Most LGBT youth find it difficult to express and explore their sexual orientation and gender identity. This is caused by various challenges they face from the way society respond to their orientation and identity. In 2011 a report by Institute of Medicine found that ‘the disparities in both mental and physical health that are seen between LGBT and heterosexual and non-gender-variant youth are influenced largely by their experiences of stigma and discrimination during the development of their sexual orientation and gender identity.’ In this primary research I’ve decided to explore society’s perception of LGBT youth and their understanding of what they might believe that contributes negative experience towards LGBT youth. Furthermore I wanted to discover how society believes they can shift these environmental challenges.
At the start of the interview general discrimination questions were asked to gain insight of their experience with any sort of discrimination they might have faced. Later on the interview turned into a discussion on discrimination towards LGBT youth and how we can reduce this discrimination. In the interview the interviewee expressed that they have experienced racial discrimination and they believe that any minority will come across discrimination at least one point in their life. The way they handled discrimination was to simply brush it off.
“The minority in this world will always come across some sort of discrimination during their life. But it goes to show how ill educated our world is…”
The interviewee believes our current society is slowly becoming more accepting however there is still a long way to go, especially for the LGBT Youth. They believe LGBT youth would have it harder compared to any other minority because of the unwanted response they might face even from their loved ones like their family and friends. As the interview went on about the struggles LGBT youth face everyday it led on to discussion about how might we make it easier for them to come out. I asked the interviewee if they were ever taught on sexuality during school. “Never” they said. They explain how our education system should be more inclusive and improve on LGBT awareness. “I feel like if they talk about it or learn about it the there will be more awareness of discrimination. Students should get educated about these issues regardless to avoid any harassment and discrimination from occurring from young age.” When I asked if the interviewee knew about safe schools coalition they had no idea of it. As I explained to the interviewee what it was they were frustrated at why it wasn’t made more aware to us.
Following the insightful interview I generated a probe targeting two different age groups. The probe is a survey looking into individual’s perception on LGBT youth and ideas on how they might constitute to reducing challenges for LGBT youth from coming out.
- The aim of surveying High school students was to increase my understanding of how the same age as my chosen issue viewed LGBT youth.
The following survey questions allowed me to gain insightful understanding of teenager’s attitude towards LGBT youth.
- Do you know any LGBT youth yourself? If so, how do you interact with them?
- How do you feel towards LGBT youth?
- Do you think they’re any different to regular students? How do you treat them?
- Do you think our society is accepting them well?
- Why do you think a lot of LGBT Youth are afraid of coming out?
Many of the participants knew or had a friend that identified themselves as homosexual and they strongly disagreed on perceiving them indifferently. All participants had no negative feelings towards LGBT youth. However they expressed that at although it may seem that there is no obvious discrimination towards LGBT youth on the surface a lot of student still tend to judge them behind their backs. The students believed that media played a major role in showing both positive and negative results in coming out publically. “Hate crimes are presented on the media like daily, causing LGBT youth from coming out. They are in fear of discrimination and even getting hurt. Then there’s also a positive reaction from the public on ‘lovey dovey’ posts on social media about being openly gay or lesbian.”
Highschool students were very respectful towards LGBT youth and displayed this through their understanding of them as a normal person. They demonstrated that they believe LGBT are not indifferent to normal people as they still behave like normal people in terms of the way behave towards other people. This positive survey allowed me to understand that today’s teens are very open towards wider community. However their unfamiliarity on safe schools programmes made it assert that schools are still ignorant towards teaching students about sexuality. The participants acknowledged that schools are still centred on heteronormative teachings and exemplified that subjects in highschool such as health only teach heterosexual intercourse.
- Young adults were the other age group that I’ve surveyed. I decided to survey this age group to understand how they might think they can constitute to decreasing the LGBT discrimination. I believe young adults in today’s society are more open change so I wanted to explore their ideas on how the society should act upon LGBT discrimination.
All participants in this age group strongly believed that sexuality education should be reinforced in Sex Education in school. They emphasized that they had no memory of being taught about LGBTIQ. “Sex Ed in school was all about going through puberty, human reproduction, STD and aids. Nothing about sexual orientation.” From this finding it was clear that schools were only sourcing information on heterosexual safe sex and relationships. This demonstrated that schools played a big role in creating this conservative message about heterosexual sex and danger being the norm. The participants believed that raising positive roles models and information about LGBT in schools could’ve reduced the challenges.
After the survey I have asked a participant from each age group to document all source of information they have come across that could be identified as LGBT support, homophobia or LGBT discrimination. They were asked to note what source it was from e.g; social media, street poster, word of mouth or community discussion then describe how they felt towards the source weather it was a positive or negative perspective on LGBT in one sentence.
The chart shows lists of sources identified by the participant from each age group. The list has been separated into positive and negative association on LGBT. Both participants found more sources that were positively associated LGBT issue. This finding reassured that our society has decreased discriminatory attitude towards LGBTIQ and surprisingly more understanding about homophobia and discrimination. The participants in this research came across LGBT information mainly from non-traditional sources such as social media, Internet, friends, magazine, movies and street posters. It was clear that this information was becoming widely accessible but still less exposed in traditional sources such as school and family. I personally expected to see some traditional sources coming from my high school participant. Both participants felt that the negative sources they came across were unnecessary and ignorant.
In this research I would’ve liked to gain insight from LGBT youth’s perspective towards the society. It could’ve opened up my understanding on multiple layers of identity that impact LGBT youth’s lives such as gaining knowledge of how they cope or handle living in our current society. I believe the research could’ve been more comprehensive if I had gotten wider public’s understanding of LGBTIQ.
- In this research all most 99% of my participants did not know the safe schools coalition. I wasn’t sure weather because they didn’t care about the policy because they weren’t LGBT. Nevertheless I came to conclusion that same schools program should have been made more aware to wider public.
- Most schools already have anti-violence and racism policies but not so much in anti-LGBT abuse and harassment. Although they promote equality in schools they do not make LGBT discrimination a relevant issue.
- The research demonstrated that LGBT harassments are less aggressive these days. Young people are incredibly supportive of their fellow LGBT from coming out.
- It was interesting to find out that young people were light hearted towards LGBT community. They believe that sexual orientation and gender identity is a normal process and expression in today’s society.
- Although young people expressed their openness towards LGBT community they emphasised that it was the older generation that remained stigmatised towards all sexualities other than heterosexual, which influenced LGBT youth from coming out.
By April Bae
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