Lgbt students and their dillemas in school:What and how are the issues to be solved?IntroductionThe issues behind the emergence of students who belong to the LGBT population has naturally raised questions as to how schools should actually react to their needs and further implications in the regular population of the school which are the heterosexuals [boys and girls].
The supposed unnatural disposition of the said division of gender in the society actually raised arguments of whether they are to be accepted or not by the current scholastic environments. As a result, in today’s educational environment, students who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) often find it hard to cope in their learning environment. Despite the many social and educational advances made in our multicultural era, the vast majority of educational institutions and classrooms still operate out of the assumption that all students are heterosexual. Heterosexist and homophobic thinking tend to be predominate not only in the way the curriculum is designed and presented to students, but in social activities such as the prom, hallway interactions, school sports, extracurricular academic activities, physical education, and class arrangements. While the larger culture seems to have made great strides in accepting sexual minorities in recent years, what with a proliferation of representations of LGBT sexuality in popular culture, it should follow that the school systems would follow and begin to integrate an LGBT positive awareness into the curriculum.This has not been the case; schools are by and large silent on the matter of non-heterosexual identities.
According to Khayatt (1994), systematic silence on LGBT matters in schools tends to take on two forms: LGBT-related topics are absent from the curriculum, and information about LGBT sexuality is either distorted or suppressed on an active level. Not only is the subject of LGBT sexuality often ignored altogether in educational environments – as thought it did not exist, there is often not even information available on the subject in the offices of guidance counselors. The subject is frequently omitted from all school curricula – even health classes, where the topic of human sexuality is traditionally dealt with. Where homosexuality is dealt with, it is frequently only shown in a negative light, such as in association with diseases like HIV and AIDS. Furthermore, there is an active refusal on the part of schools to allow LGBT speakers to address students. In some school systems, it is illegal for teachers or any other school employees to speak openly about their own LGBT orientation.
This is all the more remarkable, when nearly half the adult population has reportedly engaged in both homosexual and heterosexual activities (Sears 1991). It has been estimated that up to fifteen percent of the population in the United States is exclusively lesbian or gay. This means that, while homosexuality either has or will personally affect about half of all students’ lives, a large minority will come to identify as exclusively gay or lesbian in the course of their lives, if they do not already – to say nothing of the unique situation that transgender students must endure throughout the turbulent period of adolescence and young adulthood. With this in mind, it is thus necessary for educators to begin asking themselves how they might go about addressing this issue, since it affects a significant portion of the student body. In order to dispel the myth that certain sexual and gender identities are “abnormal,” it is necessary to break the silence on issues relating to LGBT students.The Issues of the Situation Implied Upon the Social Development of LGBT StudentsLGBT students must endure an abnormal amount of stress throughout adolescence and young adulthood. According to Khayatt (1994), it is quite normal for LGBT students to experience harassment, isolation from their social group, the feeling of marginalization, and an inability to speak openly about their sexual/gender orientation.
What is more, the consequences of such social pressure can be severe. LGBT teenagers are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than non-LGBT teenagers. Up to thirty percent of all teenage suicides are believed to be LGBT.
A third of all LGBT teenagers claim to have attempted suicide (Sedgwick 1993). When LGBT students are not doing violence to themselves, they often become the target of attacks of others in their peer group. Homophobic jokes, remarks, and attacks are common (Van de Ven 1995). What is worse, teachers and school administrators tend to condone such expressions of violence towards LGBT students by ignoring them, rather than punishing the offenders.The Involvement of Peer Pressure in the SystemTHE researchers felt that they had it all figured out. They had intently examined 200 children from their infancy through adolescence. They analyzed the parents, the home environment and the disposition of each child.
Then they predicted which of these children would become happy adults. It seemed simple—a happy childhood under a pleasant family environment would produce a happy adult. After waiting till the children became 30 years of age, they re-interviewed them.Furthermore, as the children grow up, the young adults become more prone to different influences from the environment. The people that they deal with everyday become the source of the different values that they take in for themselves as they personally grow up. There are at least four major reasons why young people develop in the behavior that they grow up with.
