JUST THE FACTS


A fact sheet that summarizes important statistics about the impact of homophobia on gay and lesbian youth.

1. SELF-REALIZATION

Gay male adolescents report becoming aware of a distinct feeling of "being different" between ages 5-7; they also report that they did not yet connect this feeling to the issue of sexuality. [1]

The median age at which lesbian and gay youth become aware that their feelings of "difference" are linked to a same-sex sexual orientation is 13. [2]

2. THE SCHOOL CLIMATE

Student Attitudes

"We were picked on. We were called 'queer' and 'faggot' and a host of other homophobic slurs. We were also used as punching bags by our classmates, just for being different." -- college student, remembering high school [*]

97% of students in public high schools report regularly hearing homophobic remarks from their peers. [3]

80% of gay and lesbian youth report severe social isolation. [4]

Staff Attitudes

"I realize that children can be very cruel, but when teachers and adults encourage or do not discourage mean and cruel behavior it makes me angry and very sad. -- a parent of a gay child

53% of students report hearing homophobic comments made by school staff. [5]

80% of prospective teachers report negative attitudes toward gay and lesbian people. [6]

1/3 of prospective teachers can be classified as "high-grade homophobes." [7]

52% of prospective teachers report that they would feel uncomfortable working with an openly lesbian or gay colleague. [8]

77% of prospective teachers would not encourage a class discussion on homosexuality; 85% oppose integrating gay/lesbian themes into their existing curricula. [9]

Two-thirds of guidance counselors harbor negative feelings toward gay and lesbian people. [10]

Less than 20% of guidance counselors have received any training on serving gay and lesbian students. [11]

Only 25% of guidance counselors consider themselves "highly competent" in serving gay and lesbian youth. [12]

3. THE FAMILY

"On reflecting about homosexuality, I've learned that: my religious tradition taught me to believe that my son was a sinner; my medical support system taught me to believe that my son was sick; my educational system taught me that my son was abnormal; my legal system views my son and his partner in an unsanctioned relationship without legal rights and protection that are afforded my married daughter; my family, immediate and extended, provided no acknowledgment or support for having a gay relative in its midst; my major communications sources treated homosexuality as deviant." -- father of a gay son

28% of American households consist of married parents with biological children; 7% consist of married parents with children where a father who works outside the home and the mother at home [13]

19% of gay men and 25% of lesbians report suffering physical violence at the hands of a family members as a result of their sexual orientation. [14]

11.5% of gay and lesbian youth report being physical attacked by family members. [15]

26% of adolescent gay males report having to leave home as a result of conflicts with their family over their sexual orientation. [16]

42% of homeless youth self-identify as gay/lesbian. [17]

4. ANTI-GAY VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT

"I just began hating myself more and more, as each year the hatred towards me grew and escalated from just simple name-calling in elementary school to having persons in high school threaten to beat me up, being pushed and dragged around the ground, having hands slammed in lockers, and a number of other daily tortures." -- a gay male high school student

"Homosexuals are probably the most frequent victims [of hate crimes]" in the U.S. [18]

45% of gay males and 20% of lesbians report having experienced verbal harassment and/or physical violence as a result of their sexual orientation during high school [19]

19% of gay/lesbian youth report suffering physical attacks based on their sexual orientation. [20]

42% of adolescent lesbians and 34% of adolescent gay males who have suffered physical attack also attempt suicide. [21]

5. HEALTH ISSUES

"Due to societal fear and ignorance, my teachers and counselors labeled my confusion as rebellion, and placed me in the category of a troubled discipline problem. But still I had nothing to identify with and no role models to guide me, to help me sort out this confusion, and I began to believe that I was simply alone. A few weeks into my sophomore year, I woke up in a psych hospital after taking my father's camping knife violently to my wrists and hoping for success." -- lesbian student

1 in 5 HIV-positive men were apparently infected during their adolescent years. [22]

68% of adolescent gay males use alcohol (26% or more at least once a week); 44% use other drugs. [23]

83% of adolescent lesbians use alcohol, 56% use other drugs, and 11% use crack and/or cocaine. [24]

30% of gay and bisexual adolescent male attempt suicide at least once. [25]

Gay and lesbian youth represent 30% of all completed teen suicide: extrapolation shows this means a successful suicide attempt by a gay teen every 5 hours and 48 minutes. [26]

ENDNOTES

* Testimonies are from the public hearings conducted by the Massachusetts Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, 1992. Governor William Weld, R-MA.

[1] Treadway Leo, and Yoakum, John. "Creating a Safer School Environment for Lesbian and Gay Student," in JOURNAL OF SCHOOL HEALTH, September, 1992.

[2] Sears, James. GROWING UP GAY IN THE SOUTH. New York: Harrington Park Press, 1991.

[3] MAKING SCHOOLS SAFE FOR GAY AND LESBIAN YOUTH: REPORT OF THE MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR'S COMMISSION ON GAY AND LESBIAN YOUTH, 1993.

[4] Hetrick, Emery, and Martin, A. Damien. "Developmental Issues and Their Resolution for Gay and Lesbian Adolescents." JOURNAL OF HOMOSEXUALITY, 1987.

[5] MAKING SCHOOLS SAFE FOR GAY AND LESBIAN YOUTH: REPORT OF THE MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR'S COMMISSION ON GAY AND LESBIAN YOUTH, 1993.

[6] Sears, James. "Educators, Homosexuality, and Homosexual Students: Are Personal Feelings Related to Professional Beliefs?", in Harbeck, Karen, ed. COMING OUT OF THE CLASSROOM CLOSET. New York: Harrington Park Press, 1992.

[7] ibid.

[8] ibid.

[9] ibid.

[10] ibid.

[11] ibid.

[12] Price, James H., and Telljohan, Susan. "School Counselors' Perceptions of Adolescent Homosexuals" in JOURNAL OF SCHOOL HEALTH, Dec. 1991.

[13] 1990 U.S. Census Report.

[14] Philadelphia Lesbian and Gay Task Force, 1992. "Discrimination and Violence toward Lesbian Women and Gay Men in Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."

[15] Hetrick-Martin Institute Violence Report, 1988.

[16] Remafedi, Gary. "Male Homosexuality: The Adolescent's Perspective," PEDIATRICS, 1987.

[17] Victim Services/Traveler's Aid, "Streetwork Project Study," 1991.

[18] U.S. Department of Justice, THE RESPONSE OF THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM TO BIAS CRIME: AN EXPLORATORY VIEW, 1987.

[19] National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, "National Anti-Gay/Lesbian Victimization Report," 1984.

[20] Hetrick-Martin Institute Violence Report, 1988.

[21] ibid.

[22] Centers for Disease Control figures, 1995.

[23] Hunter, Joyce, et al. unpublished research by the Columbia University HIV Center for Clinical and Behavior Studies, 1992.

[24] ibid.

[25] Remafedi, Gary, et al. "Risk Factors for Attempted Suicide in Gay and Bisexual Youth," in PEDIATRICS (1991).

[26] Gibson, Paul. "U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary's Task Force on Youth Suicide Report," 1989. See also Remafedi, Gary. DEATH BY DENIAL: STUDIES OF GAY AND LESBIAN YOUTH SUICIDE (Boston: Alyson Publications, 1995).


Copyright 1998 The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network
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