Gay & Lesbian Services of Western New York

Harassment at School

School has been in session for a few weeks or a few months now. If your school provides a safe and comfortable environment for you as a GLBTQ (the Q is for questioning) youth then you are very fortunate indeed. Most LGBTQ youth have to deal with harassment, threats and often violence directed at them on a daily basis. They hear anti-gay slurs such as “homo”, “faggot”, “queer” and “sissy” about 26 times a day or about every 14 minutes according to studies. Because they are embarrassed, ashamed or are afraid of being targeted they usually do not report the abuse. Instead they try to hide who they are, isolate themselves or skip school. Some studies indicate that as high as 28% will eventually drop out. Their education and their mental health (self esteem, depression, suicidal thoughts and actions) are compromised.

Harassment affects everyone. For every GLBTQ youth targeted for anti-gay harassment four heterosexual youth are targeted for being perceived as gay or lesbian. This affects the overall atmosphere at school and therefore the learning environment. It’s difficult to impossible to attend to a class when you are thinking about what just happened in the hall or at your locker or in the john or you are worried about what will happen when the class is over.

Despite significant progress in recent years schools continue to give too little attention to or ignore the issues and as a consequence promote homophobia which can lead to harassment and violence. Some positive movement has occurred in the City of Buffalo schools. City Honors has a Gay/Straight Alliance. The Buffalo Board of Education voted to accept an anti-discrimination policy related to gay and lesbian staff and students in the Buffalo schools. GLYS exists in large part to provide safe space where GLBTQ youth can be themselves and to provide a resource to schools on topics of importance to GLBTQ youth.

If you are a direct target of harassment at school you do not have to suffer in silence or remain helpless. Here are some ideas:

  • If your parents are in tune with you let them know what is going on. If you are close to a teacher, talk to him or her. If not, talk to the guidance counselor.
  • Don’t remain isolated. Connect with other GLBTQ youth through GLYS or online.
  • Use the Internet for information and support, including the GLYS website. Use a search engine like and type in gay youth,schools to search for a list of links to relevant sites.
  • Email this site with your concerns or success stories. You may have a school specific story that can be of help to other youth.
  • Connect with GLYS. In addition to the Drop-in Center, we also offer monthly groups in outlying areas. Need something like that where you are…let GLYS know.
  • Read! Many fiction books about GLBTQ youth have been published since 2000. Under “Resources” on this site you will find a list of them as well as “safe” book stores.

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