These four major dimensions of development could be noted as follows:· The family and the parents: usually, the young children get the examples of acts from their parents which in turn they carry in themselves as they grow up. It is through this particular process that the young ones are able to comprehend with the impact that their parents are making on them as young adults.· The Environment and the Society: As the young children grow older, the impact of the people living around them aside from their family members begins to leave an impact on their personality. True, the situation has been much more proved by the psychologists that the effect of the family and the society differ from each other. As for a fact, the percentage of effect that the society makes on the individual is far much higher than that of the effect of the family with development of the youngsters.· The psychological need for acceptance: young ones aim to be accepted especially if they have the capacity of being recognized. This is the reason why they usually take sides on those who they seem are able to recognize their capabilities.· The decision making system of the youngsters: They are usually deciding in different ways, most of the time, confusion gets in the way.
This is the reason why it is very important that they are given fine attention as they are being assisted with the personal development difficulties that they are dealing with at present.To understand the four dimensions better, the diagram shall show the necessary illustration to explain better: DIAGRAM 1: Dimensions of Effects on thePersonal Development of YoungstersThese four dimensions of impact on youths’ developmental progress actually shapes the way that they ought to understand the way that they are to progress as individuals. This is the reason why the difficulties of the young should be given fine attention to. It is certainly important that the young ones are given the guidance that they need to be come well endowed to a better life that is much more different from the destructive ways that they are merely brought up by the massively destructive human society at present.
This is where the issue on peer pressure enters. As noted earlier, the situation becomes hard-to-deal-with especially when it comes to the effect of the society [particularly referring to their peers] on the development that happens within the personality of the youngsters. Peer pressure can be deceptive—in fact, we may not notice it at all. Clearly, people want to fit in with those around them—so much so that most will even deny what they know to be true. Many young people have observed this pressure in action.
Understanding the fact that people have this certain need of being accepted, it could not be denied that as they [particularly referring to the young generation], are most likely the target of peer pressure. This is mainly because of the fact that they deal with different people almost everyday. Hence, as noted earlier, the people are more susceptible to change of personality as they are gradually involved with the ways by which other people are living their lives with. This is the particular reason why it is very important that the peer facilitating processes be applied upon youths who are in need of guidance.
According to Paul Ashwin’s Study entitled “Peer Facilitation and How it Contributes to the Development of a More Social View of Learning”:“Peer learning involves a new role for the students who facilitate the learning of other students. The role of the peer facilitator, which is focused on learning through supporting the learning of other students, would appear to be more social than the traditional role of learner, which is focused on self-learning. This research used repertory grids to investigate whether taking on the more social role of the peer facilitator was related to changes in what students perceived as important in teaching and in learning.” (2003, Internet)From this particular research, it is indeed important to understand how people are being directly impacted with their peers at the society. Certainly, it is necessary to take notice on how peer-learning affects the young ones as they intend to grow up as better individuals. The situation that needs to be dealt with certainly requires attention by experts as they are the ones knowing the different aspects of the matter as well as they know the ways by which the said situations need to be dealt with effectively.Hence, the explanation of the implication of the matter on the situation of LGBT students imply that their environment indeed has a great impact on the ways by which they are developing as individuals.
Usually, as they try to cope with the scholastic requirements, they are also pressured with the many assumptions as well as insults that they receive from other people in the environment that they are trying to survive in. Most often than not, LGBT students are left with the one resort that they are mostly not comfortable at, pretending that they are heterosexual individuals. This face of the issue shall be further discussed later within the context of this study.
The Ways to CopeLGBT students have developed a myriad of ways of coping with the pressures of fitting in. Some of these methods have proven to be self-destructive, however. For example, a common means of coping for gay and lesbian students is to pretend to be heterosexual through dating members of the opposite sex or even joining in with their peers’ homophobic remarks and behavior (Smith 2007).
