Groups, support are important for LGBTQ students
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 7, 2013 01:02
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer organizations must be available in schools. Youth are coming out at younger ages than ever. Unfortunately, LGBTQ kids have many obstacles to overcome on principle. Far too many face pervasive harassment and violence at school because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTQ students often lack the support school and peer organizations offer to heterosexual students.
The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network stated nearly nine out of 10 LGBTQ students experienced harassment in the past year at school and three-fifths felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.
According to Gay-Straight Alliance Network, “research shows that youth harassed on the basis of sexual orientation are more than twice as likely to report depression and seriously consider suicide, more likely to report low grades, smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs, more likely to become victims of violence, three times as likely to carry a weapon, and three times as likely to report missing school in the last 30 days.”
There is help, however, for LGBTQ students whose schools support them. The Preventing School Harassment Survey states “GSA clubs can successfully decrease harassment and increase school safety for LGBTQ students.” GSA clubs unite LGBTQ students, straight allies and members of the school community who are committed to making schools safer and more accepting for LGBTQ students. In these clubs, youth find support from peers and school staff.
Oshkosh contributes by offering more than one LGBTQ friendly student organization.
“The Social Justice Club is a club dedicated toward equality and fair treatment for everyone,” Steve Kuecker, creator and former president of Oshkosh’s Social Justice Club, said.
LGBTQ students at Oshkosh can also look into Rainbow Alliance for Helping Others Perceive Equality. Kuecker said H.O.P.E provides LGBTQ students and allies with an environment where they can interact with each other without worrying about facing any discrimination. Both of these clubs serve as organizations where an LGBTQ individual can find a true sense of belonging.
Students who identify as LGBTQ might struggle creating relationships or feeling genuine in an average student organization.
“There are certain anxieties that LGBTQ students face when joining student organizations,” Kuecker said.
Should they come out to the group? How would coming out affect how they’re received by the group? With organizations like H.O.P.E and Social Justice Club there isn’t the same pressure because there isn’t the assumption that everyone joining the group is heterosexual, unless stated otherwise.
According to the Preventing School Harassment Survey, “students in California schools with a GSA club experienced less harassment based on sexual orientation, gender non-conformity and were more likely to feel safe at school.”
“I’d say the goal of an LGBTQ friendly club would be, above all, to provide a supportive environment where LGBTQ students can interact with each other, socialize, establish friendships, learn from each other and do feel a sense of belonging,” Kuecker said.
Furthermore, organizations like H.O.P.E and Social Justice Club offer a unique opportunity for members to meet peers who share sexualities, which can sometimes be challenging for an LGBTQ student.
“In H.O.P.E, it’s highly likely that a new member will find someone else that identifies similarly to them, which can help someone who’s struggling with their sexuality,” Kuecker said.
LGBTQ organizations draw on the courage of youth and present opportunities for inclusion and growth. They allow students to build relationships, improve school climates and change school policies. The GSA network expresses “strong, well-supported GSAs can have a major impact on the education environment and possess the power to transform individuals, school cultures and educational institutions.”
Take steps toward inclusion and create a GSA at your college or local high school.
Kuecker invites Oshkosh students to join Social Justice Club on campus, which meets every Monday at 5:30 p.m. in Reeve Memorial Union. He also mentioned Social Justice Week, which is April 1-5.
H.O.P.E. meets every Monday at 8:30 p.m. in Reeve.
Students can get involved this year by participating in Rainbow Week, which will be April 8-12. The fourth annual LGBTQ Ally March will be on Wed/ April 10.