse discrimination, if you're male, straight, Caucasian, and Christian, then you might have a more difficult time. Maybe I should include female, straight, Caucasian, and Christian, too.

    Sounds like aboriginal studies might be more to your liking, Katie, especially if you want that atmosphere of spirituality and acceptance. Only you can decide what's right for you. Let your heart be your guide.

    Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to commit. I'm thrilled you're still interested in what I have to say.

  2. Finally read the comments on the NP depressing. It is such a prevalent attitude that orientation is a choice, and that "if they want to do that, okay, but we shouldn't have to know about it." That's like saying people with red hair get bullied, and since redheads know this, they should dye their hair brown to avoid it, otherwise, if they walk around flaunting their red hair, they shouldn't be surprised when they get negative feedback.

    And this idea that all kids get bullied, why should we single out LGBT kids, when the reality is that LGBT kids are 7 times more likely to consider suicide than their straight peers. There is just such a huge knowledge gap.

  3. Sarah, the more of these comments I read, the angrier I got. I'd like to think I'm beyond all that garbage now, but the truth is it still gets to me (don't tell anyone okay?), mostly because I can't believe those attitudes are prevalent in 2011.

    Very discouraging. But, like I said in the post, we need to move on. As gay people, we need to continue doing what we do, and if that means leaving people with antiquated attitudes behind, so be it. Too bad for them.

    And the position that everyone gets teased in school, so if you're gay and are teased, get over it? How is that justification? Frankly, as you and I know, no one should be teased in school, for any reason. But some people just don't get that.

    Thanks for your comment.