By acting in such a fashion, however, LGBT students often do further damage to their self-esteem. Such “passing” can also hinder the development of a student’s social skills. Finally, LGBT students hinder the growth of peer relationships by pretending to be something they are not (Zera 1992).In the following study, I will begin with reviewing some of the significant literature relating to the subject of LGBT students. I will then go on to analyze the theoretical implications that such concepts hold for the educational environment, while also analyzing key educational psychology concepts that have the potential to be employed as a means of empowering both students and educators.
Theory only goes so far, however, so a key part of my study will be an examination of the ways in which such theoretical paradigms have been employed effectively in educational environments in the form of programs such as Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs). Finally, I will draw conclusions from the discussion of these issues that can hopefully be used for constructing a future pedagogical program that addresses the needs of LGBT students and celebrates sexual diversity, rather than stigmatizing it. I hope to show that an educational project that encompasses the needs of all students, regardless of their orientation, is preferable to one that is based on silence and exclusion.Further Studies on LGBT StudentsIt was not until the late 1980s and early 1990s that comprehensive studies on LGBT students began to emerge. Aware of the stigmatization that LGBT students commonly face (a stigmatization that ultimately results in suicide, dropping out, low self-esteem, health risks, substance abuse, etc.
), Uribe and Harbeck set about instituting and documenting the affects of PROJECT 10, a program at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles targeted towards lesbian, gay, and bisexual teenagers (1992). In their study, Uribe and Harbeck first implemented PROJECT 10 in the 1985-1986 school year. The program was successful enough to be implemented subsequently throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District, and a number of other similar programs have since followed in its wake.
In the study, fifty self-identified “homosexual” students were interviewed as a means of clarifying both their experience in educational settings and their special needs. A questionnaire was also circulated among the larger student body as a means of charting the reactions of students to PROJECT 10 as an institutionalized exploration of human sexual expression and emotional attachment. The authors concluded that much damage had been done by the institutionalization of homophobia, which they cited not merely in instances of violence and harassment by fellow students, but by silence on the issue of homosexuality from teachers, counselors, and administrators. In their first survey, Uribe and Harbeck also discovered that many gay male students often experienced their first sexual encounters in a “date rape” scenario, and felt that they did not have anyone at school to whom they could seek counseling on this issue. Lesbian students faced the problem of often being told that their sexual orientation was merely “a phase” when they attempted to come out to loved ones, teachers, or young people in their peer groups.
In their second survey, the authors found that the majority of students felt that PROJECT 10 had been positive and beneficial – not merely for LGBT students, but for the overall educational environment.This resonates with one of the conclusions reached by Sedgwick (1993) when she offered her first class in gay and lesbian studies at Amherst College in 1986. While she initially designed the course for the five to six students she believed would show up, she was quite shocked when, on the first day of class, sixty-five students showed up, most of whom identified as straight. While Sedgwick is writing as a literary scholar, rather than a social scientist, her comments on pedagogy, as one of the most important proponents of queer theory since its emergence in the academy in the 1980s, are pertinent here. Sedgwick notes that it is fairly common in the United States for teachers to be fired for even inferring that LGBT people have a right to existence and equality, thus cementing the institutionalized silence that serves a homophobic and heterosexist agenda. She also points to statistics that state that twenty-six percent of all gay men have to leave home as students as a result of their sexuality. She also notes that nearly a quarter of all homeless youth in the United States are LGBT. In addition to the systematic homophobia mentioned above, Sedgwick also points out that LGBT students are kept isolated from LGBT adults who may be able to serve as mentors and role models, were it not for the homophobic idea that such adults may have a negative influence or even prey sexually on LGBT youth.
