A recent survey of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the Kanto area found that 70 percent were bullied during their school years.
The survey, conducted by a support group for LGBT people aged 10 to 35, also found that 30 percent considered suicide because of the discrimination they have felt. The survey reveals once again that much more work remains to be done to stop school bullying.
The survey was confined to the Tokyo area, seemingly the most cosmopolitan city in Japan. At least inside school, very little tolerance is being shown to sexual minorities during their formative years. The survey revealed that 53 percent suffered verbal abuse, 49 percent were ignored or excluded from groups, 20 percent suffered physical violence and 11 percent endured sexual abuse.
Reports of LGBT youngsters being beaten up, stripped of their clothes or being forced to do embarrassing things in front of classmates further call into question how effective the recent anti-bullying programs have actually been.
There also seems to be no place for such youngsters to find help. Of those who were bullied, 52 percent said they spoke to no one at all.
In addition to the 30 percent who considered suicide, 20 percent harmed themselves by cutting their wrists or otherwise physically hurting themselves. A mere 29 percent managed to talk about their problems with their mothers, and 19 percent found a teacher to talk with.
The majority obviously kept their problems bottled up inside.
Schools have a hard task stopping discrimination and related violent behavior. However, stopping bullying cannot be done piecemeal; it must be done across the board for all students. Teachers and administrators should redouble their efforts to promote understanding of and tolerance for differences between people.
Those efforts are especially challenging when differences are in the sexual realm, an area that is typically embarrassing or uncomfortable for teenagers and possibly for some teachers and administrators, too.
A more comprehensive program of sex education in school would help young people to understand their own sexuality and to respect the sexuality of others.
The anti-bullying programs and sex education now in place at most schools should also include explicit lessons about tolerance for those with sexual orientations different from the majority. And those lessons should start earlier.
The survey found that 9 percent of those surveyed said they knew they were probably LGBT as early as at elementary school.
Learning respect and tolerance for individual differences at an early age is important for making life better not just for LGBT people but for all people, regardless of their sexuality.
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