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A national survey, conducted in Canada, revealed that homophobia is a common practice in Canadian schools. The researchers found that almost all high schools in Canada had LGBT students. Majority of students who are gay feel unsafe while at school, yet the teachers do nothing concerning this issue. They get harassed through physical or verbal means. Students whose parents are LGBT also get harassed. Most schools in Canada apply anti-bullying policies but do not specify that they are applied to bullying LGBT students. Schools which specify this issue put their students at safe grounds because they are not bullied due to their sexual status. Several groups have advocated for a school curriculum, which includes LGBT in units such as Social studies or Family Life. Schools also need to encourage Gay Straight Alliances since homophobic comments made by teachers and their fellow students upset most heterosexual students. These comments can be related to their gender identity or sexuality.
School administrators lack enough evidence in order to have a thorough understanding of LGBTQ. Consequently, administrators have not been able to respond to transphobic and homophobic bullying in schools. These issues ought to be addressed to avoid tormenting students with gender issues. Many students with such issues are willing to discuss them so long as they remain confidential. Researchers realized this while conducting the online survey on homophobia in Canadian schools. Most of these students over hear various comments such as gay, dyke, faggot, and lezbo. These terms affect them emotionally, especially when they hear them severally from their teachers and mostly from other students. The sexual minority in Canada always hear such insulting words about their sexual orientation. These students also get harassed due to their gender expressions. Gay students get harassed more than lesbian students due to their exposure to sexual humiliation, due to their undesirable sexual attention. It is also true that lesbian students do not find such experiences as sexual harassment. Students identified with LGBTQ agreed that the school washrooms and change rooms are not safe for them. These places may appear to be insecure for such students. Students from schools with policies regarding to anti-homophobia report few cases harassment as compared to students whose schools lack anti-homophobia policies (Mooney, 2012).
Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) refer to student clubs that give membership to heterosexuals and LGBTQ. One or two teachers act as faculty advisors to the club members. These alliances provide safer places to LGBTQ students, hence welcoming students who belong to the gender minority. GSAs go by different names such as Social Justice Clubs, Rainbow Clubs, and Human Rights Clubs. These clubs get such names so that they become open to all students including those who may not belong to the gender minority but can address the issue of homophobia. GSAs clubs get initiated mainly by LGBTQ students, but, in some other instances, a teacher can initiate such an alliance. These groups also offer support to students whose parents are LGBTQ. More than one hundred such registered groups already exist in Canada.
Studies show that little ethnic variation exists regarding physical harassment due to gender orientation. However, Caucasian students are assaulted or harassed physically due to their ethnicity. Aboriginal youths also are harassed more often than youth with no colour difference. That is the reason as to why schools should encourage GSAs in schools in order to address such issues. Taboos and cultural issues must also be addressed to avoid homophobia in schools. Students, whose parents belong to LGBTQ, hate hearing cruel words which people speak concerning their beloved parents. Such students do not disclose their parents’ sexual orientation as a way to avoid harassment and assault while at school. Students who have gay or lesbian relatives admit that their colleagues believe that they, too, practice the behaviour. Students who come from such family backgrounds are more sensitive and particularly keen when they hear a homophobic comment from either a teacher or a student. The fear instilled into these students is likely to affect their academic performance because they are surely to miss classes. Students who identify themselves as Trans often get harassed. They lack safety due to gender conventions, which include female femininity and male masculinity. This makes the Trans students visible targets for the harassment and discrimination. 74% of trans students are harassed verbally because of their gender expression. Religion and ethnicity make ‘trans’ students feel unsafe while at school. Some students will even miss school or skip several lessons in order to avoid stigmatization (Sears, 2005).
Most non-LGBTQ students also find abusive comments made, relating to lesbians and people, very upsetting. This means that some students are supportive of their schoolmates who are LGBTQ. Heterosexual youths report on the discrimination and harassment due to their sexual orientation. Measures need to be taken to stop insulting language or homophobia on students. These students feel that their fellow students insult their dignity, which should be respected. It would hurt everyone to hear his or her loved ones, for example, a parent, talked ill about due to sexual identity. Verbal, sexual, and physical harassment or discrimination affects students emotionally and can easily lead to a poor performance in the schoolwork. Students feel unsecure while at school, especially female students who have LGBTQ relatives. These students feel more insecure as compared to ‘trans’ students. Youths of colour also get affected so much because they have no one to tell about their worries. The school climates are hostile for Trans and bisexual students due to homophobia.
