Nine in 10 LGBTQ+ Australian students have heard homophobic slurs and insults at school, with more than 1 in 3 saying they face slander almost every day, according to a new survey.
The Free2Be... Yet? report, the second-ever nationwide study of Australian secondary school students who identify as gender and sexuality diverse, surveyed over 2,000 pupils across a range of schools on their exposure to anti-LGBTQ+ behaviour while on school grounds.
Jacqueline Ullman, a professor of youth development, behaviour and well-being at Western Sydney University and author of the study, said alongside offensive language, many students had endured other common experiences of homophobia, including targeted physical violence.
"Almost 30% of participants said they had personally experienced or witnessed physical harassment directed at LGBTQ+ students,” she wrote for the Conversation. “This group told stories of violence at school, with limited teacher intervention or discussion about the issues.”
Similarly, of the students who faced name-calling, just 6% said a teacher “always” intervened.
Important piece by @drjackieullman on harassment and violence towards LGBTQ+ students in Australian schools. Upsetting, disheartening, not surprising. Australia, we need to do betterhttps://t.co/2i35dQwXuP— Ian Woolford 🏳️🌈 (@iawoolford) June 8, 2021
One student, a 12-year-old boy who identifies as gay, shared his experience of homophobic-linked bullying.
"[A student] threw a rotten apple at the back of my head after telling me that the common room is for ‘normal straight people only’,” he told the survey, according to the Conversation. “The teacher present then told me I had to leave because I was causing trouble by being there.”
A separate student, who identifies as pansexual, explained offensive language is now simply an accepted part of school culture, with classmates using homophobic slurs “all the time.”
"The teachers just pretend they don’t hear it,” she said.
Schools that prioritise diversity and inclusion witness LGBTQ+ students with “significantly better school-based well-being.”
This is a key factor for academic performance and future success, Ullman explained.
“In this survey, LGBTQ+ students scored worse than mainstream peers on nearly every measure of school-based well-being. This included their sense of connectedness to school, a known predictor of academic achievement,” she wrote. “Unsurprisingly, LGBTQ+ students with higher levels of these forms of well-being were significantly more likely to say they would attend university.”