Alex Blaze

Transgender students face a high rate of bullying and harassment in schools

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 19, 2009 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: bullying, gender expression, gender identity, GLSEN, LGBT, out, public schools, schools, students, study, transgender

GLSEN has a new report out that asked nearly 300 trans students about how they're getting along in school:

Nearly nine out of 10 transgender students experienced verbal harassment at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation and gender expression, more than half experienced physical harassment because of their sexual orientation and gender expression and more than a quarter experienced physical assault because of their sexual orientation and gender expression.

High school is already hard enough, but throw that level of harassment into the mix and it can drive most people to just stay home or drop out of school. The worst thing is that teachers usually don't do anything to help.

The high rate of victimization had a direct impact on school attendance and academic performance. Transgender students who experienced high levels of harassment were more likely to miss school because they felt unsafe and had lower grade point averages than those who experienced lower levels of harassment.

Less than a fifth of transgender students said that school staff intervened most of the time or always when hearing homophobic remarks or negative remarks about someone's gender expression.

In addition, school staff also contributed to the harassment. A third of transgender students heard school staff make homophobic remarks, sexist remarks and negative comments about someone's gender expression in the past year.

And how many rightwingers are opposed to even training teachers the basics about how to help trans students? Is that even a mainstream policy debate in this country?

It certainly ought to be. While we ask for an inclusive ENDA to protect people on the job later on, if trans students are dropping out of school, performing poorly, or missing school because of harassment, they're going to be held back in the job market.


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Everyday Transperson | March 19, 2009 2:29 PM

EXCELLENT point and article Mr. Blaze. Thank you for bringing this issue to the forefront.

I read it.

They found that trans students speak out more, are generally more out, and when they do speak out, they speak out against homophobia and transphobia, contrasted with non trans LGB folks who pretty much keep quiet about issues pertaining to transfolks.

It's nice to see the obvious proved. We do the fighting and we do the dying so Suzie Orman can get a tax break while we get shuttled off as unimportant.

Show me a gay right, and I'll show you trans women who died so it could be enjoyed...just not by her or any of us.

Bending gender to any noticeable degree in most high schools, even today, would probably be tantamount to wearing a BEAT ME sign, and in many of those would be straight-up suicide. And, yet, those who are the most likely to transition with no future readings are going to have to do it in school.

T-inclusive ENDA's important, but it's far from complete. The education system is yet another segment that will have to be dragged kicking and screaming, and schools are notoriously bad at protecting at-risk students. The last time I met a young T woman with her mom, I told her to take self-defense training along with her hormones.

Yeah, schools aren't going to naturally accept difference. They're going to have to be pulled towards that goal.

Angela Brightfeather | March 20, 2009 2:46 PM

Alex,

It has been my experience that schools make the most of differences and don't need to be pulled in that direction.

Take the common school practice of controlling students in a lunchroom setting by making students sit boy, girl in that order.

So where does the Transgender student sit without being a problem to someone? Then people wonder why Trans students don't want to go to school.

Good advice on the self defense. When I started hormones again at my uni, I dumped the high heels and went for sneakers.
Of course I got asked why, and I said "I need to wear shoes I can kick ass in."

The moral is: being out and proud gives you the freedom to use every available opportunity for outreach and education. Yeah, it's an oppressor tactic to keep us down, but it does draw on one very important human characteristic that the homosexual rights movement has lost:

Bravery and truth win the day. But stealth keeps all your teeth in your mouth.

Their "we are just like everybody else" line will not work for transpeeps. So, we need to find our own way.

You are right about high school...and we often can't wait until college with its relative freedom to transition. Waiting for scraps from the homosexual rights movement won't save lives either.

If they want to be seen as an equal rights movement, they really need to start walking the walk.

Alex, schools are a lot more accepting than you think. They tend to be a lot more open than many homosexual rights orgs. Jus sayin'.

I think that kids are more accepting these days. There are still a few bullies out there in every school. You just can't hide from them. They are in our society and we just have to try and make our way through. It is hard, especially the transiioning part. I have been bullied on a number of issues and I had to just learn how to cope or I would be in a fight. We do need to educate our faculty and the parents, but if they don't want to learn we really can't teach them. I do think it will get better but not a 100%.