Education and the LGBT community
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In the recent history of the expansion of LGBT rights, the issue of teaching various aspects of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender life and existence to younger children has become a heated point of debate, with proponents stating that the teaching of LGBT-affirming topics to children will increase a sense of visibility for LGBT students and reduce incidences of homophobia or closeted behavior for children, while opponents to the pedagogical discussion of LGBT people to students are afraid that such discussions would encourage children to violate or question religiously or ideologically motivated rejections of non-heterosexuality in private settings (or promote a "homosexual agenda"). Much of the religious and/or social conservative aversion to non-heterosexuality and the broaching of the topic to juveniles tends to occur in regions with a historic demographic dominance or majority of adherents to an Abrahamic religion, particularly the majority of denominations of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, while those who were raised in those religions but advocate or take more favorable/nuanced positions on LGBT issues or are LGBT themselves may often be ostracized from more socially conservative congregations over the issue.
- 1 By issue
- 2 Education sector responses to LGBT violence
- 3 By region
- 4 Sources
- 5 References
Organization of students
The primary type of organization for representation of LGBT students on campus is the gay–straight alliance. These are organized in order to represent requests by LGBT and straight ally students on campus to the administration and faculty and encourage a safer environment for students.
LGBT student centers may be organized as offices of the school's administration that offer paid faculty support to students. They not only support the LGBT community but they promote positivity and equality for their students. Resources are also usually given for any kind of information needed. The center heavily enforces others to be respectful and mindful of one's sexual orientation, pronouns, preferences etc. LGBT student centers are in a way, safe zones for people to not feel judged or criticized. They create an awareness that completely shuts out negatively but welcomes anyone in.
Homophobia vs. heterosexism
Homophobia and heterosexism are closely related words, used to represent a fear of equality of the heterosexual population and the LGBT community. Homophobia, for example, is defined by "overt expression of dislike, harassment and even assault" towards the LGBT community. Heterosexuality, on the other hand, describes a sense of entitlement to denounce the superiority of heterosexuality and the need for heterosexuality to be the only sexual orientation. However, homophobia and heterosexism are intermingling, pertaining to the ability to proclaim heterosexuality as "normal" and therefore, homophobia as "abnormal" and "different". Homophobia can also be used to reinforce heterosexism in an institution such as in education as curriculum in schools are based on a heterosexual perspective which increases the need for others to conform to heterosexuality and therefore ignore homophobic acts and comments.
Prevention of bullying
The issue of homophobic bullying and violence by students and teachers is increasingly broached by advocates as a reason for the intervention of administration on behalf of LGBT students.
A restorative approach in schools is a way of preventing bullying of LGBT students. Planning committees can be formed by students who want to help educate their peers on LGBT. A restorative response that helped educate students and school staff included a Lesbian and Gay Pride week at an elementary school in Canada in the late 1990s. A student-planned unit on Lesbian and Gay Pride week was composed of a series of events dedicated to educate on LGBT history, diverse family structures, and included guest speakers. Restorative responses help provide welcoming, safe, and equitable environments.
The inclusion of LGBT topics in teaching of history and social sciences are also advocated by topics in order to increase pride and self-respect among LGBT students and reduce shame or self-pity for the lack of emphasis upon famous LGBT persons. Sex education. With regards to the topic, it is somewhat important to acknowledge what it is like to be labeled as LGBT. Often people use words that may relate to the LGBT community with a negative annotation. For example, phrases like "that's so gay" or "you are being a faggot", suggest that being gay is a "bad" thing. The more we allow this kind of communication, it will only continue to be a criticized expression. To some it comes as a relief and sense of empowerment, but others have to deal with the stigma which is attached to LGBT. The common stereotypes of queer include, but are not limited to: sexually confused, pedophiles, and violation of gender roles. Stereotypes help to create the stigma which is cast upon the LGBT community, which in turn results in the marginalization of the group. Labeling can effect others attitudes towards the individual being labeled. The labeling perspective also focuses on the roles of moral entrepreneurs, rule creators and enforcers. These are individuals who create rules and enforce them.
