Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) 

Violence in schools and other educational settings is a worldwide problem. Students who are perceived not to conform to prevailing sexual and gender norms, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), are more vulnerable. Violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, also referred to as homophobic and transphobic violence, is a form of school-related gender-based violence. It includes physical, sexual and psychological violence and bullying and, like other forms of school-related violence, can occur in classes, playgrounds, toilets and changing rooms, on the way to and from school and online. 

Students who are not LGBT but are perceived not to conform to gender norms are also targets. School-related homophobic and transphobic violence affects students’ education, employment prospects and well-being. Students targeted are more likely to feel unsafe in school, miss classes or drop out. Homophobic and transphobic violence also has adverse effects on mental health including increased risk of anxiety, fear, stress, loneliness, loss of confidence, low self-esteem, self-harm, depression and suicide, which also adversely affect learning.

Most data available on homophobic and transphobic violence focus on bullying. Homophobic and transphobic bullying involves physical bullying (including repeated hitting, kicking and taking, or threatening to take, possessions); and psychological bullying including verbal bullying (repeated mocking, name calling and unwanted teasing) and social or relational bullying (repeated exclusion, gossiping, the spreading of rumours and the withholding of friendship).

Cyber bullying is a type of psychological bullying. It includes repeated threats, criticism or unkind comments or images that are sent using information and communication technology, such as mobile phones, email and social media, including chat rooms and networking sites. LGBTI students can be the targets of other forms of violence, including sexual violence. In addition to these overt acts of violence, also categorized as explicit violence, the education sector as a whole can also produce ‘implicit’ homophobic and transphobic violence, also referred to as ‘symbolic’ or ‘institutional’ violence, which consists of education policies and guidelines that voluntarily or involuntarily reinforce or embed negative stereotypes related to sexual orientation and gender identity, including in curricula and learning materials. This can result in excluding LGBTI students, for example, through school-level policies that deny students the right to express their chosen gender identity, and through measures such as gender-specific uniforms and hair regulations.

Children who are perceived as non-conforming are also more likely to be the target of violence in the community and in their home.

Source: Out in the Open – education sector response to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, Summary Report, UNESCO, 2016