Middle school and high school can be intimidating places for kids. They are the hunting grounds of bullies, the battle grounds of social climbers and the breeding ground for insecurity.
For LGBTQ+ students, the situation can be particularly difficult. Many schools have not yet developed policies and practices to serve that demographic, but the research is pretty powerful: When schools serve LGBTQ+ students well, those students improve.
Schools with dedicated anti-bullying and nondiscrimination policies can have a profound impact on LGBTQ+ youths, according to a 2013 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health titled “Inclusive anti-bullying policies and reduced risk of suicide attempts in lesbian and gay youth.”
LGBTQ+ students in those schools report fewer experiences of victimization and harassment. Compare that to the experience of LGBTQ+ youths in schools without such policies, which are twice as likely to see past-year suicide attempts (Russell, 2016, p.8).
As a school administrator or teacher, where do you begin in the process of turning your school into a safe, supportive environment for LGBTQ+ youths? The American Psychological Association compiled a toolbox for just that purpose. It includes guides to implement LGBTQ+-affirming programs and events in schools, as well as tools to assess a school’s current level of LGBTQ+-friendliness. Explore the toolbox in full.
American Psychological Association. (2009). Toolbox to promote healthy LGBTQ youth. http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/programs/safe-supportive/training/toolbox.aspx
Russell, S., & Fish, J. (2016, March). Mental health in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 12, 465-487. https://www.annualreviews.org/abs/doi/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-021815-093153
DeeWho is Dee?
Gender Identity Our core sense of who we are as a man, a woman, a mixture of both, or neither.
Gender Expression How we show up in the world through choices like clothing, hair style, mannerisms or tone of voice.
Attraction How we feel toward others sexually, romantically and/or emotionally.
Biological Sex Physical attributes such as reproductive organs and genitalia, chromosomes, genes and hormone levels.
Read more about the impact of specific policies, including school-related practices, on the lives and outcomes of LGBT youth.