Outright VT Report Shows 11% of VT Girls Identify as Lesbian, Bisexual or Questioning
Today, Outright Vermont announced that eleven percent of girls in Vermont middle and high schools, grades 8-12, self-identify as lesbian, bisexual or questioning according to the state’s 2009 Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS).
This marks the third increase in a row for girls from the 2007 and 2005 YRBS surveys. There are an estimated 3,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQQ) students in Vermont middle and high schools according to the 2009 YRBS. Outright Vermont Executive Director Christopher Neff stated, “Vermont girls rock. It is clear that girls have a strong sense of self and are more and more comfortable with who they are. Whether straight, bisexual, lesbian or somewhere in between, I think it is also clear that Vermont’s communities are doing a lot of things right. Courageous girls are being celebrated across the state and that is great news.”
Risk behaviors among LGBTQQ students decreased in several key areas. Attempted suicide, which remains high at 24%, was down from 26% in 2007. Additional core concerns such as bullying against LGBTQQ youth moved higher. In 2009, 36 percent of gay and lesbian identified students reported being bullied in the past 30 days, more than double the 17 percent of straight students who reported being bullied during the same period. The data clearly shows that queer youth remain disproportionately affected by bullying in Vermont schools.
Wendy Love, Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on Women stated, “This is good news, bad news. I am proud of parents and communities who are helping girls develop a strong sense of self. Kids should be able to be who they are, but this level of bullying is unacceptable.” She added, “These messages need to begin in the home. Parents and communities must take responsibility for, and assume a leadership role in changing the climate in Vermont schools on this issue. We cannot sit back and expect the schools to do it all.”
Managing Outright’s anti-bullying program is Education & Statewide Field Manager Saben Littlefield, who added, “We are working ambitiously with students, schools, parents and teachers statewide. In 2009, Outright held 104 anti-bullying presentations and meetings in schools across Vermont. We have talked with more than 2,700 students and Gay-Straight Alliances from Brattleboro to Enosburg and Rutland to St. Albans. There is much more to do, students are telling us what they need. It’s our job to get to every part of the state to be there for them.”
The YRBS data also surveyed students on cyber-bullying for the first time. Overall, 15 percent of students reported being cyber-bullied in the past 12 months. Outright served on the state’s Cyber-Bullying Working Group and has recommended mandatory age appropriate anti-bullying presentations for all Vermont students (K-12) every three years.
Founded in 1989, Outright Vermont is the state’s LGBTQ queer youth center and statewide advocacy organization. The mission of Outright is to build safe, healthy, and supportive environments for LGBTQ queer youth (ages 13-22). Outright’s organizing strategy is based on a youth empowerment, social change model that tells us that youth power is an essential element in the fight for equal rights. We describe youth empowerment in two parts – providing the safe space and resources so that youth can do the heavy lifting themselves and adjusting the fundamental power dynamics so that their hard work can achieves results. www.outrightvt.org