What life at school is like for students with sexual or gender minority status?
In 2011, Eagle Canada published a 145-page report titled: “EVERY CLASS IN EVERY SCHOOL. Final Report on the First National Climate Survey on Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia in Canadian Schools”. The study involved surveying over 3700 students from across Canada between December 2007 and June 2009 investigated what life at school was like for students with sexual or gender minority status or those who seem “gay”. Many students reported being harassed because they were gay, looked like gay or had LGBTQ friends, parents or other family members. The most frequently cited “battle zones” or places in schools where kids get bullied are hallways, washrooms, and change rooms.
Among the key findings:
Homophobic and Transphobic Comments
- 70% of all participating students, LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ, reported hearing expressions such as “that’s so gay” every day in school and almost half (48%) reported hearing remark such as “faggot,” “lezbo,” and “dyke” every day in school.
- Almost 10% of LGBTQ students reported having heard homophobic comments from teachers daily or weekly (17% of trans students; 10% of female sexual minority students; and 8 of male sexual minority students). Even more LGBTQ students reported that they had heard teachers use negative gender related or transphobic comments daily or weekly: 23% of trans students; 15% of male sexual minority students; and 12% of female sexual minority students.
- Hardly any LGBTQ students reported that they never heard homophobic comments from other students (1% of trans students; 2% of female sexual minority students; 4% of male sexual minority students). This suggests that if you are a sexual minority student in a Canadian school, it is highly likely that you will hear insulting things about your sexual orientation.
Almost two-thirds (64%) of LGBTQ students and 61% of students with LGBTQ parents reported that they feel unsafe at school.
The two school spaces most commonly experienced as unsafe by LGBTQ youth and youth with LGBTQ parents are places that are almost invariably gender-segregated: Phys. Ed. change rooms and washrooms. Almost half (49%) of LGBTQ youth and more than two-fifths (42%) of youth with LGBTQ parents identified their Phys. Ed. change rooms as being unsafe; almost a third (30%) of non-LGBTQ youth agreed. More than two-fifths (43%) of LGBTQ students and almost two-fifths (41%) of youth with LGBTQ parents identified their school washrooms as being unsafe; more than a quarter (28%) of non-LGBTQ students agreed.
Female sexual minority students were most likely to report feeling unsafe in their school change rooms (59%). High numbers (52%) of trans youth reported feeling unsafe in both change rooms and washrooms. It is notable that these places where female sexual minority and trans students often feel unsafe are gender-segregated areas. Not only does this contradict assumptions that most homophobic and transphobic incidents take place in males-only spaces, but it also points to a correlation between the policing of gender and youth not feeling safe.