Just Be Kind: How to Stop Bullying Related to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

This article is shared through a partnership with the Marion County Commission on Youth. Indy with Kids is proud to support the work of MCCOY and help communicate information that is important for the youth of our community.

Written by Jacie Farris

NSCS13 Unsafe ShareableParents, teachers and youth workers have seen it before: bullying. Whether it’s because of size, shape or ability, there seems to be no limit to the breadth and impact of bullying.
One group that often feels the brunt of bullying is LGBTQ youth. Like students who are bullied for their appearance or other differences, LGBTQ youth may experience substantial negative impacts due to harassment and hostility.

According to the 2013 National School Climate Survey by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), 74 percent of LGBT middle and high school students “were verbally harassed…because of their sexual orientation and 55 percent because of their gender expression.” The report also noted that 30 percent of these students missed at least one day of school due to feeling unsafe or uncomfortable, and their grade point averages were between nine and 15 percent lower than those of other students. (For more statistics.)NSCS_infographic_FINAL3

Myranda Warden, director of programs and training for Indiana Youth Group, said, “A hostile school environment…leads to poor educational outcomes for those youth, including lower GPA, lower likelihood to pursue secondary education and an increase in negative mental health outcomes such as self-esteem and depression.”

Bullying has often been linked to suicide, and this trend holds true in the case of LGBTQ youth.

According to the Trevor Project, “LGB youth are four times more likely, and questioning youth are three times more likely, to attempt suicide as their straight peers….Nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives, and one quarter report having made a suicide attempt.”

There are ways to remedy these sad statistics, however. According to GLSEN’s 2013 survey, LGBTQ students are more likely to feel safe in school environments where they can identify 11 or more supportive staff members and where LGBT-inclusive curriculum is offered.

Organizations like the Social Health Association (SHA) are committed to preventing bullying in all its forms.

Tonja Eagan, CEO of SHA, and Burton Patterson, program manager of Step Up for Kindness!, said, “It is critical to teach youth empathy, kindness, respect and acceptance of others. These are essential qualities to prevent bullying. The reason empathy-building bullying prevention programs are gaining popularity in schools is that data supports that empathy – thinking about others’ feelings – directly correlates with fewer bullying incidents.”

To help foster feelings of empathy, SHA’s Step Up For Kindness! program provides an place for students to discuss important issues related to bullying.NSCS13 Discrimination Shareable

“Our educators facilitate a reflection on the power of respect and kindness toward all people,” said Eagan and Patterson, “SHA’s Health Educators use inclusive language in all programs to ensure all youth, including LGBTQ youth, feel included in the learning process as they develop tools to address bullying and to express kindness and respect to others.”

For Hoosier parents, educators, youth workers and others who have an interest in helping to lessen instances of bullying, there are a number of resources that can provide tips and assistance.

One resource is the Indiana Youth Group, which, according to Warden, “creates safe spaces for LGBTQ youth and their allies.”

Warden continued, “Part of this work includes coordinating the Indiana Gender and Sexuality Alliance, which helps to provide resources and support to Gender and Sexuality Alliances inside schools so that LGBTQ youth and their allies have a space to be themselves and access support.”

NSCS13 Effects ShareableWhile not specific to the LGBTQ community, the Indiana Department of Education website also offers information about anti-bullying legislation and reporting protocols, as well as data showing the number of bullying incidents in each school. This information can be found here.

Other resources include:
· The Trevor Project
· Kids Health
· Indiana State Department of Health’s 2015 Indiana Youth Risk Behavior Survey
· Indiana Gender and Sexuality Alliance
· Teaching Tolerance
· Indy PFLAG
· American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Warden said that to truly help LGTBQ youth feel included, it is important to be “radically accepting.”

“Just be kind.”

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