Teen boys with progressive views on gender are a lot less violent

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Not teaching boys absurd interpretations of what it means to “be a man” does not only make them feel less insecure about themselves, their bodies and their sexuality, it can also help prevent violence both at home and at school.

Teenage boys with more progressive views about gender are half as likely to engage in violent behaviors as their peers with rigid views about masculinity and gender, according to new research.

The research, which was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine Friday, also found that boys who witnessed their peers engaging in two or more verbally, physically or sexually abusive behaviors — such as making disrespectful comments about a girl’s body or makeup — were two to five times more likely to engage in violent behaviors themselves.

Although previous studies have shown a connection between holding rigid views about gender and masculinity and intimate partner violence, the new study sheds light on a trickle-down effect that those views might have on other forms of violence.

“We have for too long siloed sexual and partner violence in one place, youth violence and bullying in another,” said Dr. Elizabeth Miller, lead author of the study and chief of the division of adolescent and young adult medicine at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. The new study forms a foundation to begin “focusing on gender equity as a mechanism to use for violence prevention across the board,” Miller added.

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Queer kids don’t feel safe at school

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A report on queer teens in Ireland has revealed that almost three quarters of them feel unsafe at school. The research by the activist group, BeLonG To Youth Services, is the largest survey ever conducted on queer youth in the Irish education system. It involved nearly 800 LGBTQ+ people between the ages of 13 and 20 from all Irish counties.

The alarming findings show that 77% of queer teenagers experience verbal harassment, and 38% experience physical harassment. 11% experience serious physical assault because of their sexual orientation or gender expression. The study suggests that bullying is worst for transgender students.

“I was sexually abused by the guys in the PE changing room age 14 to 17 on a weekly basis,” reads one anonymous response to the survey. “They would slap my ass, put their fingers up my ass, grope me and pull at my penis. I was terrified of PE and this affected my attendance on PE days.”

Another said: “I told my friends I was gay in first year and they outed me to everyone. It was horrible. People scribbled slurs on my photos around the school and wrote a slur on my locker in marker. I told my teacher and she basically told me I shouldn’t have come out then, as if it was my choice in the first place.”

The result of this targeted harassment is that queer kids are 27% more likely to miss school, and 8% less likely to pursue higher education.

Moninne Griffith, chief executive of BeLong To, said the research should be a “wake up call” for the government. She urged the Minister for Education to take immediate action to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of at-risk queer students.

Among the report’s recommendations are that the Irish government should review and update professional development supports for teachers, and encourage schools to develop school-wide LGBTQ+ inclusion policies. The report also calls on schools to implement a curriculum that supports diversity and respect for queer people, including an evaluation of social personal health education and sex education.

Bullied gay teen explains why he decided to fight back

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A video of Jordan, a 16-year-old high school student, punching a homophobic bully went viral this week. Jordan said later that the incident occurred after years and years of build-up.

Jordan was a guest on the Tamron Hall Show where he and his mom broke down in tears when speaking about the homophobic bullying he has endured.

Jordan was suspended after the fight and he is now being home-schooled after his mother saw how he was being treated by his high school.

“It seemed like I was getting in more trouble for reporting [the bullying] than I was if I didn’t say anything at all,” he said. “It was doing me more harm than it was good.”

Homophobia is still a problem in the world of dance

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Earlier this year, “Good Morning America” ran what was supposed to be a cute culture story about the first-grade curriculum of Britain’s Prince George. But when correspondent Lara Spencer mentioned that the 6-year-old boy was studying ballet, she couldn’t suppress her laughter.

As Spencer said, “We’ll see how long that lasts,” co-host George Stephanopolous and most of the studio audience also laughed. Being laughed at for pursuing dance is familiar to almost any boy who studies the art form, especially ballet.

Deidre Tangorra’s 9-year-old son, Julius, has been aggressively bullied for dancing. At school, he’s been put in a chokehold, tripped and tackled while being called “twinkle toes,” “fairy” and other homophobic slurs. He can’t ride the school bus because of other kids spitting on him, according to both Julius and his mother.

“If a boy wants to do something perceived as slightly feminine, they’re perceived as weaker,” Tangorra said. “It’s not about being against dance, it’s machoness.”

Julius had a strong reaction to Spencer’s laughter and comments. “When she said it, I felt bad and angry and embarrassed,” he said. Following the TV host’s controversial remarks, the dance community rallied to the young royal’s defense, and #BoysDanceToo became a trending social media hashtag.

Spencer apologized for her comments and interviewed three male dancers who discussed their careers and experiences with bullying. Yet, the issue of men being perceived as feminine never came up in their discussion and neither did sexual orientation nor gender identity. The subtext of the apology was that Spencer erred in saying that male dancers aren’t masculine, but not that it’s wrong to laugh at men who have a feminine side.

Many in the dance community felt it was a missed opportunity to address the root of the stigma male dancers deal with — homophobia and misogyny — especially because these exist within the dance world as well.

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Photos: Kirill Sokolovsky

Gay teen slaps the homophobia out of his cowardly bully

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High school student Jordan Steffy was bullied by homophobes at his school since 2nd grade. This week he decided that he had enough and fought back when a classmate called him a faggot.

He posted a video in which the bully can be heard throwing the slur at Jordan while trying to physically intimidate him (and being almost comically incompetent at it) before Jordan gives him a pretty good slap.

Another video of the incident, which you can see below, was watched almost seven million times within three days. You can hear the bully say “don’t fucking put your hands on me faggot.” After attempting to slap the homophobia out of him, Jordan warns him to not call him that word again.

According to Jordan both him and the bully were suspended by the school. Jordan’s mum defended him for standing up for himself and decided to look into homeschooling because she believes the school handled the situation poorly by letting the bullying going on for years and then punishing Jordan for eventually fighting back.

Queer teens need more than anti-bullying statutes

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On October 20, 2010, offices, classrooms, and social media profiles around the world became awash in the color purple, the stripe of LGBTQ+ pride flag associated with “spirit.” It was the first observance of Spirit Day, the now-official LGBTQ+ holiday devoted to anti-bullying advocacy. But before the spirit of Spirit Day moved millions to voice their support for queer youth, it moved a high school sophomore from Vancouver to speak out. Her name was Brittany McMillan, and it was her viral Tumblr post decrying the homophobic bullying that influenced the suicides of five teens across the country that inspired the international event we recognize today.

Nearly a decade since McMillan’s original call to action, Spirit Day has become a global phenomenon, with participants from Queer Eye’s Karamo Brown to drag queen Peppermint to queer icon Paula Abdul joining LGBTQ+ community members and allies in offering empathy and support to LGBTQ+ youth who have experienced bullying. Yet perhaps the most stirring take from this year’s Spirit Day so far has come from Pose star Angelica Ross. “We all need to take a stand against all forms of bullying. But we have to go beyond just turning our profile pictures purple,” she told GLAAD. “I see a lot of folks out there giving us lip service.”

Spirit Day may be bigger than ever, but as Ross suggests, queer and transphobic bullying is as prevalent as ever, too — and calls to action may not be enough to curtail it. While events like Spirit Day are no doubt essential for spreading awareness, it’s going to take both structural, state-level legal reforms and school-by-school policy changes to curb LGBTQ+ youth bullying. Recent studies have shown that neither on their own will be enough.

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