While progress in the fight to end homophobia has slowed, transgender and gender nonconforming youth face increasingly hostile school climate surveys, finds National School Climate Survey.

 

New York, NY, Oct. 15, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- GLSEN, the leading education organization working to create safe and inclusive schools for LGBTQ students, announced today new findings from the 2017 National School Climate Survey, showing for the first time in a decade that victimization of LGBTQ youth is not decreasing at rates previously seen -- and has, in fact, gotten worse for transgender and gender nonconforming youth.

“We’ve seen great progress on dismantling homophobia and transphobia over the past decade, and increasing access to LGBTQ-inclusive supports in K-12 schools. Unfortunately, in 2017, that continued progress has slowed, and in some cases, we see no change at all. Worse still, our findings indicate that many schools have become even more hostile towards transgender and gender nonconforming youth,” said Dr. Joseph Kosciw, GLSEN Chief Research & Strategy Officer. “The good news we continue to see is that LGBTQ youth have better mental health and academic outcomes in schools with supportive and inclusive policies, educators, curriculum, and student-led GSA clubs.”

Begun in 1999, the biennial National School Climate Survey has become the largest body of research on the experiences of LGBTQ youth in schools in the U.S., and examines indicators of negative school climate (biased remarks, victimization, and discrimination), the effects of school climate on student outcomes, and the availability and benefits of key school-based supports shown to improve the lives of LGBTQ youth. The 2017 National School Climate Survey is the largest and most geographically inclusive research sample ever of LGBTQ between 13 and 21 years of age, from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories, with 23,001 total survey respondents.

Among the many findings within the 2017 National School Climate Survey, are:

  • Overall in 2017, we see homophobic remarks and victimization leveling off, after years of measured improvements. Worse, we have seen a steady increase in youth reporting negative remarks about transgender people, and a recent upward trend in the frequency of staff making negative remarks about gender expression.
  • The vast majority of LGBTQ students (87.3%) experienced harassment or assault based on personal characteristics, including sexual orientation, gender expression, gender, religion, race and ethnicity, and disability. Seven in ten LGBTQ students (70.1%) experienced verbal harassment at school based on sexual orientation, more than half based on gender expression (59.1%) or gender (53.2%).
  • More than a third of LGBTQ students (34.8 %) missed at least one day of school in the last month because of feeling unsafe at school, and at least two in five students avoided bathrooms (42.7%) and locker rooms (40.6%).
  • The frequency of verbal harassment based on sexual orientation did not change from 2015 to 2017; however, physical harassment and assault based on sexual orientation did continue to decline in 2017.
  • The frequency of verbal harassment based on gender expression increased from 2015 to 2017, after years of decline, and there were no improvements in reports of physical harassment and assault based on gender expression from 2015 to 2017.
  • Hostile school climates negatively affect LGBTQ students’ mental health and educational outcomes. LGBTQ students who experienced high levels of anti-LGBTQ victimization were nearly twice as likely to report they do not plan to pursue post-secondary education. Also, LGBTQ students who experienced high levels of anti-LGBTQ victimization and discrimination had lower GPAs, lower self-esteem, and higher levels of depression.
  • School-based supports continue to have a positive effect on school climate. School staff supportive of LGBTQ students, GSAs, LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, and comprehensive and supportive policies are all related to safer schools and better educational outcomes. Yet LGBTQ students report that most of these supports are not available to them.

GLSEN’s 2017 National School Climate Survey provides additional insights on the youth-led safe schools movement growing in the U.S. today, and specifically, the prevalence of social-political activism of LGBTQ youth, including participation in GSAs and GLSEN programs, like the Day of Silence, No Name-Calling Week, and Ally Week. The vast majority of LGBTQ students (80.2%) have engaged in social-political activism, such as advocating for safe schools online or policy change at school. LGBTQ students who participate in their student-led GSA at school are more likely to engage in activism than those who do not (91.0% vs. 74.7%).

