Young people growing up lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender in America face tremendous difficulties. Most LGBT students experience discrimination at school and consider their schools to be unsafe and unwelcoming. A hostile school climate affects students’ academic success and mental health. LGBT students who experience victimization and discrimination at school have worse educational outcomes and poorer psychological well-being. Overall, LGBT students are 3 times more likely to miss school, have lower average GPAs, are twice as likely to not plan to go to college, and have higher levels of depression and lower levels of self-esteem.

While it may not be surprising that nearly two-thirds of LGBT students heard homophobic remarks often or frequently at school, it is horrifying that more than half of LGBT students heard those homophobic remarks from school personnel. However, students who could identify supportive school personnel in their schools were less likely to feel unsafe, less likely to miss school, had higher GPAs, and were less likely to not plan on attending college.

In their 2013 National School Climate Survey, GLSEN recommends:

  • Increasing student access to appropriate and accurate information regarding LGBT people, history, and events through inclusive curricula and library resources;
  • Supporting student clubs, such as GSAs, that provide support for LGBT students and address LGBT issues in education;
  • Providing professional development for school staff to improve rates of intervention and increase the number of supportive teachers and other staff available to students;
  • Ensuring that school policies and practices, such as those related to dress codes and school dances, do not discriminate against LGBT students; and
  • Adopting and implementing comprehensive bullying/harassment policies that specifically enumerate sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in individual schools and districts, with clear and effective systems for reporting and addressing incidents that students experience.

As librarians, library assistants, and support staff in school, public, special, and academic libraries, we have the power (and responsibility) to make small changes that could have big impacts for LGBT youth in Idaho. ILA can play a role in facilitating small or big changes in school districts, public libraries, or government. Small actions could include placing a ‘Safe Space’ sticker outside your classroom or office or purchasing a handful of LGBT books for your collections. Big actions could include making a formal recommendation to adopt the Idaho School Boards Association guidelines designed to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.

ILA has declared in its vision statement that libraries exist for the public good, that libraries are gateways to sources of information beyond their walls, and that libraries ensure users have optimal access to diverse ideas, viewpoints, and expressions. As Idaho’s citizens rely upon our libraries, we have an obligation to serve all of Idaho’s citizens.

Check out this new feature of the Library of Congress. It’s called Speaking Out: LGBT Veterans. There are several interviews with LGBTQ veterans and the unique challenges they face.

LGBT Veterans

LGBTQ Resources:

  • Links