Human Rights in Arts

Events and outreach at the University of Manitoba

Homophobia Research from Professors Catherine Taylor and Tracey Peter

Posted on | June 5, 2011 | No Comments

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 12, 2011 B1

Discrimination in the hallways

Slurs a daily school occurrence: report

Rampant homophobia stalks the hallways and classrooms of Canadian schools.

That’s one of the key findings of a national study on homophobia in Canadian schools, to be released this evening at the University of Winnipeg.

According to the report, homophobic comments are a daily, common and accepted part of school life, even uttered by some teachers. Almost two-thirds of non-heterosexual students do not feel safe in their schools.

“LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, two-spirited, queer or questioning) students are exposed to language that insults their dignity as part of everyday school experiences, and youth with LGBTQ family members are constantly hearing their loved ones being denigrated,” says the study, released at the annual general meeting of the anti-homophobia human rights organization Egale Canada.

The survey of 3,700 Canadian high school students between December 2007 and June 2009 was conducted by U of W education professor Catherine Taylor and University of Manitoba sociology professor Tracey Peter.

The report highlights the pervasive extent of homophobia in schools and its impact on young students, and it reveals some surprising data.

Girls and young women are more likely than boys and young men to suffer verbal and physical harassment because of their sexual orientation.

That surprised the researchers, who said the popular misconception is that straight boys are more likely to be bullies and have the opportunity to bully gay boys in gym locker-rooms and washrooms, where there is no adult supervision.

Aboriginal students are most likely to know a student who is “out” and are most likely to see classroom discussions about sexual orientation as positive. All other visible minorities combined, who the researchers describe as students of colour, are least likely to know an “out” student or see discussion of sexual orientation as positive.

Although many schools have well-developed human rights policies based on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, few specifically include LGBTQ people in those policies, the report says.

It says teachers are not automatically allies and supportive adults of students suffering discrimination, nor do they always intervene. “Teachers often look the other way when they hear homophobic and transphobic comments, and some of them even make these kinds of comments themselves.”

The report found that close to 10 per cent of straight students have experienced homophobic insults and physical harassment because of perceptions about their sexual orientation.

Almost three-fifths of straight students find homophobic comments upsetting, a finding the researchers considered “striking.”

There is a great deal of potential solidarity for LGBTQ-inclusive education among heterosexual students, Taylor and Peter said.

They recommend that provinces and school divisions develop and implement specific anti-homophobia programs in the curriculum and in safe-schools policies, and provide teachers with professional development on issues of sexual orientation.

The report strongly recommends that schools encourage students to start gay-straight alliances (GSA), and that if students don’t come forward, that the school approach teachers to help start a GSA.

A disturbing trend

Major findings of Every Class in Every School, The Final Report of the First National Climate Survey on Homophobia in Canadian Schools, a survey of 3,700 Canadian high school students being released at the University of Winnipeg at 6 p.m. today:

14 per cent of students, close to one in seven, self-identified as not being exclusively heterosexual.

70 per cent of all participating students heard expressions such as ‘That’s so gay’ in school on a daily basis, and 48 per cent heard words such as ‘faggot’, ‘lezbo’, and ‘dyke’ every day in school.

Almost 10 per cent of LGBTQ students heard homophobic comments from teachers daily or weekly.

55 per cent of sexual minority students were verbally harassed in school.

21 per cent of LGBTQ students were physically harassed or assaulted in school.

64 per cent of LGBTQ students feel unsafe at school.

Verbal and physical harassment are reported occurring significantly less frequently in schools with anti-homophobia policies, but there is no significant difference in LGBTQ students feeling unsafe in schools with such policies.

Students whose schools have gay straight alliances (GSA) are more likely to be open with fellow students about their sexual orientation.

‘Students of colour’ are less likely to know an ‘out’ student than are white and aboriginal students.

58 per cent of straight students find homophobic comments upsetting. One in 12 straight students reported being verbally harassed about their perceived sexual orientation.

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    The Faculty of Arts Human Rights blog highlights information about current research projects focusing on Human Rights issues. We will also advise you of upcoming conferences, symposiums, workshops and other outreach activities related to Human Rights both within the Faculty of Arts and across the University. If you have an event or project that you would like posted in the blog and/or the bi-weekly E-Memo, please send the details to Shawn Jordan, Communications Coordinator (jordanso@cc.umanitoba.ca).
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