Teenage is a confusing phase of our lives. With so many physical and hormonal changes going on, it is normal for us to feel emotionally aloof, misunderstood, and confused. Ask any parent of a teenager, and they will tell you how difficult it is to predict their behavior. Have you ever thought of how the LGBTQ teenagers feel?
Sanskari Samaaj and LGBT teenagers
India is a great country, no doubt. It has a rich cultural heritage and a strong foundation of traditions and morals. Acceptance and adaptation are the two most important attributes of cultural evolution. Have we been able to accept the presence of the LGBTQ community?
In the traditional and somewhat orthodox Indian society, it might be difficult to understand the problems of teenagers. In a country where premarital sex and multiple partners are frowned upon, it is extremely difficult to expect empathy towards the LGBTQ teenagers. When such teenagers often lack support from their own families, what can they expect from outsiders?
Bullying at school and college
Bullying in any form is just wrong, but when it comes to LGBTQ teenagers, bullying stoops even lower. It is a known fact that LGBTQ teenagers and those perceived to be LGBTQ are more likely to be victims of bullying at school and college. This applies to self-identified lesbians, gays, and bisexuals, and also to those who are perceived to be so. The same holds true for teenagers who are not sure of their sexual orientation.
Some ways in which LGBTQ teenagers are bullied include:
- Exclusion from group activities and school trips.
- Mocking them in front of others, in the school setting or outside of it.
- Name-calling and making fun of them.
You might think that only fellow students are aggressive and homophobic. Unfortunately, LGBTQ teenagers face friction not only from other students but also from the staff and teachers. Many students admit to being ridiculed by their teachers who make insensitive remarks. A deplorable scenario indeed!
Online threats and cyberbullying
In the age of the internet, bullying need not only be physical. Cyberbullying is a growing concern among teenagers, especially those who belong to the LGBTQ community. The subtle ways in which cyberbullying is done include:
- Discrimination by means of messages or comments on social media platforms.
- Sharing screenshots of their online conversation with another person.
- Sexting and forcing them to share their pictures.
- Tagging them in derogatory posts and comments.
The impact of bullying
Bullying is a major cause of stress and trauma to teenagers. This is especially true in the case of LGBTQ teenagers. Worldwide studies have reported that LGBTQ teenagers have much more cases of mental issues like depression and anxiety. Partly, it stems from the lack of support at home, but bullying at school and college remains a strong reason.
It is not uncommon for such victims to develop problems in mingling with people, not only during their academic life but also afterwards. Bullied teenagers are much less likely to trust people and have long-term relationships.
To make matters worse, bullied teenagers are more likely to develop self-harming tendencies and resort to substance abuse and addiction. Moreover, the suicide rates among bullied LGBT teenagers are much higher than others, especially if their own family shuns them. (www.stopbullying.gov)
Perhaps the most dangerous outcome of bullying is that victims may become visible to potential sexual predators. Since Indians have not yet accepted and acknowledged LGBTQ as normal, anything that brings such teenagers into notice can be potentially dangerous.
The role of parents
Parents play an extremely important role in our lives. Their role becomes even more crucial in the case of the LGBTQ community. Parents and children must develop a relationship that is based on trust and clear communication. There should be no judgement by the parents when the child confides in them. Open and honest discussions about sex and sexuality should be made before tragedy strikes.
If someone comes to know the sexual orientation of their child, acceptance should be their first reaction. Staying in touch with the child and offering psychological support is absolutely important. Organisations like Naz Foundation, Humsafar Trust, and Mingle are constantly working for the betterment and support of the LGBTQ community in India. Parents should get in touch with such organisations and seek support.
The role of sex education
S.E.X-Three letters that you cannot speak in India without evoking a response from others. We are more than a billion and yet, we don’t have sex education at schools. It is not surprising then, that teenagers are clueless about sex, sexuality and sexual orientations. When they have only half-cooked information, that too, from dubious sources, how can we expect them to empathize with the LGBTQ community?
Sex education is necessary for the sake of developing a sensitivity for the LGBTQ community. Also, it is important because of the alarming rise in sexual crimes in school settings.As mentioned before, acceptance and adaptation are the two main changes that our society needs. Let us all try to normalize the LGBTQ community instead of humiliating, ridiculing and bullying them.