Homophobia, transphobia, biphobia can affect some students, but they are not aware of such effects. This usually happens due to school cultures. It is a fact that many school administrators and educators underestimate homophobia in the schools. Marginalized students experience homophobia severally as compared to students from no marginalized regions. School administrators and educators need to work hard to ensure that sexually minority students, their parents, and youth of colour get included in their efforts to fight against homophobia in schools. The curriculum and policy programmes must be developed in such a way that they reflect how homophobia affects students. The school climate must also be changed to include GSAs and LGBTQ curriculum because such climate supports sexual minority students (Sears, 2005).
Schools should provide non-violent atmosphere where all students develop irrespective of their gender identities. Canada has diverse cultures, and educators must understand their diverse identities, which must include their gender identities. First, they need to accept the fact that gender variant students exist in their schools and that expressing gender identities is not a crime. A school administrator should not wait until a student comes out to discuss this issue. This is because before a student addresses such an issue, it would be likely that he/she has gone through a lot of torture due to harassment from his/her fellow students, as well as some teachers who are insensitive while making comments regarding gays and lesbians.
Educators also need to enrol in the in-service training on gender identity issues. Educators could be aware of the importance of discussing gender identity issues, but school administrators may find it difficult to discuss such issues with the students or even among themselves due to insufficient training. Workshops should be encouraged where administrators and educators come to discuss their experiences with students who are gender variants. Such workshops will create avenues for the discussion of skills required to develop a plan that will lead to the improved school environments, which cater for all genders. School administrations should also support these trainings in order to create time required for learning (Meyer, 2010).
Educating school communities on gender issues can help reduce discrimination, marginalization, and stigmatization experienced by students while at school. Gender diversity issues can be discussed through public presentations, seminars, encouraging performances, and distributing educational materials. Schools should commemorate ’transgender day’. This would ensure that the self-esteem of gender variant students remain high because of receiving acceptance in schools; hence, there is no homophobia.
School administrators need to challenge gender norms by avoiding segregating policies.. Segregating students can lead to stigmatization of those students who wish to challenge the typical female or male notions. Such students can suffer psychologically and emotionally leading to poor performance academically. Therefore, the issue of ’only boys can engage in tough games’, ’only girls should polish on their nails,’ among other comments that segregate boys and girls. Students should not be divided in relation to their gender since this is also a part of gender norms. School clubs, organizations, and teams must be welcoming to all students irrespective of their gender. Students should be allowed the teams they identify themselves with so that they do not feel discriminated. Gender variant students should not be forced to disclose their gender identity, but they may disclose it when they become ready to do so. Findings showed that washrooms bring conflicts among gender variant students. Therefore, facilities that are gender neutral such as private washrooms with doors and curtains should be created (Callaghan, 2007).
The discussion above shows that students face homophobic bullying while at school due to gender identity issues. Everyday students and some insensitive teachers make insulting comments that annoy students associated with gender minority issues. Some students may not be LGBTQ, but their parents either are lesbians, gays or could belong to any other gender minority group. Such students also experience bullying in schools because they get associated with the so-called ‘bad’ behaviour of gays and lesbians. Students who are discriminated in schools due to such issues get affected both emotionally and psychologically; this leads to a poor performance in their academic work. This happens because of missing school or missing lectures. Washrooms and other gender sensitive areas appear to be the areas where LGBTQ students feel insecure. Schools should support such students by encouraging them to form clubs such as GSAs that discuss issues related to sexual or gender identity. In service, training ought to be encouraged so that teachers and administrators are enrolled, and are taught how to tackle issues of gender inequality caused by gender identity. These administrators will in turn teach the school community to accept all students despite the fact that they have different sexual orientation (Bekerman & Geisen, 2010).
School administrators should also be encouraged to stop segregating student activities based on their gender, as this discriminates students who may wish to participate, yet they get prohibited due to their gender. Homophobia in Canadian schools has been a matter of concern for a long time. Many people associate homophobic bullying with several Canadian youth’s committing suicide because of stigmatization. Policies must also be put in place whereby students must be treated equally despite their gender identity. They should be allowed to speak out their feelings and stern measures should be taken against whoever bullies them.