Alex Blaze

We aren't over the rainbow yet

Filed By Alex Blaze | February 15, 2010 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: bisexual, bullying, health care reform, HIV/AIDS, idenitity, lesbian, LGBT, LGBT youth, people, school, study, suicide, transgender

In case you were operating under the false assumption that L, G, B, or T oppression was over, several studies to the opposite effect were released these past couple weeks on youth suicide, transgender employment discrimination, health care, and bullying in schools.

First, LGB youth are at a higher risk of suicide, and not because they're LGB, but because of their recognition of that identity (and, therefore, the interaction between that identity and society at large):

The researchers administered a detailed, anonymous questionnaire to nearly 1,900 students in 14 Montreal-area high schools, and found that those teens who self-identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual, or who were unsure of their sexual identity, were indeed at higher risk for suicidal ideation and attempts. However, teens who had same-sex attractions or sexual experiences -- but thought of themselves as heterosexual -- were at no greater risk than the population at large. Perhaps surprisingly, but consistent with previous studies, the majority of teens with same-sex sexual attraction or experience considered themselves to be heterosexual.

Sexual orientation is divided by researchers into identity, behavior, and attraction. The first is a direct product of the culture one lives in, and if someone is able to have same-sex attraction and behavior but not identify as gay or bi, then apparently one is less likely to consider suicide.

Second, the NCTE and the Task Force released the largest survey ever conducted on trans workplace discrimination:

One of the key findings of the survey was that transgender people face unemployment at double the rate of the general population as a whole. During the survey period and prior to current recession unemployment levels, 13 percent of trans respondents were unemployed, compared to 6.5 percent in the general population.

The unemployment rate was even more acute for black (26 percent), Latino (18 percent) and multiracial (17 percent) trans people.

Almost half (47 percent) of the survey respondents reported adverse job action because of their transgender status: Either they did not get a job, were denied a promotion or were fired.

Very striking was that 26 percent of transgender respondents lost their jobs due to their gender identity/expression. That number was higher for black respondents (32 percent) and for multiracial respondents (37 percent).

But most striking, according to Keisling, was that 97 percent of respondents reported experiencing mistreatment, harassment or discrimination on the job, including invasion of privacy, verbal abuse and physical or sexual assault.

They also asked about health care access, something that I wish more LGB surveys would ask about (they usually focus on discrimination in the health care system, which isn't the same thing):

In regard to health insurance, the survey found that "transgender and gender non-conforming people do not have adequate health coverage or access to competent providers." The respondents had the same rate of coverage as the general population, but only 40 percent had employer-based insurance coverage, compared to 62 percent in the general population.

I want to know where the others are getting their insurance if it's not through their employers. If it's through Medicaid, Medicare, or their spouse, it's one thing; if they're on the individual market, it's another.

Speaking of LGBT people and health care, Lambda Legal did a survey on just that, and either they didn't ask about access or they didn't release results on that:

The survey included questions about the following types of discrimination in care: being refused needed care; health care professionals refusing to touch patients or using excessive precautions; health care professionals using harsh or abusive language; being blamed for one's health status; or health care professionals being physically rough or abusive. According to the results, almost 56 percent of lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) respondents had at least one of these experiences; 70 percent of transgender and gender-nonconforming respondents had one or more of these experiences; and nearly 63 percent of respondents living with HIV experienced one or more of these types of discrimination in health care. We found that not only did sexual orientation or serostatus affect the respondents' access to quality health care, but transgender or gender-nonconforming respondents faced discrimination two to three times more frequently than lesbian, gay, or bisexual respondents. In nearly every category, a higher proportion of respondents who are people of color and/or low-income reported experiencing discriminatory and substandard care. Close to 33 percent of low-income transgender and gender-nonconforming respondents reported being refused care because of their gender identity and almost a quarter of low-income respondents living with HIV reported being denied care.

In addition to instances of discrimination, respondents also reported a high degree of anticipation and belief that they would face discriminatory care. Overall, 9 percent of LGB respondents are concerned about being refused medical services when they need them and 20 percent of respondents living with HIV and over half of transgender and gender-nonconforming respondents share this same concern. Nearly half of LGB respondents and respondents living with HIV and almost 90 percent of transgender respondents believe there are not enough medical personnel who are properly trained to care for them. These barriers to care may result in poorer health outcomes because of delays in diagnosis, treatment or preventive measures.

Last, two studies were published recently on LGBT youth and bullying. This one is from Ohio State University:

The new results also suggest older kids are still vulnerable to bullies, even though past studies have shown the prevalence of bullying declines after middle-school years. Lesbians and gays were the least likely to bully others, with none of the girls who identified as lesbian saying they had bullied others in the previous year.

The data analyzed by Berlan and her colleagues came from 2001 information collected in an ongoing study of American teens, which included more than 7,500 adolescents, ages 14 to 22. The participants were children of female registered nurses who took part in the Nurses' Health Study II, and they may not be representative of the general population. The results are published online in the January issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Of the male teens, about 0.5 percent identified themselves as bisexual, 1.4 percent as gay and 4.5 percent as "mostly heterosexual." For teen girls, 1.9 percent identified themselves as bisexual, 0.3 percent as lesbian, and 9.5 percent as mostly heterosexual. The rest reported they were heterosexual.

No group was immune to bullying. Nearly 44 percent of gay male participants said they had been bullied in the previous year, compared with 26 percent of heterosexuals who reported the same. For girls, 40 percent of lesbians indicated they had been bullied in the past year, while just over 15 percent of heterosexuals reported such. About 35 percent of bisexual and mostly homosexual guys had been bullied and about 25 percent of their female counterparts.

We're less likely to bully others than they are to bully us? You'd never know that if you listened to the folks on the Religious Right with their ginormous chips on their shoulders talking about how us merely sending them some sternly-worded postcards is "violence."

And a recent study in Ireland shows that for boys, particularly, bullying on the basis of gender expression is common:

A new survey of almost 2,000 parents suggests the greatest insult to a schoolboy is calling him a "girl, woman, or gay".

It also found young men presumed to be homosexual by their peers are a target for bullying.

Similarly, young men who are open and honest about their feelings are easier targets for homophobic bullying.

In this context, young men keep their feelings, emotions and concerns to themselves.

The survey also found that the majority of parents wanted the issue of homophobia on the curriculum because of widespread bullying in schools.

Three-quarters of parents indicated that they would trust their sons' teachers to deal with sexual orientation and homophobia in the classroom. A minority felt that the schools may not transmit the attitudes and values taught in the home.

All this for LGBT policy wonks, and for people think that we're post-gay now. Even if that whole LGBT wish list passed Congress tomorrow, queer and gender non-conforming kids would still be bullied, trans people would still get discriminated against at the workplace, some health care professionals would still treat PLWHA as if they're radioactive, and LGB youth would still consider suicide.

But at least we'd have a start when it comes to addressing all that.

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But all those issues aren't as sexy as marriage, Alex. I wonder where the community will focus their attention? *sighs*

Thanks Alex for addressing these extremely serious issues that concern LGBT youth.

I personally feel that many verbal, politically active members of the LBGT community totally
ignore issues concerning LBGT youth.

There are still many areas where the families, schools, and churches promote an environment
which is not supportive to LBGT youth. Just try to imagine if you were growing up at the present
time in Appalachia; now try to imagine you are a LGBT youth in that environment .