Welcome to today’s edition of The V Word.
Today I have a question for you. When you were in school, how often did you hear, or did you participate in anti-gay comments, listen to or participate in protests against bullying policies that specifically included antigay harassment, listen to and not object to sermons at places or worship or from leaders of religious denominations demonize gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals, participate in or sit passively during campaigns against gay marriage, or laugh at gratuitous humor at the expense of LGBTQ individuals?
Did you participate in that or ignore it? You participated in perpetuating stigma against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals all of whom are our children, our adolescents, our siblings, our mothers, our fathers.
Today I am going to talk about stigma, specifically the hazards of stigma toward gay, lesbian and bisexual adolescents in the United States. People often ask me who is at a higher risk of sexual violence. Despite my urge to say “ well, everyone”, there are studies that suggest lesbian, gay, and bisexual teens are at a higher risk than their peers for violence experienced in the community, in the schools, and in their homes. What is perpetuating stigma? People are, only people can perpetuate stigma and it takes both active behavior and passive acceptance to keep stigma going.
In 2006, Elizabeth Saewayc published a study in the Child Welfare League of America. She examined the proliferance of negative messages toward sexual minority groups across North America.
Stigma hurts more than just words. Stigma and discrimination based on sexual orientation contributes to health disparities for LGBTQ persons. Another risk factor, other than coming out in an unwelcome environment is gender expression. Waldo’s study found that gender-atypical youth, youth that do not display stereotypical extremes of masculinity or femininity are at risk of violence from their families, or experience a lack of protection from their families when they are bullied and victimized. This can happen in families, school and community setting to youth even before themselves recognize or self-identify as gay or lesbian or bisexual. So what does this mean? It means that some as-yet unmeasured trait of gay or bisexual orientation that event the youth does not recognize will put them at risk of violence or a lack of protection toward violence. People do not even know what they are seeing and they will abuse and violate because they cannot identify it or it does not fit within their worldview.
So once we get past the appalling and horrifying feelings toward that… do you know why this is important to talk about and address? Because this risk for violence among stigmatized groups like LGBTQ children and teens are a potent predictor of youth risk behaviors such as substance abuse, suicide attempts, running away, and teen pregnancy. Teens who are abused and victimized often turn to drugs, truancy, and suicide to cope with the violence that is happening to them and the lack of protection they experience.
Are you ready and willing to help? You can help, understand and communicate that emotional pressure or corporal punishment, or violence will not change a child’s natural gender expression or their sexual orientation. If you have been a bystander who didn’t know what to do, you can intervene with information, help and support.
You add your voice to the community at large discussion to eliminate stigma, violence, and it’s impact against the youth of our community. There are many things you can do.
For help or information? Here are some options…
If you have been assaulted, call 911. Local rape crisis centers have advocates they can send to help support you and provide information.
For information on how to report an assault in the Richmond, Virginia, USA are, you can call the non-emergency line at 804-646-5100, that is 804-646-5100 or go by a local police station office. The main Richmond office is located at 200 West Grace Street.
To get a forensic exam to collect evidence and receive medical care, the local hospitals in the Richmond area with Forensic Nurse Examiners are at Medical College of Virginia and St. Mary’s Hospital.
Are you a youth who identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender? There are organizations that can help you. In the Richmond area, you can contact ROSMY – the Richmond Office for Sexual Minority Youth at- 644-4800 – centers like theirs offer support groups. Sensitivity training for professionals, and youth leadership initiatives.
For help with counseling and advocacy, local rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters can provide services. To find a center closest to you… you can call the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238. That is the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238.
Want to share a story or ask a question? Email me at email@example.com or tweet me at my twitter account: @preventviolence. You can read the transcript for this show and past shows on my blog at http://www.thevword.org
The V Word is recorded in the studios of WRIR-LP 97.3, read and produced by me, Carol Olson.
Music composed by Richard Schellenberg and John Chambers of The Etching Tin