Finally, Sedgwick criticizes the rampant denial found in the world of education as well as government, which surfaces in the form of defunding research on adolescent sexual behavior and refusing to fund programs in schools that might provide students with information on LGBT identity, as well as HIV prevention. What is more, many academics that are involved in research that may be of beneficial use to both educators and LGBT students find their work to be stigmatized as a result of the attack on “political correctness” by both the right wing and anti-intellectual leftists.More recent research has shown that, while some states have taken steps to instill legislation to protect LGBT students from harassment and bullying on the basis of their gender or sexual orientation, school systems across the nation continue to take steps to insure that LGBT-related issues are banned from the curriculum (Kosciw and Diaz 2005).
What is more, homophobic language continues to resonate through American school hallways as a means of insulting LGBT students; unfortunately, teacher and staff members are a lot less likely intervene in such scenarios than they are when racist or sexist language is used. What is more, nearly a fifth of the LGBT youth surveyed in Kosciw and Diaz (2005) reported hearing teachers and school staff members make homophobic remarks themselves. Over a third of all students surveyed had been physically harassed in the previous year owing to their sexual orientation, while over a quarter had experienced harassment as the result of their gender expression. What is more, such harassment and stigmatization has a visible affect on students’ academic performance; many of the students surveyed reported having skipped at least one day of school in the previous month out of fear for their safety. LGBT students are twice as likely to drop out of high school or not go on to college after graduation. The severity of LGBT students’ harassment inevitably corresponds with their level of academic achievement.
The vast majority of students – over 80 percent – reported that they had never been taught about LGBT history, people, and events. What is more, the presence of LGBT clubs in the school tended to reduce the amount of absentees among the LGBT student body, while fostering a sense of belonging to the school community.Smith (2007) notes the importance of fostering a sense of belonging in schools, largely owing to the fact that LGBT students have traditionally been excluded from the broader gay subculture, which is adult-oriented and thus afraid of promoting the image of seducing young people into a lifestyle that has been by and large condemned by society at large throughout its history. Critics often accuse LGBT supportive teachers of filling “advocacy” roles; Smith suggests that teachers find ways of being supportive in a way that is informationally and emotionally fulfilling, rather than “advocating” for any one position. Smith suggests a five-fold solution in addressing the problems posed by the current educational system. First, he suggests that teachers familiarize themselves with the numerous print and video resources available detailing the lives and trials of both LGBT students and teachers.
He then suggests that teachers take an active role in condemning negative and homophobic remarks, while going a step further and taking advantage of such moments to elicit classroom discussion on issues of sexual diversity. Third, he suggests that teachers actively campaign their schools to allow pamphlets and other printed information regarding LGBT issues to be made readily available to all students. Fourth, teachers should be wiling to integrate LGBT issues into their curriculum, while also giving LGBT students the chance to socialize with like-minded peers and acknowledging such students’ needs for positive role models and reinforcement. Finally, teachers must be willing to listen to LGBT students’ needs with an open mind and to offer positive suggests that are free of judgment.
In addition, teachers should familiarize themselves with outside resources in the local community that might be able to help LGBT students in those events where the teacher is not in a position to do so. Educational Psychology ConceptsOne of the more immediate concepts that come to mind when dealing with any stigmatized minority in an educational concept is empowerment theory, which has been elucidated in the work of Ball (2000). Ball is one of the proponents of a pedagogical method that she terms “teaching for liberation,” which is defined as “pedagogical practices that facilitate or encourage human action and agency” (p. 1,009).
The goal of teaching for liberation is to encourage students to not only question established patterns of thought, but to take action towards changing them. Adjacent to the need for teaching for liberation is the development of what Ball terms a “critical pedagogy”: “the development of a praxis of the present and conscientization, as well as the empowerment of individuals through critical reflection and the development of dialogue and voice concerning the transformative power of cultural knowledge” (p. 1,012). Finally, Ball’s educational philosophy highlights the need for community-based organizations, where students belonging to a minority may congregate. Such sites serve as supplementary locales for education, and may or may not be officially recognized by parents, teachers, school principals, and other authorities. It should be noted, however, that Ball’s research is largely rooted in studies of African American students and teachers, rather than a LGBT context.
