Student Affairs and LGBT Community

When one thinks about the various social stigmas attached to the acceptance of individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), one would discover that the prevalent notions are based on stereotypes. It is quite common for people to say that gay individuals are frivolous and lack the dependability required in a marriage. This is partly true and so is the fact that a majority of the “straight” crowd also suffers from the maladies. But the furor is against individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) and there are several instances of bullying, assaults or harassments reported over the year in High schools, collages and universities. That is why student affairs professionals become so vital and important for the LGBT community in these premises.

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Although bullying is a setback for many children at school, individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), or are perceived to be of such sexual orientation, are more likely to be exposed to a particularly difficult path. They are often at the receiving end of mockery, isolation and sometimes even aggression, and the outcomes of such activities go well past upset sentiments. Harassment and discrimination rooted in sexual orientation have emerged as an unrelenting and insidious concern in various schooling environments. For instance, as per the findings of a study conducted by the California Safe Schools Coalition, 7.5% of middle and high school students based in California, which amounts to in excess of 200,000 students per year, are exposed to some form of harassment founded on actual or alleged sexual orientation. Various researches and studies reveal that extensive maltreatment leads to perilous academic, health as well as safety implications for students. It may be said without any traces of doubt that every student possesses the right to study in an atmosphere that is conducive for their cognitive development and facilitates proper utilization of their full potential.

It has been reported that “The social and economic stresses that many transgender students experience as a result of family rejection, harassment, violence, and isolation can, in turn, lead to adjustment disorders, depression, posttraumatic stress, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, suicide ideation, and self harm.” (Beemyn, 2005, 56)That is why it is so important to incorporate social help and student affairs professionals in High schools, collages and universities.

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education (GLSEN) Network’s school environment researches divulge that a student’s academic performance is directly associated with in-school oppression. GLSEN, one of the foremost national education organizations concentrated on make certain that schools provide a safe environment for LGBT students. It commenced its extensive student surveying initiatives on a nationalized level in the year 1999, with the intention of providing a testimony of the daily experiences which the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students undergo at their own place of education. Ever since 2003, the organization has intensely observed the linkage amid anti-gay aggravation and academic performance of the victims. The findings were consistent with the anticipated outcomes. Lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals were likely to demonstrate actions like skipping school on account of safety apprehensions five times more than the other sections of students.

There are quite a few literatures on this topic and a very important text in this context is Beemyn, Curtis, Davis and Tubbs’ study named ‘Transgender issues on college campuses’ published in the New Direction for Student Services in 2005. This paper looks into the parameters of transgender population and the need of student support programs. It provides an overall view of the problem and suggests some important recommendations for the student affairs professionals. To start with the authors examine the definition of transgender students and identify them in order to solve their problems. They indicate that these students already suffer from identity problem and to make the things worse they are targeted by other students and harassed to the limit. The author suggested that these students should be encouraged to participate in educational and non-educational programs that would make them feel part of the main stream and not feel being marginalized. Furthermore, it is suggested that the student affairs professionals should make it possible for the transgender students to have separate, campus housing, locker rooms and toilets as these are the places where there are chances to being harassed. Additionally, the student affairs professionals should set up proper support services for the LGBT population and provide effective and prompt help when needed. The authors also suggested that on official ground these population should be recognized and the official documents of the educational institutes must be set according the specification mentioning the gender apart from just male or female. They also suggested the student affairs professionals to formulate better and more LGBT oriented healthcare and counseling systems. (Beemyn et al. 2005)

Similarly, DeNoble’s Ph.D dissertation, published in 2009, ‘The experience of female bisexual college students at an elite public university’ by University of Virginia, renders the same concern. The text starts with the background information that initially the LGBT community was considered as mentally ill in the eyes of the law. However, though the scenario has changed over the year and they are accepted by student affairs professionals and medical practitioners. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the members of this community are widely misjudged and marginalized by the greater social mainstream and it happens most in the educational institutes. A thorough study was carried out in an educational institution of the south on female bisexual students. It was found that there was much to do for the student affairs professionals in this context. The author made it a point to indicate that student affairs professionals should be more active in this context and should organize lecture series to spread awareness and encourage the authorities to hire faculty who are experts on LGBT studies and recruit LGBT individuals. They also mentioned the establishment of LGBT forum and awards for LGBT writings. All these would be possible if only student affairs professionals take up the job of convincing the authority in a well formulated and effective manner.

