Even in the era of gay-pride pop anthems, same-sex romances on popular teen TV shows, and widely endorsed movements like the It Gets Better campaign, most gay teenagers still face daily verbal, and often physical, harassment.
What’s more, teachers are letting it happen.
More than three-quarters of lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, queer or questioning (LBGTQ) students feel unsafe at school, according to the nationwide survey of Canadian high school students.
Half of all Canadian students hear the words "faggot," "queer," "lezbo," and "dyke" on a daily basis. More than three-quarters of students hear the expression "that’s so gay" every day.
The findings are reported in the Every Class in Every School report from Egale Canada, an anti-homophobia organization.
Researchers from the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba surveyed 1,700 high school students in every province, some through an online survey, and others through in-school sessions in 13 schools under four school boards.
"The lack of a solid Canadian evidence base has been a major impediment faced by educators who need to understand the situation of LBGTQ students in order to respond appropriately and to assure the school community that homophobic bullying is neither rare nor harmless but a major problem that needs to be addressed," reads the report.
The report found 60% of LBGTQ students have been verbally harassed, and three-quarters feel unsafe at school, particularly in washrooms, change rooms and hallways.
The situation is particularly bad for transgender students, whose gender identity doesn’t match their biological sex. Ninety percent of them say they’re verbally harassed at school and 95% feel unsafe there.
But it doesn’t stop with words. About 25% of gay, lesbian and bisexual students, and 20% of transgender students, said they’ve been physically harassed.
Many LBGTQ students have been sexually harassed: 49% of trans students, 43% of bisexual girls, 24% of bisexual boys, 40% of gay boys, and 33% of lesbian students.
Straight students with same-sex parents are also victims of harassment: 40% said they feel unsafe at school and 45% said they’ve been sexually harassed.
Students often feel they have nowhere to turn, the report notes, with most students reporting they’re not comfortable talking to teachers or counsellor about their problems.
That’s understandable considering 34% of gay, lesbian and bisexual students reported their teachers failed to intervene when someone hurled a derogatory comment at them, while 47% of transgender students said the same.
What’s more, 10% of all students said they hear their teachers make homophobic comments on a weekly, or even daily, basis.
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