Implicit to Ball’s research is the fact that African American students already have numerous opportunities to engage with their own cultural community. LGBT students do not necessarily have that opportunity in the current educational system, with the possible exception of LGBT community centers with youth outreach programs and support groups. But such centers are typically situated only in urban environments. The emergence of gay-straight alliances in many high schools, however, is one positive step forward in this direction.
In order to fully understand the complex the psychological problems that afflict many LGBT students in contemporary society, it may be useful to hearken back to Erikson’s principles of identity development (1968). While identity crises are recurring for some individuals, owing to the constantly shifting and evolving nature of the world, which causes us to re-define ourselves over time, the most pivotal identity crisis occurs in the teenage years. The seven phases of identity development are delineated as follows: time perspective, self-certainty, role experimentation, anticipation of achievement, sexual identity, leadership polarization, and ideology. Unless we are able to resolve each of these facets of identity in our youth, Erikson argues, we will be unable to confront the problems of adulthood. An identity crisis may also come about as the result of a disruption of any three facets of the identity: that is, the ego identity (“the self”); the personal identity (those qualities that make us unique, separate us from others); the cultural identity (the myriad roles we may play in a social context.) As has already been stipulated, LGBT students in the United States have to deal with severe blows to at least two of these three – they must often mask their personal identity via attempting to pass as straight, effectively “deleting” those qualities of the self that makes them different from their peers, while simultaneously being denied a cultural identity that might link them to a wider, dynamic LGBT history. Thus, the identity crisis typically experienced by adolescents is arguably intensified for LGBT students, to the extent that it often takes such student a lot longer to resolve their identity crises than their heterosexual peers.
As Erikson’s ideas make clear, it is vital to take into consideration factors outside the school that may exert an enormous influence on the educational development of LGBT students in order to grasp these students’ unique struggle with identity formation. For this reason, it is useful to evoke the Ecological Systems theory of Bronfenbrenner (1979). Bronfenbrenner’s four main ecological systems are the Microsystem, the Mesosystem, the Exosystem, and the Macrosystem. The Microsystem refers to the individual’s immediate environment; for LGBT students, this is not only their school and peer group, but their home and family environments, as well. The Mesosystem refers to the connections among the individual’s immediate environment; this may include the student’s connection between home and school. The Exosystem refers to environments outside of the ones that the individual is immediately a part of, but indirectly affects their development (such as the workplace of a student’s mother or father.) The Macrosystem is the wider cultural context in which the individual’s development takes place. The Macrosystem is a key factor for LGBT students, whose suffering ultimately stems from societal attitudes towards their gender and/or sexual orientation.
The Macrosystem is also inclusive, however, of the wider gay and lesbian subculture that the LGBT student may or may not be connected with or have an awareness of. It is important, however, not to put too much stress on the Macrosystem – or any other strand of Bronfenbrenner’s ecological system – as each strand is connected and has an effect on every other strand. Thus, factors in the Exosystem (such as a parent’s belonging to a religion that condemns homosexuality) can have a factor the student’s Microsystem, which is simultaneously affected by the Macrosystem, etc.Also useful here is Bandura’s social cognitive theory (1973). Bandura developed this theory as a means of explaining how people acquire specific patterns of behavior and subsequently maintain them over time.
At the core of this theory is the interaction between people, the environment, and behavior. By “environment,” Bandura is referring to those factors in an individual’s surroundings that may have an impact on her or his behavior. Bandura differentiates between social environment – which includes one’s friends, family, peers, and teachers – and one’s physical environment, which includes things like the size and temperature of a particular room.
