Paper GAY TEENAGERS One gay man remembers his high school years as filled with intense loneliness, fear and self-hatred. Another recalls spending every lunch period in a bathroom stall. A lesbian recollects her
Gay Teens In High School Essay, Research Paper
One gay man remembers his high school years as filled with intense loneliness, fear and
self-hatred. Another recalls spending every lunch period in a bathroom stall. A lesbian recollects her
bottling up all her emotions and silencing all spontaneous gestures, terrified of saying or doing anything to betray her own secret. Unusual memories? Not at all.
Most gay people, and many of today?s gay teens in high school, can describe similar tales. In most
teenagers? lives, they experience a wonderful four years of high school; but gay teenagers experience
something much different. These students go through school trying to fit in and just be accepted by the
society around them. In many cases, there is good that comes from being gay and being out (to declare
ones sexuality) in school but the bad things will always overpower the good. A study done in 1995 by the
US Department of Health and Human Services showed that gay and lesbian youths are 35% more likely to
go through with suicide. Every year that rate gets higher and higher. Now is the time to look past
indifference and see a person for who that person is… a human being.
In many high schools across the nation, there are at least a handful of kids in each high school that
are gay, lesbian, and/or bisexual but are hiding themselves. In other words, they are playing straight
(acting heterosexual). In an average high school ?about 3%? of students are actually gay, with ?about 1%?
of those students who are out to everyone. (Hopkins, Gary:
www.education-world.com/a_admin/admin087) On average, a high school student, gay or straight, will
hear ?anti-gay remarks about 25-40 times? in one school day. (Hopkins, Gary:
www.education-world.com/a_admin/admin087) Out of all the verbal abuse heard, ?80% of it is failed to
be reported? due to the fact that students are not confident with their sexuality yet.
A survey done in 1996 on over 8,400 high school students by The Safe School Anti-Violence
Project reported some interesting statistics. Out of the 8,400 students: ?95% characterize themselves as
heterosexual; 5% as homosexual or bisexual, and 4% as uncertain.? (The Safe School Anti-Violence
Project of Washington: www.relioustolerance.org/hom_stud)
Among the gay/lesbian/bisexual students, ?34% has been harassed? due to their ?sexual
orientation.? Also, they were ?3 times more likely to be injured in a fight that requiring medical
attention.? (The Safe School Anti-violence Project of Washington: www.religiuotolerance.org/hom_stud)
Furthermore, about ?75% of students reported feeling unsafe? in school and have stated feeling ?strongly
about suicide.? (The Safe School Anti-violence Project of Washington:
When a teenager realizes for the first time their sexuality, they feel it?s extremely hard to tell
anyone. Gay teenagers feel it?s hard to come out into today?s society, due to the great number of factors
stopping them; homophobia (irrational fear of homosexuals) is one of the factors. Teenagers have to go through people that hate them just because of their sexual orientation. Gay teenagers in high school have
to face homophobic teenagers everyday.
In many cases of homophobia, gay teenagers lose their friends and family. They don?t feel
accepted if they do tell their family and friends. The overwhelming sensation of abandonment is so great,
the teenager feels that he/she will end up getting kicked out of the house. Or, that his/her friends will no longer want to be his/her friend anymore. Teenagers don?t know how ?to feel or react under these
conditions.? (Wilson, Terry: Chicago Tribune 25 Mar. 1997) This leads to mass ?confusion and
loneliness?. (Wilson, Terry: Chicago Tribune 25 Mar. 1997) The feeling of rejection is another factor that
makes it hard to come out. Your friends leave you, families disown you, and society looks down upon
The lack of support makes it hard for gay youths to come out. They don?t know whom to trust
with this secret. ?The teenager has no one to look up too.? (Cloud, John: Times 8 dec. 1999 82-83) The
student feels they are the only one in their school and is afraid to come out. (Cloud, John: Times 8 Dec.
The lacks of support and role models in schools leave many gay and lesbian students feeling alone and ashamed during their adolescence. The high rate of suicide among gay and lesbian students is the result of a sense of profound isolation and aloneness experienced through high school. (Lopes, Paula: interview 31 Jan. 2000)
Many teenagers fear coming out because of the violence they have observed. One incident is the Matthew Shepard attack. Anti-gay crimes like that leave teenagers feeling even more fearful of coming out. Even worse the violence may come from within their own homes.
A 17-year-old teenager told his parents that he was gay. His own father beat him to near death while the mother stood by yelling anti-gay slurs at her son. (Safe Schools Coalition of Washington State: Jan. 1999 www.safes.org)
If gay teenagers fear coming out in today?s society, is it society keeping these teenagers in the
closet? Most people teach their kids to harass gay teenagers. These kids grow up in a home where they
hear their own parents? making anti-gay slurs, more.
Two lesbian girls are at a school football game. A few rows up from them are a group of parents shouting out anti-gay remarks to the young girls. Feeling upset they leave. On the way out a group of young kids throw food at them and call them names as well. (Safe Schools Coalition of Washington State: Jan. 1999 www.safeschools-wa.org)
Also, many racist groups threaten young teenagers with verbal and/or physical harassment. Some
racist groups could be the KKK, different gangs, and extremely conservative religious groups. These people make these teenagers feel ashamed for who they are. There is no safe way for these teenagers ?to explore the possibilities? with out getting ?criticized and physically harmed.? (Marcus, Eric 56)
Gay and lesbian students often feel invisible in their own schools. Their invisibility is typically
reinforced by heterosexism (everyone should be heterosexual) in their environment, which causes gay and lesbian students feel invisible, unsupported and isolated. (Making Schools Safe for Gay and Lesbian
Youth: Report of Mass. Governor?s Commission on Gay and lesbian Youth, 1993)
Society?s attitude, behaviors and tendencies to render gay and lesbian students invisible in the school and within the family. The students? feelings of discomfort and isolation are reinforced as their schools further perpetuate the myth of their nonexistence. (Lopes, Paula: interview 31 Jan. 2000)
The lack of knowledge of gay and lesbian students is a major role that society holds on keeping
them in the closet. ?Some myths are: All gay people have HIV/AIDS, If you stand next to a gay person
you will become gay, and Gay people are always trying to recruit other people.? (Katz, Jonathan 103)
For the students that are out and in high school, we should applaud them. These teenagers had the strength to overcome all of the negative aspects, which kept them from coming out. But, we do have to
look at both sides of coming out too; the positive side and then the negative side.