As general sex education often faces fierce opposition from religious congregations which are doctrinally averse to contraception, sex education which includes homosexuality is considered especially egregious among opponents. The matter of sex education often leads more devout Abrahamists to withdraw their children from the school's tutelage, leading to further educational terms which emphasize Abrahamic religious mores, such as abstinence, heterosexuality and monogamy. This aversion is criticized by advocates of sex education who assert that many of the pupils of such education eventually find their own means to those practices or realizations which are expressly forbidden by religious institutions.
As well, sexual education curriculums continuously fails to inform LGBTQ students on crucial health issues that may arise during sexual intercourse. Some of the neglected information reflects on sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV and AIDS, which are commonly enforced upon the gay community through socially accepted stereotypes. Sex ed curriculum also disregards any information pivotal to LGBTQ students in order for schools to avoid tensions with religious groups. Like wise, most of the material presented in schools focus on a heterosexual perspective that encourages "abstinence until marriage", a typical practice accredited to various religious groups that promote the need of heterosexuality for a healthy sexual life.
Formal event dress and gender identity
- attendance of same-sex student couples
- the wearing of non-gender-conforming dress (i.e., female students wearing tuxedos and male students wearing skirts or blouses)
- the crowning of female event kings and male event queens.
Various jurisdictions have taken different reactions to such issues, which have resulted in controversy and legal disputes over discrimination by state schools (i.e., the 2010 Itawamba County School District prom controversy).
Queer-inclusive student events
Campus events have been created for LGBTQ students in order to be inclusive of such students and their allies. These include the queer prom and the Lavender Graduation; the latter was first organized by Dr. Ronni Sanlo, then the director of the LGBT Center at the University of Michigan, in 1995.
Education sector responses to LGBT violence
Education sector responses to LGBT violence addresses the ways in which education systems work to create safe learning environments for LGTB students. Overall, education sector responses tend to focus on homophobia and violence linked to sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, and less on transphobia. Most responses focus in some way on diverse expressions of gender and support students to understand that gender may be expressed in a different way from binary models (of masculine and feminine). Responses vary greatly in their scope (from a single class to the national level); duration (from one-off events to several years); and level of support that they enjoy (from individual teachers to the highest levels of government).
Historic legal denigration of non-heterosexuality and non-vaginal sexual intercourse (even among heterosexual partners) continues to have a long-running residual effect on the public discourse. The first gay–straight alliances to be established in public schools in the early 1990s faced stiff opposition from faculty, administration and parents of students, with protests and fierce debates over the matter, but GSAs have since been established for middle school students in a number of jurisdictions.
In California, GSAs now number over 762, representing over 50% of California's public high schools. In 2011, the State Legislature passed the FAIR Education Act, which, if signed into law, would make California the first state in the United States to mandate the teaching of LGBT-affirmative social sciences (i.e., LGBT history) in the public school system and forbid discriminatory language in the school curriculum.
One of the pre-eminent organizations advocating for LGBT education and academic rights in the United States is GLSEN.
In 2016 a report titled "The National Inventory of School District Interventions in Support of LGBTQ Student Wellbeing" was issued by Lead Investigator Dr. Catherine Taylor, University of Winnipeg and her research team. The report, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, outlines the interventions taken by Canadian public schools in support of LGBTQ students. Findings presented in the report include acknowledgements that urban schools districts are more likely to have LGBTQ-specific interventions than rural districts and that, in general, Alberta and Quebec are less likely than other Canadian provinces to have specific interventions. Interestingly, the report also found that interventions were more likely to occur at the elementary and middle school level than the secondary level.
Also, it should be noted that throughout Canada, school districts were far less likely to have trans-specific policies.
The Recommendation to member states on measures to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity was adopted unanimously by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in 2010. It advises the education sectors of the 47 member states to take measures ‘at all levels to promote mutual tolerance and respect in schools, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity’. It specifies that this should include ‘providing objective information with respect to sexual orientation and gender identity, for instance in school curricula and educational materials, and providing pupils and students with the necessary information, protection and support to enable them to live in accordance with their sexual orientation and gender identity’. The recommendation further advises countries to ‘design and implement school equality and safety policies and action plans and may ensure access to adequate anti-discrimination training or support and teaching aids’.
