Reducing anti-LGBT prejudice and discrimination
Prejudice, discrimination, and violence toward Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) individuals are major social problems. Many studies have demonstrated that members of these groups are at increased risk of being excluded, insulted, bullied, assaulted, and murdered. They are also at significantly increased risk of suicide. Adolescent and young adult LGBT individuals are especially vulnerable. Schools need to be aware of this and to provide a learning environment in which every student can feel safe.
What can be done to reduce, and eventually eliminate, prejudice, discrimination, and violence toward LGBT individuals? Research studies have identified a number of effective interventions:
Gay-Straight alliances in high schools. These are after-school clubs in which LGBT and non-LGBT students join together for discussions and collaborative activities. GSA clubs have been shown to be beneficial for both groups of participants. Schools that have established these clubs have seen a significant reduction in anti-LGBT prejudice and bullying.
Educational workshops for teachers and administrators. These activities provide important information about LGBT students’ vulnerabilities, and suggest effective methods for providing needed supports and preventing or countering anti-LGBT bullying.
“Human Libraries” - programs in which individuals from discriminated-against groups, including LGBT individuals, offer to become “human books” and to share their life experiences with one or more “readers” who would like to learn more about members of these groups and their challenges with discrimination. These interactions often take place in actual libraries, but they can take place in other settings as well. Human Library experiences have been shown to be effective ways to reduce prejudice and increase empathic perspective-taking.
Reading books and watching videos about the experiences of LGBT individuals. These activities increase awareness and empathy and reduce anti-LGBT prejudice.
Prejudice-reducing initiatives, in schools and in the community, are effective means for improving the lives of LGBT and non-LGBT students and adults. Communities that provide these initiatives become more inclusive and welcoming for everyone.
In Southwest Michigan, we are blessed to have an institution, the OutCenter, that provides expert consultation to teachers and administrators, helps schools organize and maintain GSA clubs, consults with parents about the best ways to support their LGBT child and themselves, and provides a safe space for LGBT individuals and non-LGBT allies to meet for discussions and collaborative activities. To learn more about the OutCenter’s programs visit their website at outcenter.org or contact Program Director Gerik Nasstrom at firstname.lastname@example.org
I encourage everyone in Southwest Michigan to do all we can to help our community become one in which all residents, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, are welcomed and valued, and no one is subjected to discrimination or violence.