December 12, 2012
LGBT Teens Struggle In Rural Areas
There are certain times when people conduct research, and you just have to think: was this really necessary? didn’t we know this already? this is the case with a new report from GLSEN. Apparently, they have found that LGBT students living in rural areas are considerably more likely to feel unsafe in their respective academic environments than their urban counterparts, according to this new report.
Produced by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), “Strengths and Silences: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Students in Rural and Small Town Schools” documents the experiences of more than 2,300 LGBT students attending schools in rural U.S. regions, using data collected from the 2011 National School Climate Survey.
The report states that only 13 percent of rural LGBT students reported that school personnel always intervened or most of the time when they heard anti-gay remarks. A mere 27 percent of students reported having access to a gay-straight alliance at school, compared to 53 percent of urban students. According to the report (as reported in the Huffington Post), “Perhaps not surprising but nonetheless troubling, rural LGBT students who experienced high levels of victimization were less likely to plan to attend college than those who who experienced less.” I’m not so sure that I can agree with this last bit of data, at least not from my personal experience. LGBT youth, whom I know, are more likely to attend college and be more successful than their heterosexual counterparts. Most LGBT youth perceive it as their way out of the rural area where they grew up. I know I did, and so have a fair number of my students. Some, like myself, end up back in a rural setting, but we do so for a variety of reasons, one of which is to make it better for LGBT youth of today.
Calling the study “the first in-depth look” at the challenges faced by LGBT teens in rural areas, GLSEN Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard said in an email statement, “These students are frequently the most isolated — both physically and in terms of access to critical resources and support — and our findings require us to both honor their resilience and respond to their needs.” I don’t doubt that rural LGBT youths are more troubled, largely because of the Christian fundamentalist and conservative attitudes that are so pervasive in rural America. However, I think it often is a catalyst for them to strive to do better things. I hope that one day it will be easier for LGBT youths thought the world, but it will take time and some hard work to change attitudes.