It all starts in the HOME…
We all know that homophobia exists in the hallways of high schools everywhere, but a recent letter published in The New England Journal of Medicine, has shown that it starts even earlier than that.
In the study, researchers asked over 4,000 fifth grade children how often they were bullied, and asked them again in seventh and tenth grade. While in fifth grade, 8% of heterosexual students and about 13% of LGB students reported bullying. By the time they reached tenth grade, 6% of heterosexual students reported bullying, compared to 10% LGBs. Altogether, 91% of LGB students were more likely to be bullied and 46% more likely to be victimized, compared to heterosexual students.
While fifth grade is before most youth are likely to be aware of or disclose their sexual orientation, says researchers, it’s interesting to see that even in fifth grade, students were at an increased risk for being bullied or victimized for being LGB. One possibility as to why is that they might be viewed as “gender variant” by their peers, but another reason sticks out more than most.
LGB kids as young as fifth grade are being targeted because the parents of the bullies may be saying homophobic rants at home, says researchers. Setting a good example is one of the only ways to stop bullying of all sorts.
“For the kids who aren’t sexual minorities,” Dr. Mark Shuster, the lead author, says, “it’s also sending a message that it’s okay to mock people who are gay.”
It’s important to stop LGBT bullying, but in order to do that, we need to reach the parents. It all starts from the home – when bullying starts as small as fifth grade, it’s crucial to fix the problem before it spreads.