Homophobia Rife in Schools, National Survey Finds

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Feb. 4, 2012.

‘That’s so gay’

Almost 70 per cent of students heard that phrase being hurled at them in school across the country, the first national survey of its kind has found.

More than 3,700 students took part in a national survey on homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia in Canadian schools. Of these students, about 2,600 students identified themselves as heterosexual.

Almost 48 per cent of students surveyed also heard words like ‘lesbo,’ ‘dyke,’ and ‘faggot’ in the school. Almost 10 per cent of the students who identified themselves as LGBQT also heard such comments from their teachers daily or weekly.

The report is a second and final part of an extensive study conducted by Prof. Catherine Taylor of University of Winnipeg, and Tracy Peter of the University of Manitoba.

The first report was released in 2009.

The 2011 survey was commissioned by Egale Canada Human Rights Trust, a charitable arm of the gay rights group Egale.

The survey found:

 64 per cent of queer students and 61 per cent with queer parents feel unsafe at school.

 21 per cent of queer students report being physically harassed or assaulted because of their sexual orientation.  

 45 per cent of the students with LGBQT parents have faced sexual harassment.

• 27 per cent of queer students report physical harassment about their parents’ sexual orientation and 37 per cent report verbal harassment;

 Transgender youth “are highly visible targets of harassment” who “may report experiencing particularly high levels of harassment on the basis of perceived sexual orientation.”

• About 10 per cent of heterosexual teens report being physically harassed or assaulted for their “perceived” sexual orientation;

“If you are a sexual minority student in Canada, it is highly likely that you will hear insulting things about your sexual orientation,” the authors note.

The conclusive remarks of the authors also make for grim reading.

They conclude that LGBQT students and parents of these students face much higher levels of verbal, physical, sexual, and other forms of harassment.

Most LGBQT students don’t feel safe at school.

The situation is worse for female sexual minority students and youth with LGBQT students, the report concludes.

Schools that have policies geared specifically to counter homophobia do a better job of making LGBQT students feel safe.  

But here’s one of the most damning finding: Teachers often look the other way when they hear homophobic comments, and sometimes even make those comments themselves.

The authors have made a raft of recommendations, some of which are:

Schools develop anti-homophobic policies and strictly implement them, that schools develop curriculum guidelines and resources for mainstreaming LGBQT-inclusive teaching.

It also recommends that teacher training include compulsory courses on LGBQT issues, and that schools support gay-straight alliances.