Despite an increase in visibility for LGBT teens, school bullying of queer youth is at an unprecedented high, according to a new study.
The report, conducted by North Carolina-based research firm RTI International, analyzed 20 years of data on school bullying, and concluded that the widespread targeting of LGBT youth has “not improved since the 1990s.”
RTI states in the study, Violence and LGBTQ Communities: What Do We Know, and What Do We Need to Know? that “Some forms of victimization, particularly those affecting youth, appear to be worsening,” which “has serious, lifelong impacts on the physical and behavioral health of LGBTQ youth and adults.”
The researchers looked at statistics from 1992 to today that covered a combined sample of 73,000 LGBT youth, making it the largest study of its kind. The results indicated that LGBT students are still two to three times more likely than their peers to be physically assaulted or threatened at school, and that school bullying rates have reached an unprecedented high when it comes to queer students.
“The evidence is pretty clear and pretty unsettling,” co-author of the study, Tasseli McKay, told the Daily Beast. “We want to think that things are getting better. In regards to the victimization that young people are experiencing, the trend is toward victimization worsening, not getting better.”
Young people who are victimized by bullying are significantly more likely to engage in suicide-related behaviors. Another study recently found that the percentage of kids and teens hospitalized for suicidal thoughts or actions doubled over the last decade.
One potential factor causing the recent uptick in bullying is the overall rise in violence against minority groups, including the LGBT community, following Donald Trump’s election.
A survey by conducted by the Human Rights Campaign found that 70% of students had witnessed bullying or harassment in the 30 days following the election. More than a quarter of LGBT students surveyed said they’d been personally victimized.
Trans students face the highest rates of targeting and victimization. The trans community may be having a moment when it comes to visibility and positive media representation, but that visibility is also sparking backlash.
Violence against trans people continues to rise, and at least 16 states are considering anti-trans “bathroom bills” in 2017. Earlier this year, the Trump administration rescinded Obama’s 2016 guidelines on the treatment of LGBT students, which, among other things, encouraged schools to affirm the gender identity of trans students.
“Young people are seeing all kinds of images of LGBTQ people in popular media, in mainstream television, and culture,” McKay told the Daily Beast. “They send a message that it’s OK to be yourself, and yet young people are embedded in local communities where it really isn’t safe yet to be themselves. I think they’re living out the contrast between those two worlds.”