Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Are Educational and Life Experiences Related to Homophobia?

Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Are Educational and Life Experiences Related to Homophobia?

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to investigate the number of different diversity experiences for those individuals who have an impact on children (i.e., teachers, counselors, administrators and others in the field of education), and compare those experiences with their level of homophobia (which was determined by scores on the revised Index of Homophobia). The participants were 216 educators in a midsized midwestern city. The research supported that the more experiences with the topic of sexual orientation educators have, the lower is their level of homophobia. There is a significant relationship between one's level of homophobia and the number of different experiences a person has with the topic of sexual orientation, as well as with the experience of having homosexual friends and homosexual relatives.

When someone with the authority of a teacher, say, describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing. (Rich, 1986, p. 199)

Adolescence is a confusing time for youth as they begin to experience physical and sexual changes (Bjorklund & Bjorklund, 1992). It is even more confusing for youth who are beginning to realize that they are attracted to members of the same sex. Even in a human sexuality class there is very little, if anything, said about homosexuals, causing them to wonder if there are any others in the world who feel the same way they do (Savin-Williams & Rodriguez, 1993). When homosexual adolescents try to understand why they are attracted to the same gender, they feel that they are unable to turn to their peers, parents, church, teachers, or counselors for fear of what they would say if they only knew (Rofes, 1983). The emotional isolation of the gay adolescent, who believes that he or she is abnormal, has no one to talk to, and suffers from feelings of being totally alone is a serious factor to consider (Telljohann & Price, 1993). A mother of a gay son who committed suicide wondered: "What it must feel like for young people to be convinced that no one accepts them, not God, not society, not even their own parents" (Miller, 1992, p. 84).

These individuals may only be heard through the statistics of violence, isolation, homelessness, dropouts, and suicide (D'Augelli & Hershberger, 1993; Hammelman, 1993; Hetrick & Martin, 1987; Remafedi, 1987; Remafedi, Farrow, & Deisher, 1991; Roesler & Deisher, 1972; Rotheram-Borus, Hunter, & Rosario, 1994; Schneider, Farberow, & Kruks, 1989; Telljohann & Price, 1993; Troiden, 1988). Whereas several studies show that suicide and suicide ideation is high among adolescent youth, researchers indicate that it is even higher among youth who identify themselves as an invisible minority, homosexuals (Hammelman, 1993; Remafedi, Farrow, & Deisher, 1991; RotheramBorus, Hunter, & Rosario, 1994; Schneider, Farberow, & Kruks, 1989). Gibson (1989) reported that gay and lesbian youth are 2-6 times more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to attempt suicide. Of completed suicides, adolescents who are struggling with their sexual orientation may comprise up to 39% of those completed youth suicides annually (Rotheram-Borus, Hunter, & Rosario, 1994).

According to the Kinsey reports (Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, 1948; Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin, & Gebhard, 1953), and a study by Bell, Weinberg, and Hammersmith (1981), up to 10% of our society may be homosexual. Since homosexuals exist in silence, educators are unaware of the number of homosexual youth, parents, and other staff that may be in their schools. If these reports are in fact true, then those who are homosexual may be a larger minority group in some schools than some ethnic groups (Riddle, 1996).

The topic of homosexuality seems to be one that is "taboo" within our society. According to Savin-Williams and Rodriguez (1993), during the 1990 meetings of the interdisciplinary and international Society for Research in Adolescence there was not a single presentation among literally hundreds of posters, symposia, and invited addresses that focused on homosexuality or bisexuality of adolescents. …

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