The European Social Charter guarantees the right to the protection of health, including through the provision of advisory and educational facilities. This positive obligation ‘extends to ensuring that educational materials do not reinforce demeaning stereotypes and perpetuate forms of prejudice which contribute to the social exclusion, embedded discrimination and denial of human dignity often experienced by historically marginalized groups such as persons of non-heterosexual orientation.’
In Australia, the Safe Schools Coalition’s approach actively supports the establishment of Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) and other youth-led initiatives for peer support and information. It also provides professional development for teachers and other school staff that can be tailored to schools’ specific needs. It has developed guidelines on non-discrimination, bullying and diversity policies and a broad set of resources, including books and videos.
Several international human rights mechanisms mandate safe, accepting and supportive learning environments that are free from violence and discrimination for all students. Together, these frameworks support a rights-based response to violence in schools – one that can be applied to addressing homophobic and transphobic violence in educational settings.
The right to education is recognized under: Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948); the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960); Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966); Article 10 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1981); and Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world. The original text, adopted in 1989, did not refer directly to sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. However, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has specified how the Convention can be used to protect children who are perceived to not conform to gender norms, including LGBTI children. This is particularly through the Committee’s General Comments, which interpret the content of the human rights provisions. For example, in 2003, the Committee clarified in General Comment (GC #4), Paragraph 6, that ‘States parties have the obligation to ensure that all human beings below 18 enjoy all the rights set forth in the Convention without discrimination (art. 2) [...] These grounds also cover adolescents’ sexual orientation’. This, therefore, recognized that the universal rights described by the Convention apply also to children who are lesbian, gay or bisexual, or perceived as such.
Subsequently, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child made concluding observations to several State Parties (which can be considered as jurisprudence). It also issued additional General Comments related to the protection of the rights of LGBT children using the following three articles of the Convention:
- Article 2: The right to non-discrimination.
- Article 19: The right to be protected against any form of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse.
- Article 24: The right of the Child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health.
Several past and current international development agendas also mandate learning environments that are safe and inclusive for all students and guarantee their well-being, specifying or implying that educational institutions should be free from violence.
- Mayo, Cris (2014). LGBTQ Youth &Education. New York: Teacher College Press. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-8077-5489-4.
- Surviving the Pain and Widening the Circle: Celebrating Lesbian and Gay Pride Week in an Elementary Classroom, by John J. Guiney Yallop
- Mayo, Cris (2014). LGBTQ Youth & Education. New York: Teachers College. p. 75. ISBN 978-0-80775489-4.
- https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=96920856[full citation needed]
- "Lavender CC - LGBT". Sait.usc.edu. 1995-05-09. Retrieved 2014-06-29.
- UNESCO (2016). Out in the Open: Education sector responses to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression (PDF). Paris, UNESCO. pp. 54, 59, 65. ISBN 978-92-3-100150-5.
- Taylor, Catherine; Peter, Tracey; Edkins, Tamara; Campbell, Christopher; Emond, Gilbert; Saewyc, Elizabeth. "The National Inventory of School District Interventions in Support of LGBTQ Student Wellbeing". WinnSpace. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
- CoE, ‘Committee of Ministers Recommendation CM/Rec (2010)5 on measures to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity’, 2010. [Online]. Available: https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?id=1606669. [Accessed: 15-Aug-2015].
- CoE, ‘European Social Charter’, 1996. [Online]. Available: http://conventions.coe.int/ Treaty/EN/Treaties/Html/163.htm.
- SSC, ‘Safe Schools Coalition’, 2015. [Online]. Available: http://www.safeschoolscoalition. org.au/. [Accessed: 09-Oct-2015].
- CRC, ‘Adolescent Health and Development in the Context of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: General Comment no.4’, 2003. [Online]. Available: http://www.ohchr.org/ Documents/Issues/Women/WRGS/Health/GC4.pdf. [Accessed: 12-Aug-2015].
- C. Cornu, ‘Preventing and addressing homophobic and transphobic bullying in education: A human rights-based approach using the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child’, Journal of LGBT Youth, Volume 13, Issue 1-2, 2016.