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Sexual Health with Ruthie Patriquin

Homophobia and Transphobia are types of discrimination.  Homophobia can be defined as negative attitudes, negative feelings, and sometimes negative actions toward those who are (or

appear to be) lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer/questioning (LBGTQ).  Transphobia is a new term now being used when the discrimination is specifically directed toward transgender individuals (or those who appear to be transgender).

Often when we think about the affects of homophobia and transphobia, we think of adults.  But what about the children?

According to Questions and Answers: Sexual Orientation in Schools , a publication of the Public Health Agency of Canada ( PHAC), “the experiences of discrimination, stigmatization, violence, and the associated negative mental health outcomes disproportionately impact the physical, emotional, and educational lives of sexual minority youth”.  Research cited in this publication shows that sexual minority youth are 1.5 to 7 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual (straight) peers.  They are also more likely to experience physical and sexual abuse, have higher rates of harassment in school and discrimination in the community, be sexually experienced and become pregnant or gotten someone pregnant*, be smokers, tried alcohol, or used other drugs, as well as other negative outcomes. 

*Some teens (gay and straight) become sexually active before they’re ready, trying to pretend or prove they are straight.

The Gender Identity in Schools version of the above PHAC document confirms that “youth who are targeted by their peers for not assuming the conventional gender roles may be harassed and bullied at a young age”.

As stated above, children and youth do not have to be LGBTQ to experience homophobia and transphobia – they may be targeted with discrimination based on assumptions about their sexual orientation or gender.  They may also be discriminated against based on who their parents are. 

This year, the May 17 Canadian campaign against homophobia (www.homophobiaday.org) is focusing on the children of gay/lesbian parents in order to reduce prejudice against children growing up in families with same-sex parents or in families where at least one parent identifies as gay or lesbian.

Information to address myths about same-sex parenting is available on the above site including this:  -Studies done by the American Psychological Association (APA, 2005) found that lesbian and gay parents are just as likely as heterosexual (straight) parents to provide an environment favorable to the development of the child. For example, the APA research showed that same-sex parents are particularly aware of parenting skills, use positive disciplinary strategies and equally share child-rearing tasks.

- Children who grow up with one or two gay or lesbian parents do as well emotionally, cognitively, socially and sexually as children who have heterosexual parents.

- Growing up in a same-sex-parented family has no influence on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender-related roles. There is no difference in the choice of toys, activities, interests or professions between children of same-sex parents and those of different-sex parents (APA, 2005).

A Leger Marketing survey (see www.homophobiaday.org) found that, “ In their daily lives, the majority of Canadians surveyed (80%) say they have witnessed derogatory remarks about

homosexual people or homosexuality in general, 10% say they have witnessed this often”.

This website also provides suggestions for steps you can take to support children of same-sex parents and end LGBTQ discrimination over-all. One idea is intervene if a friend or a child is subjected to taunting.  There are also brochures and posters that you can order free of charge (for small quantities).

Speak up- support children and youth - help end homophobia and transphobia.

 

Ruthie Patriquin is the executive director of the Sexual Health Centre for Cumberland County. Her column appears monthly in the Amherst News.

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