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GLSEN Study Reveals Unique Challenges Faced By Rural LGBT Youth

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"GLSEN Study Reveals Unique Challenges Faced By Rural LGBT Youth"

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A new study from the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) provides a novel look into the experience of LGBT youth who live in rural areas and don’t access to the same support structures as those in urban or suburban areas. This isolation leads to heightened incidents of student victimization and an unsafe school climate, which in turn negatively impact students’ academic performance and aspirations for post-secondary education.

Here are some of the chilling findings based on responses from rural LGBT students:

  • Victimization based on sexual orientation at school: 87 percent reported being verbally harassed, 45 percent reported being physically harassed, and 22 percent reported being physically assaulted.
  • Victimization based on gender expression at school: 68 percent reported being verbally harassed, 31 percent reported being physically harassed, and 16 percent reported being physically assaulted.
  • Anti-gay language at school: 91 percent heard “gay” used in a negative way, and 79 percent heard other homophobic remarks (“dyke,” “faggot,” etc.) used frequently or often.
  • Lack of school intervention: Only 13 percent reported that school personnel intervened when they heard homophobic language, and only 11 percent reported similar intervention for negative remarks about gender expression.
  • Lack of peer support: Half as many rural students (27 percent) reported having a gay-straight alliance compared to suburban (55 percent) and urban (53 percent) students.
  • Lack of visibility: Half as many rural students (11 percent) reported having an LGBT-inclusive curriculum, compared to suburban (18 percent) and urban (20 percent) students.

Compared to suburban and urban LGBT students, those living in rural areas felt less safe at school, had less supportive administrators, had less supportive peers, and were less likely to have policies protecting sexual orientation and gender expression.

The new report is based on the data GLSEN originally presented in September, which found troubling rates of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment nationwide. The very policies that would help protect students with anti-bullying programs and education are opposed by conservatives based on “religious liberty” grounds. In states like Michigan and Tennessee, the ruling Republican majorities have even tried to pass “license to bully” bills guaranteeing a place for anti-LGBT harassment in schools.

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