NEW YORK, March 17, 2009 - Transgender youth face extremely high levels of victimization in school, even more so than their non-transgender lesbian, gay and bisexual peers. But they are also more likely to speak out about LGBT issues in the classroom, according to Harsh Realities: The Experiences of Transgender Youth in Our Nation's Schools
, the first comprehensive study on transgender students, released today by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
Nearly nine out of 10 transgender students experienced verbal harassment at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation and gender expression, more than half experienced physical harassment because of their sexual orientation and gender expression and more than a quarter experienced physical assault because of their sexual orientation and gender expression. These levels of victimization were higher than those faced
by the non-transgender lesbian, gay and bisexual students who participated in the 2007 National School Climate Survey
, GLSEN's biennial survey of LGBT students.
In addition to looking at comparisons between transgender and non-transgender students, Harsh Realities specifically examines the experiences of the 295 transgender students who took the National School Climate Survey.
"Harsh Realities demonstrates the urgent need for educators, policymakers and all who care about safe schools to address the disproportionate victimization of transgender students and to improve the knowledge and understanding of all members of the school community about issues related to gender and gender expression," said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard. "It is important to note, however, that in the face of extreme harassment, transgender students are resilient and taking the lead to bring up LGBT issues in school."
The high rate of victimization had a direct impact on school attendance and academic performance. Transgender students who experienced high levels of harassment were more likely to miss school because they felt unsafe and had lower grade point averages than those who experienced lower levels of harassment.
Key findings of Harsh Realities include:
90% of transgender students heard derogatory remarks, such as "dyke" or "faggot," sometimes, often or frequently in school in the past year.
School Safety and Experiences of Harassment and Assault
90% of transgender students heard negative remarks about someone’s gender expression sometimes, often or frequently in school in the past year.
Less than a fifth of transgender students said that school staff intervened most of the time or always when hearing homophobic remarks (16%) or negative remarks about someone’s gender expression (11%).
School staff also contributed to the harassment. A third of transgender students heard school staff make homophobic remarks (32%), sexist remarks (39%) and negative comments about someone’s gender expression (39%) sometimes, often or frequently in the past year.
Two-thirds of transgender students felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation (69%) and how they expressed their gender (65%).
Impact of Victimization on Educational Outcomes
Almost all transgender students had been verbally harassed (e.g., called names or threatened) in the past year at school because of their sexual orientation (89%) and gender expression (87%).
More than half of all transgender students had been physically harassed (e.g., pushed or shoved) in school in the past year because of their sexual orientation (55%) and gender expression (53%).
More than a quarter of transgender students had been physically assaulted (e.g., punched, kicked or injured with a weapon) in school in the past year because of their sexual orientation (28%) and gender expression (26%).
Most transgender students (54%) who were victimized in school did not report the events to school authorities. Among those who did report incidents to school personnel, few students (33%) believed that staff addressed the situation effectively.
Almost half of all transgender students reported skipping a class at least once in the past month (47%) and missing at least one day of school in the past month (46%) because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable.
Engagement with the School Community
Transgender students experiencing high levels of harassment were more likely than other transgender students to miss school for safety reasons (verbal harassment based on sexual orientation: 64% vs. 25%, gender expression: 56% vs. 32%, gender: 68% vs. 38%).
Transgender students who experienced high levels of harassment had significantly lower GPAs than those who experienced lower levels of harassment (verbal harassment based on sexual orientation: 2.2. vs. 3.0, gender expression: 2.3 vs. 2.8, gender: 2.2 vs. 2.7).
Transgender students who were out to most or all other students and school staff reported a greater sense of belonging to their school community than those who were not out or only out to a few other students or staff.
In-School Resources and Supports
The majority (66%) of transgender students were out to most or all of their peers, yet less than half (45%) were out to most or all of the school staff.
Most transgender students had talked with a teacher (66%) or a school-based mental health professional (51%) at least once in the past year about LGBT-related issues. Transgender students were also more likely than non-transgender lesbian, gay and bisexual students to talk with school staff about these issues.
Although transgender students were not more likely to report having a GSA in their school, they did report attending GSA meetings more frequently than non-transgender LGB students.
Although most transgender students (83%) could identify at least one supportive educator, only a third (36%) could identify many (six or more) supportive staff.
Only half (54%) of transgender students reported that their school had an anti-harassment policy, and only 24% said that the school policy included specific protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.