“This report should serve as an alarm bell for advocates and a call to action for anyone who cares about students’ wellbeing,” said Eliza Byard, GLSEN Executive Director. “Fortunately, the evidence continues to show that key interventions are working to improve students’ lives. We must continue to push to see them implemented in more schools, and support students who are organizing to improve their communities. LGBTQ-affirming supports in our schools reduce violence, improve academic achievement, and help save lives. Who wouldn’t want LGBTQ youth to feel safe and do better in schools?”

For the first time, GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey also includes insights on student activism, parent advocacy, immigrant students, students with disabilities, and inclusive sex education.

The 2017 National School Climate Survey full report and executive summary, along with related infographics, can be downloaded from glsen.org/nscs.

Ohio is now home to a first-of-its-kind health center.

 

"This is the very first space in Ohio that has been designed specifically for the transgender, gender-non-conforming, youth of color. Its unprecedented," Program Director Cory Frederick said.

The Mozaic Center in Columbus is now open.

 

Organizers say the center will serve the trans community with health resources, positive messages, a thrift store with gender-affirming clothing and a sense of community.

"Our program is really targetted to address some of those additional barriers to health care. These young people are often underserved, unrecognized and unheard in their homes, in their schools," Frederick said.

The center is funded by the Center for Disease Control with $2.9 million for five years.

Its run by Equitas Health which is a nonprofit healthcare system which focuses on serving the LGBTQ community.

Only seven grants like this were awarded nationwide.

Orono native Nicole Maines made history with her family in 2014, when they won a lawsuit against the Orono school district, winning the right for transgender students in the state of Maine to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.

 

Maines will make history again this week, when she debuts as TV’s first transgender superhero on The CW’s series “Supergirl.”

Maines, now 21, will have a featured role in season four of “Supergirl,” starring as Nia Nal, a precocious, passionate new reporter who joins Kara Danvers — aka Supergirl — at CatCo, the media group where they work. Kara takes Nia under her wing, with Nia destined to eventually become the precognitive superhero Dreamer. The new season premieres Sunday, Oct. 14 on The CW; check your local listings for channel numbers.

 

In an interview in August with website The Mary Sue, Maines described how meaningful it is for her to play a transgender superhero.

“First and foremost, had I had a trans superhero growing up, that would have changed the game,” Maines said, “and so now, getting to be the trans superhero for a generation of kids is so special to me. … I just hope that everyone watching this show is going to get to love Nia as much as I do because she is so cool. She’s sweet. She’s caring. She’s got this fierce drive to her and this intensity, and she’s so amazing, and I just really hope that I’m doing her justice.”

Maines was at the center of a protracted court battle that began in 2007, when Asa Adams Elementary School told Maines that she could no longer use the girl’s bathroom at the school, after the grandfather of a male student complained.

Seven years later, in 2014, Maines and her family won the lawsuit, with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruling that transgender students have the right to use the school bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. It was the first time any court in the nation ruled it unlawful to force a transgender child to use the school bathroom designated for the sex he or she was born with, rather than the one with which the child identifies.

Maines moved to Portland in 2013 and graduated from high school there in 2015. She enrolled at the University of Maine in Orono that fall to study studio art but left school after the Spring 2018 semester to focus on her acting. She has relocated to Vancouver, British Columbia, where “Supergirl” is filmed.

“Supergirl” is not her first TV appearance — in 2015 Maine was featured on the USA Network show “Royal Pains,” playing a transgender teen. In 2016, she was featured in the HBO documentary “The Trans List.” She is also set to appear in the 2019 horror-comedy feature film “Bit.”

Transgender people often require a great deal of medical care. Mental health counseling, hormone therapy, speech language therapy, mastectomy, facial feminization, sperm retrieval or egg freezing — just to name a few — can cost thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But if an insurance provider classifies a procedure as "cosmetic" rather than "medically necessary," trans people are forced to pay out-of-pocket. Or risk going without care that can be vital to their health.