It is the former, in combination with “situation,” that concerns us here. “Situation” is defined as a mental or cognitive representation of the environment that has an affect on an individual’s behavior – that is, the individual’s perception of the place, time, activity, and physical features surrounding an event. Bandura has stipulated that environment, behavior, and people are constantly influencing one another. Just as the various rungs of Erikson’s ecological systems are constantly interacting among one another, so in the social cognitive theory of learning, one cannot say that behavior is merely the result of the person and the environment, just as the environment is not simply the result of the person and the behavior. Bandura also developed the concept of observational learning to stipulate those situations when an individual sees the actions of another individual and notes the reinforcements that that individual receives. This is particularly useful for understanding the behavior of homophobic students towards sexual minorities in school environments.
Theory in Action: Gay Straight AlliancesThe presence of Gay Straight Alliances and similar organizations in schools has been proven to have a positive effect on the educational development of LGBT students (Kosciw and Diaz 2005). Such organizations embody Ball’s community-based organizations, which play a central role in the education of minorities. What is vital about Gay Straight Alliances, however, is that they reach out not only to the LGBT members of a student body, but also to straight allies, thus forming a non-exclusionary bond in which diversity is celebrated, rather than isolated. One must also take into consideration Ball’s prescriptions for “teaching for liberation,” which infers, in this context, the inclusion of LGBT issues into the curriculum. Just as the multicultural movement has embraced the inclusion of African American, Asian American, Native American, and Latin American content into school curricula, so the time has come to simultaneously celebrate sexual diversity through learning. It is only when this phase has been completed that students will be able to effectively learn to utilize the type of critical consciousness that Ball’s pedagogical method proposes.Gay Straight Alliances seem to have a positive effect on the identity formation of LGBT students, as well as other students who are supportive of the cause or who themselves might be uncertain about issues relating to sexual identity; Gay Straight Alliances provide a space where those issues may be resolved in a constructive, supportive, community-based atmosphere.
As we have shown in our discussion of Erikson’s theory of identity, the major crisis that LGBT students have to face has its roots in the environment (i.e. Bronfenbrenner’s Macrosystem.) Gay Straight Alliances have proven to be effective in healing the rifts that arise in the school environment as a result of system-mandated silence on issues of sexual and gender identificatory diversity. Under the social cognitive theory of learning, the aggressive behavior that results from the development of such social norms comes to be seen as a norm itself. Gay Straight Alliances help provide LGBT and heterosexual students with the language to challenge such behavior, and thus teaches students to question displays of open hostility towards students who, for whatever reason, are perceived to be “different.
” In short, Gay Straight Alliances provide all students with tools for celebrating diversity, rather than continuing to stigmatize students who are unable to fit in. They also play a significant role in eradicating the problems that LGBT students have to face, as elaborated in the first two sections of this paper.A Possible Approach on the SolutionSocial acceptance is a vital part of the process.
This is the reason why the program that is to be further presented herein is primarily based on being accepted. In a sense, the idea is to help the LGBT students cope with their situation through helping them realize that there are those individuals who still care about how they develop. There are those of their peers who are able to understand their situation and are thus able to accept them the way that they are. This process shall then involve peer facilitation. Peer facilitating is one way by which the expert professionals aim to help the youngsters deal with their situation in a more effective process.
Since the program is more of a “Peer-Facilitation” procedure, the coordinators need more than just themselves to be able to come up with the expected result of the program. Recruiting and marketing the program shall be served through memos served around the campus. The recruitment interview dates are to be posted so as to be able to give the coordinators a leeway in screening the possible volunteers who are to take part in the actual operation of the program. Through this process the coordinators would have a chance in seeing what they are particularly looking for in the volunteers who are to take part in the project. People who are to take charge in the project shall be required of having a background in psychological and social work studies. With an age ranging from 18-27, the program facilitators are supposed to have an ample understanding of why this particular program needs to be pursued for the sake of social progress.To be able to gain better results on the screening process through getting the right people involved in the program, the following questionnaires [as sourced out from the Internet: http://72.14.
