Research shows bullying of gay and bisexual boys continues beyond high school at higher rates than it does for girls. Why is this?
According to a recent study in the journal Pediatrics, things do “get better” for LGB teens after high school. Two years ago the “It Gets Better” project was launched on YouTube by Dan Savage, a columnist and Seattle gay-rights activist. The project sets out to reassure homosexual teens that it will “get better” once they are out of high school. As Time reports, Joseph Robinson, an assistant professor of educational psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, decided to see if that promise was actually true. Robinson said, “The sentiment of the It Gets Better campaign is that things will get better because chances are you are not going to be bullied later in life. This is the first time we have strong empirical evidence to suggest it does get better.”
Unfortunately, in the US, most of the existing research is focused on whether LGB teens are bullied in high school, but does not follow them into early adulthood. So Robinson used information from a UK Department of Education study that was done in 2004 and was based on the experiences of 4,135 children between the ages of 13 and 14, and then again in 2010 when the same children were adults between the ages of 19 and 20. Robinson said, “I was particularly interested in these data because we don’t have anything like this.” According to his research, Robinson says rates of bullying across the board, regardless of sexual orientation, decline over time, from over half the LGB teens surveyed in 2004 to less than 10% in 2010, when they were 19 to 20 years old.
Numerous studies have shown that LGB teens are the victims of ridicule and bullying twice as often as heterosexual teens in high school. The trends, however “diverge after high school” depending on the gender of the victim. Robinson discovered that bullying rates after high school for lesbian and bisexual females are comparable to those of heterosexual females. For gay and bisexual males it is actually the exact opposite. The “relative rates of bullying increased” after the subjects left high school, and according to the study homosexual males were actually bullied “four times as often as heterosexual males.”
Although this recent study can’t explain why bullying continues after high school, or why gay and bisexual men especially seem to be the targets, Robinson hopes, with additional research, to be able to answer these important questions. He does point out that in their early teens, over 50% of gay and bisexual boys report being bullied, and after they leave school, this rate drops to 9%. However, compared to only 2% of straight men who report any kind of bullying after high school, this is still a significant disparity, especially compared to girls. Robinson says, “It definitely gets better on average for all gay kids. Rates for gay men are getting better but when compared to straight boys, it’s still much higher. We would be remiss to ignore that in relative terms, it gets worse for gay men.”
Why do you think gay and bisexual men continue to get bullied at significantly higher rates than lesbian and bisexual females after high school?