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On the other hand, Ivory’s (2005) ‘LGBT students in community college: Characterisics, Challanges, and Recommendations’ published in New Direction for Student Services shows the parameter of the study by initiating some specified questions for the student affairs professionals. The study indicates that the student affairs professionals should understand how a GLBT individual in community collages is fundamentally different from other sexual minorities in other educational institutions. The student affairs professionals are suggested to understand the fundamental and specific need and work accordingly. It also asks the student affairs professionals to understand the coming out process of a GLBT person and ask them to make the process more sustainable and methodical through on campus services, programs and individual characteristic study. The paper puts emphasis on the sexual minorities of color and older (25 or more) students and understand their specific needs. Everything should be done keeping in mind the safety and development of the individuals so that they feel comfortable and are able to join the mainstreams without hazard. Thus, it is obvious that the responsibility on the student affairs professionals is huge and fundamentally important. (Ivory, 2005)

The work done by Talbot and Viento (2005), ‘Incorporating LGBT issues into student affairs graduate education’ published in New Direction for Student Services is also an important text in the context of GLBT students in educational institutes and student affairs professionals. The study reports that about 74% of the institutions needed one class in the Post graduate level that is dedicated towards multicultural class and about 8% of the educational institutes were in the process of establishing one such class. The authors suggest such class on diversity would benefit the students belonging to the minority section and understanding and knowing the diversity would ultimately lower discrimination. However, till date, there are reports of harassments and discrimination in educational institutes. Thus, it is essential to reorganize the entire process and for the purpose the student affairs professionals should take up active role. (Talbot and Viento, 2005)

The findings also divulged that students who had to undergo repeated aggravation also demonstrated a lesser probability of planning for college education. LGBT sections of students who faced considerable maltreatment were twice as prone to decide not to attend or drop out of college. Further, students who testified positively about being beleaguered also acquired significantly inferior grades than those LGBT students who faced lesser amounts of harassment.

Harassing situations often arise for the reason that some teenagers are not aware about GLBT contributions to the history and moreover to the society itself. They are in most cases not aware of writers who might have had a GLTB sexual orientation or may not recognize the perspective of gay civil-rights matters. The substantiation for this fact is confirmed as 8 out of ten students in surveys reported no affirmative representation of GLBT contributions in history and neither do they receive such testimony at school.

Stereotyping often brings about incidents indicative of harassment. Common illustrations of widespread stereotypes are that homosexual male exhibit more feministic characteristics than what is observed usually in male behavior and that mostly gay individuals are likely to have higher-pitched tones of speech than the supposed ‘normal.’ Lesbians are thought to be manlier, donning short hair with a stocky build. These common irrational perceptions pose a threat to individuals whose appearances match these perceptions. To counter such social stereotypes and perception, it is essential that “Student development theories can be used to suggest best practices for student affairs professionals and faculty to facilitate further student development and personal growth. Also, student development theories can be used to guide administrative policy and improved campus climate.” (DeNoble, 2009, 41) In this context the student affairs professionals would surely play a vital role is the process of improving the environment for the gay and lesbian population.

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As a result, it is obvious that lawsuits would be most competent only if the students and their parents vigilantly testify about each confrontation of harassment and report them through meetings with the school authorities. It is a disheartening fact that a few school administrations show enthusiasm to safeguard their students from harassment and discrimination more out of trepidation rather than a sense of decorum and sprite. However, in any case school districts would sooner or later be obligated to safeguard all of their students irrespective of any grounds of discrimination. Anti-Discriminatory policies of the federal government, states and regional authorities would compel school districts to take measures in order to save all of their students from evils of harassment.

Many schools have already put into application an early implementation of anti-discrimination strategies that is potent enough to put an end to maltreatment of gays and lesbians in the initial stages before the conditions deteriorate and turn into hostility. A number of school districts are adopting a pro-active attitude towards homophobic concerns and other appearances of harassing incidents. A few others have as a minimum started scrutinizing the enormity of the problem.

An all-inclusive approach towards eradicating harassment related events involves designing and publicizing strong, documented policies. While developing guidelines the noteworthy legal issues pertinent to identifying if illegal harassment has taken place should be kept in mind and should be customized to the requirements of the specific school or school district. Minimally, the policies should encompass harassment on grounds of ethnic or racial background, nationality, sex, and disability, since these forms of harassment are prohibited by federal regulations.

The policies should in addition cover other types of harassment, such as harassment derived from sexual orientation or religious belief, as forbidden by state or regional legislations. It should be noted that the authorities of the county along with the municipality and the attorney general of the state and education department of the state should be responsible for providing guidance concerning state and regional requirements. Defining harassment semantically is important in order to eradicate ambiguity.