Insults take many forms; they all hurt. Racial, ethnic and sexual slurs are particularly abusive. Whereas most of us would not allow a racist slur to occur unchecked, we do not always accord the same standards to those remarks made at the expense of lesbian and gay people. Sometimes such slurs don?t
even get recognized as being hurtful and may be considered socially acceptable. Many young people use
terms such as ?lezzie?, ?faggot? or ?queer? when referring to gay and lesbian people or to people who we
don?t like or respect. This behavior attacks the self-esteem of a lesbian and gay youth and teaches young
people that hatred of homosexuals is tolerated by our society.
When a teenager comes out while still in high school, that person now has a peace of mind. ?They
no longer have to fight within themselves.? (Cloud, John: Times 8 Dec 1997 82-83) These teenagers
now have a place to belong in this crazy world. These students have a lot of courage to face all their fears. A huge burden has been lifted off their chest. They can hold their head up high and say I?m proud to be gay/lesbian/bisexual. These teens have ?accomplished a major task in their life.? (Cloud, John: Times 8 Dec 1997 82-83) When the teenager does come out to his/her parents, and the parents understand, the teen has an overwhelming feeling of acceptance. They know their family will be there to guide and support them through thick and thin. These gay teenagers have the power of understanding of themselves; they are now a whole person.
Yet, with good consequences there are the bad ones as well. Many high school students walk the
halls listening to verbal harassment: Hey you Fag! Look at the Dykes! Stupid queers! All gay people
should be shot. Those were just a very short list of some verbal harassment. Verbal harassment is just as
damaging as physical, sometimes more so. Teachers that hear the verbal harassment ?fail to report about
97% of it.? (Hopkins, Gary: www.education-world.com/a_admin/admon087) While in school about
?69% of all GLBT (gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender) crimes? take place. (Byrd, Richard:
www.glccftl.org/library/youthgroup/0598) 97% of all students in public high schools report regularly
hearing homophobic remarks from their peers. (Making Schools Safe for Gay and Lesbian Youth: Report
of Mass. Governor?s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, 1993)
With verbal harassment, physical harassment isn?t far behind. Gay people are three times more
likely to be victimized. (Kuklin, Susan: 71) About 15% of all lesbians or bisexual women have reported
being victimized or raped at least once in their lives because of their sexual orientation. (Katz, Jonathan:
A 16-year-old girl is dating another female. Five boys from school find out, so they force her into a vacant classroom and tell her if she doesn?t perform oral sex on them they will kill her. They boys call her names and they rip off all her clothes. They start to rape her one at a time. After they are done raping her, they nearly beat her to death. Right before they leave, they tell her ?Next time we see you with your girlfriend, you won?t live to see the next day.? (Safe Schools Coalition of Washington State: Jan. 1999 www.safes.org)
In 1995, there were 2,395 reports of physical harassment. In 1996, there were 2,529 reports; that is a 6% increase within one year. (Byrd, Richard: www.glccftl.org/library/youthgroup/0598)
The hardest part of coming out is being accepted; most times you?re not. You hope that your
friends understand you and will help you through the rough times. They just turn their backs on you.
Then you think your family will help you then. They have too; they?re your flesh and blood. You tell
them, they tell you that you are no longer their son/daughter. You have no one to accept you now.
When telling your family you are gay/lesbian, your mom and dad kick you out of the house. You
have just been abandoned. ?26% of gay and lesbians youths are forced to leave their home because of
conflicts with their families over their sexual identities.? (Remafedi. G: Pediatrics, 79)
Another negative aspect of coming out and not being able to live in peace is suicide. As stated
before, 35% of gay and lesbian youths are more likely to complete a suicide. Gay and lesbian teenagers
sometimes can?t handle the isolation and harassment so they feel it is best to end the harassment by ending
their lives. ?Gay and lesbian suicides makes up about 28% of the suicide rate in the US.? (The Safe
School Anti-Violence Project of Washington: www.relioustolerance.org/hom_stud)
?In a study of depression in gay and lesbian youths, researchers found depression strikes homosexual youth four to five times more severely than their non-gay peers.? (The Safe School Anti-Violence Project of Washington: www.relioustolerance.org/hom_stud) While depressed teenagers are more likely drink, ?68% of gay males use alcohol and 44% use other drugs; 83% of lesbians use
alcohol and 56% use other drugs.? (Hunter. J. Unpublished research by the Columbia University HIV
Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, 1992) ?80% of lesbians, gay and bisexual youth report severe isolation problems from being depressed.? (Hetrick. E.S.: Martin. A.D., Journal of Homosexuality 14 (1/2). 25-43. 1987)
Gay youths are more than ?five times more likely to skip classes or school because they feel
unsafe.? Marcus, Eric: 19) So many students have skipped classes to stay away from other classmates that
verbally harass them, sometimes repeatedly missing certain classes. In a national study, ?28% of lesbian,
gay, and bisexual high school students were seen to have dropped out of school because of harassment.?
(Remafedi. G: Pediatrics, 142)
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