By Zach Schalk
December 8, 2010 11:22 AM
As anyone can tell you, kids can be cruel. Bullying, teasing and just flat out mean behavior is a fact of life experienced by many children as they grow up. With the advent of the internet, cyber bullying has added a new frontier to this problem, making it even harder for the picked on to escape the reach of their bullies. Far too often, it’s young members of the LBGT community who bear the brunt of this nasty treatment.
Several high profile cases of abuse followed by tragedy have brought the issue of bullying to the national stage. There was the unfortunate case of Tyler Clementi, a student at Rutgers who killed himself after having a sexual encounter with another man broadcast over the internet by his roommate. Even younger victims of bullying for being gay have been featured in the national media, including Seth Walsh and Asher Brown, both only 13 years old. To the credit of the national media, they have kept the spotlight on this hard to swallow issue and bolstered the calls for action that have resonated within the LGBT community for some time.
The results of a new study from Yale show that the bias against the queer community extends beyond the simple cruelties of youth. In fact, it shows an institutional bias against the LGBT community in both schools and courts, leading to far harsher punishment of queer youth than for their straight peers. While the youths themselves have often complained about what they perceived as a bias, the study proves empirically that it does, in fact, exist for the first time. Young girls who identify as lesbian or bisexual experienced the greatest difference in punishment from their heterosexual peers: the study reports that this group has “50 percent more police stops and about twice the risk of arrest and conviction as heterosexual girls who reported similar levels of misconduct.”
Obviously, the threat of bullying has been known for some time. And while the issue of an institutional bias against the LGBT community was not out of the question in the past, new research has given it new credibility. Now the question is what steps will be taken by our society to right these wrongs?