We’ve seen it here in Wisconsin: The risk for LGBTQ youth to be bullied online and in person is significantly increasing. But how does it compare to their heterosexual counterparts? 

This analysis from 2020 is derived from a Spanish study published by Scipedia entitled “Bullying and cyberbullying in LGBT adolescents: Prevalence and effects on mental health” by Maite Garaigordobil Garaigordobil, Enara Larrain Larrain, Maite Garaigordobil and Enara Larrain. Set in the Basque Country of Spain, over 1,700 youths aged 13-17 participated. 

Though it is central to one small part of the world’s LGBTQ population, this study can be interpreted and compared to other experiences outside of Spain. 

This study had two objectives in mind: “Analyze the differences in sexuality (straight/non-straight) compared with the percentage of bullying/cyberbullying; and compare the mental health of adolescent straight/non-straight victims, aggressors, cybervictims and cyberaggressors.”

Essentially, the authors were looking to see whether heterosexuals or non-heterosexuals were being bullied more, which group may be the instigator of such bullying, and how bullying and/or cyberbullying may affect their mental health. 

Let’s get a few of the study’s terms and definitions out of the way before we dive deeper: 

  • Bullying: “…the existence of a defenseless victim, harassed by one or more aggressors, with power inequality, who frequently engage in aggressive behavior towards the victim (physical, verbal, social exclusion, etc.) with the intention of causing harm.
  • Cyberbullying: “…a new type of bullying, which uses information and communication technologies, the Internet (email, messaging, chats, the web, games…) and mobile phones to bully classmates.”
  • LGBT-phobic Bullying: “…bullying motivated by a phobia toward the LGBT population, and homophobia/LGBT-phobia is defined as a hostile attitude of aversion… that considers that a non-normative sexual orientation (homosexual, bisexual, transsexual…) is inferior, pathological…, and that LGBT individuals are sick, unbalanced, delinquents…”

The authors of this study identify non-heterosexual individuals to be a vulnerable population both on and off the internet, therefore connecting “the relationship between suicidal ideation and bullying [being] stronger in gays, lesbians and queers, compared to bisexuals, heterosexuals and those who were uncertain of their sexual orientation.”

One of the results was quite surprising, indicating that the percentage of heterosexual and non-heterosexual aggressors and cyberaggressors was similar,” despite the percentage of victims being higher among LGBTQ youth participants. The youths had also endured a greater amount of aggressive bullying and cyberbullying.

Something else that caught attention was that both LGBTQ victims of bullying and LGBTQ instigators of bullying exerted higher levels of depression, social anxiety, and psychopathological symptoms (somatization, obsession-compulsion and interpersonal sensitivity, for example) compared to their heterosexual peers.

The authors of this study conclude that their findings are in line with others similar in that “the LGBT collective is more vulnerable to bullying and cyberbullying.” However, one thing many studies fail to analyze is the impact it has on one’s mental health. This one here identifies a greater chance for LGBTQ youth to show more symptoms of psychopathological disorders listed above if they had been bullied or cyberbullied.

And it was found here too that non-heterosexual victims have greater anxiety and social phobias than non-heterosexual cybervictims.

One thing that doesn’t need quantitative analysis to understand – and is listed in this study – is that these negative behaviors and aggressions toward LGBTQ individuals is a result of being raised in a heteronormative society. The discriminations LGBTQ people of all ages face is a social construct.

“Children are not born as homophobes; they are modeled since their birth through messages received from their family, school, and social environment,” the study’s conclusion reads. The authors suggest pursuing destigmatization in all three of these by educating about sexual and gender orientation so children can “grow up respecting differences in general and sexual diversity in particular.”

Read the full article here.

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