In this context, it has been said that sexually motivated harassment of gay or lesbian individuals may be considered to be a form of illegitimate sexual harassment. For instance, directing sexually provoking activities towards a gay or lesbian student for corporeal sexual advances may be treated as an unlawful sexual harassment.

The administrative guidelines assert that state and regional regulations may forbid unfairness on the grounds of sexual orientation. In addition, under specific conditions, courts have allowed a solution for harassment on grounds of sexual orientation under supplementary federally authorized authorities. Thus, in light of such circumstances school districts should seek advice from suitable state and regional authorities and official counsel concerning the scope of their accountability to deal with harassment of students founded on sexual orientation.

Maltreatment and criminal conduct on grounds of genuine or supposed sexual orientation has been acknowledged as a major issue in a lot of schools. School administrations should reflect on implementing certain statements or strategies on the subject of harassment on grounds of sexual orientation that would facilitate enhanced protection of students against violence and detrimental actions of this sort. They believed that the recommendations of the poster fostered the ‘homosexual’ way of life. They also felt concerned about the fact that the posters appeared to propose that students with some difficulties relating to their sexualities should get in touch with an external outfit in place of looking for support of their parents, teachers and other close relations.

However, in view of the fact that a significant proportion of youth who disclose their homosexual orientation in front of their guardians get driven out of their houses, the counsel of an external agency seemed to be a viable option. In the year 1996, the Denver school coordination initiated a curriculum which incorporated a new announcement which recommended that students should talk to school appointed counselors on the subject of harassment founded on racial background, sex, and sexual orientation. Counselors were provided with special training in order to make them more competent in dealing with such grievances. Officials and administrative committees put the program into practice in every school in the region.

Legally and morally, policies and legislations are essential in order to put off incidents of harassment in all forms against all students, including provocations based on racial background, religious beliefs, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, lingual origin, or physical or mental disabilities. Only in a safe can environment can quality education be imparted and teachers can educate and students can be taught.

It should be stated that the findings of the ‘Safe Place to Learn’ initiative substantiates the usefulness of numerous measures schools can implement including reorganization and imposing anti-harassment guidelines that explicitly incorporate sexual orientation and gender identity, providing instructions to the teachers and the staff to intercede when aspersions are used, and endorsing initiatives to institute Gay Straight Alliance groups on the campus. These measures bring about reduction of harassment related incidents and taunts, enhancing the students’ perception of safety, and intensifying their links to community and the society. Ivory states after a thorough study on the issue of school, collage and university problems related to gay and lesbian population, “Recommendation for student affairs professionals are provided with regard to three topics: campus safety issues, identity development for sexual minorities, and off-campus referrals to community agencies and resources“. (Ivory, 2005, 67)

The findings of several studies (Ivory, 2005, Talbot & Viento, 2005) reveal that students who aware of a school rule explicitly barring harassment on grounds of sexual orientation are 19% less prone to harassment rooted in sexual orientation and 25% more expected to feel secure in school. Students who report that their teachers intervene when they take notice of derision are 35% less liable to be beleaguered and 9% more expected to feel protected in school. Students of schools which have Gay-Straight Alliance groups are 16% less prone to aggravation and 23% more expected to feel secure in school. These measures are also linked with stronger student bonds to school, community and society which are key instruments for the students’ security and healthy cognitive development.

As a result, Talbot & Viento rightly states, “If our campuses are to be more inviting environments for all students, student affairs professionals must be equipped to design the services and programs that meet the needs of all students. This means that student affairs professionals need appropriate training and education”. (Talbot & Viento, 2005, 79) It is clear that student affair professionals must work harder and wider to solve the problem and make life easier for the GLBT population, at least in schools, collages and universities.

References

Beemyn, B., Curtis, B., Davis, M. & Tubbs, N.J. (2005). Transgender issues on college campuses. New Direction for Student Services 111(10), 49-59.

DeNoble, M. (2009).The experience of female bisexual college students at an elite public university. Ph.D Dissertation. AAT 3294820: University of Virginia, Virginia, United States.

Ivory, T.B. (2005). LGBT students in community college: Characterisics, Challanges, and Recommendations. New Direction for Student Services 111(10), 61-68.

Talbot, D.M. & Viento, W.L.E. (2005). Incorporating LGBT issues into student affairs graduate education. New Direction for Student Services 111(10), 75-80.

Student Affairs and LGBT Community
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