doc+Peer+Facilitation&hl=tl&ct=clnk&cd=4&gl=ph&client=firefox-a] shall be passed on to the applicants for evaluation procedures:Self-Assessment: Self-rating examination TRAITPoorFairGoodExcellentNo ExperienceTime ManagementOrganization & PlanningEvent PlanningListening without judgmentLeading DiscussionsWritingOral PresentationsSummarizingAnalyzing Logic and Argument StructureAssessment of one’s Experience and knowledge on the Field AREALittle to No KnowledgeSome but not detailsSolid FoundationDetailed knowledge; comfortable presenting on this topicIdentity DevelopmentMedia Representation and social normsVarious social “-isms” including racism, sexism, ablism, heterosexism, etc.Sexual AssaultEating DisordersResponsible intimacyDepressionSubstance AbusePersonality TypeTeaching MethodsEssay Questions: Please complete both of the following two essay questions and submit on separate pieces of paper.1. Why do you wish to become a Peer Facilitator?2. Please describe an experience that illustrates your own growth as a college student.
Be as specific as possible, making sure you define what “growth” has meant for you, and explain what factors influenced that growth (including, but not limited to, your own actions or decisions). These questionnaires shall help the screening committee have knowledge about the possible capabilities of the applicants who want to be a pat of the group in pursuing its program activities’ application in the target community. These evaluative questions shall also help the applicants identify the motives that they have towards the program that they are trying to apply for, thus giving them an overview of the work that they are supposed to deal with in the group as members.
As it could be noted, although the requirements for the members derived herein are primarily pointing to those who have already been involved in the same field of interest. It is through the level of their experience as well as the motive that they have towards the program that would actually help them get involved with the goals of the small group mentioned herein.Through the peer-based program along with the assistance of the recruited experts in the said process, the implementation of rejuvenating inspiration among LGBT students shall be given a fine focused attention. The ability of the personnel that are involved in the procedure of assistance shall be utilized to increase the capabilities of the LGBT individuals to develop themselves into the natural person that they are regardless of whatever difference they may have from that of the other people or students in the school that they are attending. ConclusionAs the conclusions reached by both Sedgwick (1993) and Uribe and Harbeck (1992) stipulate, it is not just LGBT students who benefit from an integration of LGBT issues into the classroom and wider educational system. Straight-identified students are also in need of clarification of many of the issues related to sexual diversity. Thus, it is vital not to view the LGBT “problem” as being merely that of LGBT students; it is in fact the problem of everyone in the educational system – from administrators on down to students.
One of the major problems we have come across in the course of our study is the notion of definition, which tends to effect all of the issues discussed in the course of this paper. Indeed, Sedgwick (1993) addresses this issue by suggesting that an all-encompassing term such as “queer” might be more useful and inclusionary of those who do not fit the labels “lesbian,” “gay,” “bisexual,” or “transgender,” yet do not identify as heterosexual either. This is particularly apt for high school students, most of who will be submerged in the identity crisis and undecided or uncertain as to their sexual identity. For this reason the letter Q – for “questioning” – is often added on to LGBT groups in order to denote those students for whom the matter of sexual identity has yet to be resolved.
Another problem is the apparent dearth of work on transgender students, which is a major issue since transgender students are often the times of even more severe institutionalized forms of harassment and falsely accused of being mentally ill or worse. I believe that this is largely connected to the problem of identity, as “transgender” can boast a multitude of meanings. There are some individuals for whom transgenderism is mainly a form of play or performance, and then there are those who identify with the opposite gender in their day-to-day lives, sometimes to the extent of desiring a sex-change operation. There are those who feel that the gender they were assigned at birth is either completely false, or at least an incomplete representation of their true selves.
Then there are those for whom identification as “purely male” or “purely female” seems restrictive; they may identify as both or as neither one of these.Gay Straight Alliances provide a positive setting where discussions of the meaning of such terms can be discussed and debated – but this is not enough. In order for LGBT students to overcome the severe psychological effects of stigmatization, it is necessary for LGBT issues to be integrated into the core curriculum of schools in every subject, and from an early age. ReferencesAshwin, Paul. (2003).
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