Schools Must Advocate for LGBTQ+ Students
School systems should serve not only as an educational platform, but as a platform of support for students on their journey of learning about the world and themselves.
By Caelan Woryk
Some Students, Teachers Create Unsafe Space for Students With Different Gender Expressions in School
According to the Movement Advancement Project, 49 percent of the LGBTQ+ community live in states that have laws that ban gender and sexual orientation-based bullying. Though states have these laws in place, many school systems within their communities do not take these laws into consideration when there is conflict within a school.
The report Statehouse to Schoolhouse: Anti-Bullying Policy Efforts in U.S. States and School Districts found that seven in 10 school districts have anti-bullying policies in place but only one in 10 have policies specifically protecting kids in the LGBTQ+ community who are being bullied.
“I try to ignore more of the adults [in school] when it comes to them trying to not change my name, purposely insulting me when I am trying to talk to my mother and using female pronouns because they think they can get away with it,” Greyson Hart, a 13-year old transgender teenager, said.
In a 2011 national school climate survey generated by GLSEN, “56.9 percent of students reported hearing homophobic remarks from their teachers or other school staff, and 56.9 percent of students reported hearing negative remarks about gender expression from teachers or other school staff.”
Within the last year, Greyson sat his mom down and told her that he was a boy trapped in a girl’s body. They both researched the term ‘transgender’ and agreed that Greyson could start the transition process to become he. The rest of his family slowly understood the change but not his school community.
“When we told the rest of the world, ‘We are no longer his birth name Alexis. We are Greyson now and our pronouns are he and him. This is who we are and we hope you accept it.’ A lot of people did [accept it] and a lot of people haven’t yet because unfortunately we live in small town [in] Texas and his school is unfortunately a school that does not like to accept it,” Lauren Hart, Greyson’s mother, said.
The GLSEN survey also reported that 36.7 percent of the students who did report an incident said the school staff did nothing in response.
“It has been six months of hell. Six months of hell fighting them tooth and nail every step of the way and yet we are six months into the school year and we are still fighting for getting his proper name,” Lauren said. “I think my son deserves to be treated like a human being and called what he wants to be called. Most of his teachers call him by his proper name, but anytime there is a sub they refuse to call him any other name. If it is not one thing it is another thing.”
Roughly, 64 percent of LGBTQ+ students feel unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, while 44 percent also do not feel safe because of their gender expression, according to the GLSEN survey.
“Unfortunately he is the only out transgender student,” Lauren said. “There’s a couple others at his school who are afraid to come out because they have seen how badly he has been bullied and how badly he has been treated.”
Creating safe spaces in schools where all students can thrive, no matter how they identify or express themselves, sends a message to the community. Building these environments allow students to feel comfortable to approach a member of the school faculty and talk about issues they are facing.
Stopbullying.gov states that building connections with the students that identify with the LGBTQ+ community makes them feel included and will show that they can rely on their teacher as someone they can confide in. Creating a gay-straight alliance club or group within the schools is a way to be more inclusive. GSA clubs allow students to come together to stop bullying and harassment towards LGBTQ+ students. They create awareness of the issue within their school community, which may lead to respect from other classmates.
Greyson and his mom continue to not only fight for respect for being his true self from the teachers, staff and other officials within his school district but fighting for other children who are also in the LGBTQ+ youth community who do not feel accepted.
“A lot of people are like, ‘You have a few more months left, just let it go and leave so you don’t have to deal with that.’ But I’m like, wait. What about the kids after him that still have to deal with the same thing? Since we have been fighting tooth and nail, we might as well try to leave [the school] in a better position,” Lauren said.
By Marissa Roberto