Perspectives on LGBTQ Bullying
One of my colleagues’ daughters has done a fair bit of work in the academic space on the topic of BULLYING. As you’ll see, she has personal experience with it as well. She has graciously accepted my invitation to share her thoughts about this important topic and she has some good advice to offer. Here’s Katy—
When I was in middle school I was bullied for being gay.
Once, when I was in seventh grade, a few guys came up behind me while I was putting my books in my locker. They called me names and asked why I even bothered to show up to school every day. “No one wants to go to school with a lesbian,” they said. I tried to ignore them, afraid of what else they might say — or worse, who else they might tell — if I stood up to them. As I tried to leave, they pushed me against the wall. Suddenly, they slammed my locker shut on my hand and broke my finger. I held back tears while I watched them run away laughing. I didn’t tell anyone, mostly because I didn’t know who to talk to about being gay. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so humiliated and alone.
Thankfully my mother is a doctor and one of the most understanding and accepting people I know. Eventually, I was able to tell her what had happened. I know how lucky I am to have a mom who supported me and helped me though it because so many LGBTQ youths do not have a safe home environment. My story is not unique and thousands of those other LGBTQ youths, who have been bullied and don’t have parents like mine, need that support from other people. Pediatricians are in a perfect position to step in and provide that support.
The issue of bullying has taken the spotlight in our nation over the last few years. 13 million students are bullied every year in America. The responsibility to put an end to this epidemic does not just rest on educators and parents; everyone is a community must be involved to truly reduce bullying and protect our students, pediatricians too.
What can we do to provide this support?
The most important thing that we can do to make sure they are able to support individuals who are experiencing bullying, after ensuring initial safety of the patient from their bullies and from themselves, is to create a safe space. For pediatricians, make sure that patients and their families see that you provide an environment where you celebrate everyone’s differences. I, and so many others who have had similar experiences, just needed someone who identified themselves as someone who was safe to talk to. This can manifest in a variety of ways.
• Have a Safe Space Sticker
• Decorate your office, and even your home, with diverse images.
• For pediatricians, provide a diverse array of material or resources in the office.
• Avoid making assumptions about identity when asking anyone questions.
• Don’t use language that implies that all patients are heterosexual.
• Clinicians, ask questions regarding sexual history, partners or relationships using gender-neutral language. For example, ask about “relationships” or “sexual partners” rather than “boyfriends” or “girlfriends”. One of the first steps in providing great medical care for our LGBT teens is making them feel welcome and respected.
All of his can be easily extrapolated at home, as well.
More than one solution.
Of course bullying is a huge issue and there must be various outlets of help, so when possible, connecting with other resources is extremely helpful. This includes parents, mental health professionals, schools and many others. Pediatricians have the ability to add so much to a network of support for a young person being bullied. All of our roles are essential. It takes the entire community to make strides to prevent bullying!
For more information, please check out the links below.