Even when insurers won't cover certain procedures, some employers will step in and offer coverage. In the last decade, hundreds of companies have revised their healthcare plans to financially assist employees in gender transition and gender affirmation surgery. In 2009, when the Human Rights Campaign first began asking companies about transgender-inclusive benefits as part of their company rankings, only 49 major US employers offered them. In 2018, HRC says a record 759 companies now offer transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage.

"To get to that point, at HRC, we had to do a lot of educating not only of the companies and the benefits managers about what it means, but also of insurance companies, what it means to be able to offer it and fulfill it," says Beck Bailey, deputy director of HRC's workplace equality program.

 The realities of care

Not all transgender people want or need medical assistance as they transition. But for those who do, the process can be time consuming and extremely expensive.

Many insurers will deem hormone therapy or other procedures as "medically necessary" for the treatment of gender dysphoria, the distress a person experiences when confronted by the difference between their current body and their gender identity. But a slew of other procedures, like speech therapy or further surgery, can also be considered elective.

As a Master's student and former staff assistant at the University of Michigan, Vidhya Aravind says she paid out-of-pocket for procedures that were vital to her health. She says explaining that to cisgender people is taxing.

"I think that even well-meaning cis people who consider themselves allies don't know what trans people go through to get medical care," she says. "For 99% of things, our healthcare is great. But for trans things, it's completely a disaster."

Throughout the last year, she has been working with other graduate students to make medical care more accessible for her transgender colleagues.

Aravind and her fellow student Monica Lewis both received coverage from University of Michigan's GradCare, the insurance plan provided to unionized graduate student employees.

Aravind and Lewis say it's not uncommon for transgender peers to travel out of the state for surgery, looking for a provider they trust. Both trans women have paid out-of-pocket for procedures, even canceling some because of financial strain.

"The end result is I was making less than my [cisgender] colleagues, because I was paying out-of-pocket for some of these procedures that I don't believe I could've done without," Lewis says.

Companies expanding care

Some well-known American companies, like Starbucks and Pinterest, for example, offer coverage for trans people.

"We believe everyone should have the opportunity to create a life they love and feel welcome at work," Candice Morgan, head of inclusion and diversity at Pinterest, said in a statement to CNN. "That's why we offer a range of benefits to help our employees across their lives, including gender affirmation and fertility treatments, and continue to foster an inclusive culture that embraces diversity."

Companies like Starbucks have pioneered trans-inclusive coverage. Since 2012, employees at the coffee chain have been able to rely on Starbucks coverage for gender affirmation surgery. Starbucks also comps some procedures other employers consider too "cosmetic" to cover, like hair transplants, electrolysis, facial feminization or masculinization.

When putting together the pieces of its trans-inclusive healthcare benefit, Starbucks first asked its employees — they call them "partners" — what they considered necessary as part of their healthcare package. From there, the company decided to extend the benefit to all partners who work 20 hours or more a week, says Reggie Borges, senior manager of global communications at Starbucks. That means even if you're balancing a Starbucks job part time, you're eligible to receive that care.

"It was something our VP of Benefits was really passionate about," Borges says. "We understood, 'If we're going to do this, we need to do this the right way, for partners who want to go through this transition."

There may be a link between being transgender and a person’s genetic makeup, according to a recent study.

The study was published on the 21st of September in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Researchers looked at 380 trans women as well as 344 non-transgender men in Australia and the United States, studying connections between gender dysphoria and a dozen sex hormone signaling genes.

What they found was startling: a “significant association” was found between several genes and gender dysphoria, signaling strong likelihood that transgender people are different from non-transgender people at a genetic level.

The research backs up other studies that point to a biological component to transgender identity, including a study from May that shows that brain activity in transgender adolescents is strongly similar to that in those of the sex they identify with.

Studies like this also reinforce the point that transgender activists have long put forth: trans people are not “mentally ill,” but are indeed the sex they identify with, not that which their physical body may display.

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