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4 October 2007
Anti-Gay Slurs Damage Heterosexuals As Well
by George Atkinson

Middle-school students who are called anti-gay names suffer significantly higher levels of anxiety, depression, personal distress and a lower sense of school belonging, a study in The Journal of Early Adolescence has found. "These results are another indication that verbal bullying in schools should not be tolerated," said Dr. Robert-Jay Green, of the Rockway Institute at Alliant International University. "Unfortunately, anti-gay name-calling is often viewed by adults as part of growing up and is tolerated by school officials, but this study finds the behavior is damaging to all students."

The study found that "being the victim of homophobic name-calling is a serious concern and significantly predicts several negative psychosocial outcomes." Interestingly, the researchers found that there were differences in how each gender was affected. For males, being the recipient of name-calling was significantly linked with anxiety, depression, personal distress, and a lower sense of school belonging. For females, being the object of name-calling was connected with higher levels of social withdrawal.

The researchers speculate that these gender differences may be related to the more general use of name-calling in male groups to establish "dominance hierarchies" (to show "who's boss") and the use of name-calling in female groups to exclude others from participation in activities.

The study recommends that although name-calling may "appear to be harmless banter between friends; teachers and administrators should intervene during these occurrences, and school policies should specifically address and seek to decrease these occurrences."

"Existing research has underscored the traumatizing effects of homophobic victimization for gay and lesbian students, and this investigation suggests that homophobic victimization can also be detrimental to heterosexual students, further underscoring the relevancy of this issue for teachers, administrators, and school counselors," the study concluded.

Related articles:

Victimization Chief Factor Behind Gay Suicides

Source: Alliant International University

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