Over the past few years media outlets from around the world have covered the ongoing harassment of the LGBTQIA community through homophobic and transphobic bullying. The stories of homophobic and transphobic bullying appear nearly every day publicizing the stories of different victims and their individual and collective experiences of harassment and disenfranchisement.
Transphobic and homophobic bullying are clear examples of how discriminatory acts of harassment and violence speak to the base vulnerabilities of us all, and violate an individual’s basic rights.
The effects of bullying are well documented. We hear about the obvious suffering and torture of individuals bullied because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We hear documented struggles of families to find recourse and justice in their communities, schools, places of employment and courts of law. These narratives demonstrate how often bullying is documented and reported and also how consistently it is ignored, ill-handled and in some cases supported or even committed by our community leaders.
In a 2011 study by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, an overwhelming majority of LGBT students reported being harassed for their gender identity or sexual orientation. The study revealed that 81.9% of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender students reported being verbally harassed, 38.3% reported being physically harassed and 18.3% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
That means that 9 out of 10 LGBT students have experienced harassment at school. LGBT students are 2 to 3 times more bullied than straight hetero-normative students and LGBT teens are four times more likely to attempt suicide. That figure doubles for LGBT youth who have been rejected by their families.
The effects of bullying are damaging enough without taking into consideration what it’s like to identify with and be part of a group where being bullied because of your specific identity is a dominant experience. LGBT bullying is frequently linked with suicide and depression. There are increased reports of victims engaging in risky sexual and drug-related activities as well as experiencing social adjustment issues and other long-term health concerns. In a school environment being bullied interferes with a student’s ability to learn and perform well and can impact the ability to graduate, find a job or have a career.
Without legal protections enforced through legislative mechanisms and support and participation from academic institutions, homophobic and transphobic bullying will persist and continue to threaten human rights as a whole. Bullying and harassment that specifically targets the LGBTQIA community is a human rights issue and failure to effectively combat and prevent discriminatory bullying based on gender and sexual identities threatens all of us. The absence of justice and victims’ rights cultivates an acceptance of gender and sexual violence and the selective and therefore ineffectual enforcement of human rights and civil protections.
Human rights are the universal fundamental rights of all human beings, inalienable from the human condition. These rights are the expressed embodiments of our shared dignity as people which are to be protected, guaranteed and enjoyed.
Human rights are understood to be the same for everyone. They are intertwined in both conception and practice. Individual human rights are dependent upon each other in order to be fully protected or accessed, and no one right is fully enjoyed without the same protections and guarantees afforded to provide the enjoyment of all rights. They are held through their universality and each individual right is an expression of a larger notion of the rights of us all and the explicit dignities of personhood. Read more