July 11, 2013

Fostering a Global Dialogue About LGBT Youth and Schools

GLSEN and UNESCO recently hosted a convening of 24 institutions from around the world that are researching and/or working to address lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues in primary and secondary education and among youth. Senior Director of Research and Strategic Initiatives, Dr. Joseph Kosciw, shares the backstory to this historic event.

In recent years, GLSEN has also seen increasing international attention to the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students in schools, and a growing concern regarding anti-LGBT violence and bias directed at youth as a serious human rights concern and barrier to global development goals. Although most of GLSEN's work has been focused domestically in the United States, we have a history of providing technical assistance to NGOs and university faculty in other countries regarding best practices both in researching school climate issues and in developing programs to prevent and curtail bullying and violence in schools.

UNESCO has recently articulated a need for more research on LGBT students globally, particularly in developing countries, and begun to host new initiatives, including the first-ever international  consultation on homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools, which was accompanied by two related publications: “Review of Homophobic Bullying in Educational Institutions” and “Education Sector Responses to Homophobic Bullying.” Findings from UNESCO’s international consultation suggest that in many countries, civil society organizations have played an important role in addressing homophobic bullying by documenting the extent of the problem, thereby providing the evidence base for both advocacy and program development.

This past year, in the interest of infusing LGBT issues into the international education discussion, GLSEN sought submissions for papers about LGBT students' experiences and homophobic and transphobic bullying internationally for an international education research conference, the World Comparative Education Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina. GLSEN received proposals from NGOs and researchers from more than 15 countries across Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and North and South America. In June, all four of our panel proposals on homophobic and transphobic bullying and the experiences of LGBT students worldwide were presented at the World Congress: 1) school climate, 2) international landscape, 3) supportive educators, and 4) effective interventions. We received a small planning grant from a U.S. foundation for this event and are raising additional funds to enable us to bring representatives of organizations from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Cyprus, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Slovenia, South Africa, and Turkey to the event and our convening. 

To capitalize on the amazing brain power of this global group of activists and scholars, GLSEN, in partnership with UNESCO, coordinated an all day meeting with this group of activists and scholars working in different countries – to strategize about how to coordinate our collective resources and knowledge to reduce homophobic and transphobic prejudice and violence in schools globally.  Some of the core priorities identified for future work included: comparative research study across countries, developing a central repository for global LGBT-related educational resources, and developing a roadmap re: world organizations and their work/funding on school climate and on LGBT issues. We are thankful for the financial support from the Arcus Foundation and IBM that allowed us to begin these conversations and the planning to support a global effort. As someone who is extremely committed to doing research in service of advocacy, I am personally awestruck and empowered by the magnificent research, program and advocacy work that these organizations have been doing to improve the lives of LGBT youth worldwide and to make schools safer and more respectful for all students!


Brian Murphy

About Brian Murphy

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