Video Transcript: Tackling Anti-Gay Bullying in Schools

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Dr. Joy Johnson: CIHR recently funded a study to examine homophobic bullying in high schools. This study examines how our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth are really being negatively affected by bullying and stigma in high schools.

Ms. Tasha Sponagle: Stress, anxiety, those are huge impacts, I know, when I was being bullied. School had always been a very safe place for me and it was a place that I really enjoyed going to and I always felt comfortable there, and after I started dating my girlfriend and we started to experience that harassment and bullying, I would wake up and I would just feel sick to my stomach. I just -- I didn't want to go to school. When I was at school, I felt on edge constantly, kind of constantly looking over my shoulder.

And I had to make sure that I didn't sit too close to my girlfriend, I didn't do anything that was going to provoke a response because it would just mean one more trip to the principal's office or one more trip to the guidance counsellor's office.

Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc : You know, we know from a lot of research that's happened that LGBTQ youth experience a lot of health inequities, whether that's higher rates of suicide attempts, substance use and abuse, as well as higher teen pregnancy rates, and part of that has been clearly linked to experiencing discrimination, homophobia and bullying in school, as well as abuse outside of school.

Prof. Line Chamberland: Unfortunately, too few schools in Canada have programs to reduce homophobic bullying. In fact, the majority do not. In Quebec, at least, that is the situation. There are lots of initiatives to address the problem, but they are sporadic, without any ongoing programs or sustained initiatives in the school setting.

Ms. Tasha Sponagle: I think it's really important to tackle bullying in schools because I think to a certain point it's been overlooked in the past. I think people have become accustomed to it. It's been deemed one of those things that it's a natural part of the school experience, but I don't think that it should be perceived that way. It shouldn't be a natural part of the school experience and we shouldn't just accept it.

I think that school should be a place where every student feels safe walking through the doors, safe to get their education and to be who they are.

Dr. Joy Johnson: This study has three very, very important outcomes. First of all, it's going to help us understand the health outcomes of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth, and I think that's really important.

Some of these young people are doing very well. They're thriving and others aren't, and we need to understand what factors really can improve their health outcomes.

Secondly, it's going to provide us with an inventory of the types of programs across Canada that exist so that we can understand where strengths and weaknesses are in terms of our programming.

And finally, it's going to evaluate those programs and help us understand what type of programming, what types of interventions can be more effective to foster connectedness for these young people and indeed to improve their health outcomes.

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