This neglect helps to fuel levels of prejudice, harassment, and discrimination that deny sexual minority and gender nonconforming students their basic rights-such as a free and appropriate public education.Some educators are uncomfortable addressing issues of sexuality in school because of the potential controversy that may be created.Many school districts omit sexual orientation from anti-bullying programs or schoolwide codes of conduct. Although students today are taught that hate speech-such as the use of religious, racial, or ethnic slurs-is intolerable, homophobic name-calling and anti-gay taunts, such as "fag" or "you're so gay," are rampant in most schools and are often tolerated by adults.A climate survey by GLSEN (2001) found that 83% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students experienced verbal, physical, or sexual harassment and assault at school, which is a significantly higher rate than for heterosexual students.LGBT youth can begin to feel different from their same gender peers as early as kindergarten although there is no sexual connotation to those feelings.By the time they reach middle school, most sexual minority students realize that they are physically and emotionally attracted to people of the same gender.
Indeed, these students are among the most vulnerable students in middle level and high schools.
Adolescence can be a stressful period for any youth because of tremendous physical, psychological, and cognitive changes.
Discovering one's sexual identity is an important and sometimes confusing part of this development.
Many youth who recognize that they are gay or lesbian do not engage in sex, and questioning or heterosexual youth may have sex with a person of the same gender without becoming a sexual minority adult.
Deciding whether to come out, and whom to come out to first, can be an extremely painful process.
On the other hand, LGBT youth who do come out face the very real risk of violence, harassment, prejudice, discrimination, and stigmatization.