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LGBT students deal with bullying

(China Daily)

10:58, January 06, 2013

Twenty-year-old Bing Feng was a victim of violence at school for years. Words such as "queer", "hermaphrodite" and "sissy" were hurled at him right up to high school.

"I've heard them so often that I'm not sensitive to those words anymore now," says Bing, who gave us an alias to protect his identity. The soft-spoken boy is now a junior at a university in Guangdong province.

He failed to enter the circle of boys because of his meek character and gentle disposition.

"I even considered committing suicide," he says.

At university, life has improved - his classmates don't know about his sexual preference and show him respect.

Bing is not an isolated case.

In April, Aibai Culture and Education Center, and Guangzhou's Associated Gay/Les Campus (AGLC) launched an online survey on school bullying related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

The research covered middle and vocational schools, college and university. Both are non-governmental organizations focusing on LGBT rights.

Among the 421 respondents, 50 percent were female, 47 percent were male, 1.4 percent were transgender. As for sexual preference, 67 percent identified themselves as gay, 12 percent bisexual, 12 percent straight and the balance was ambiguous.

According to the survey, 77 percent of the subjects were victim of at least one type of school bullying because of sexual orientation and gender identity. Nearly 44 percent fell victim to verbal abuse by classmates or teachers, such as name-calling, unkind jokes and ridicule.

The survey shows that 10 percent were victims of direct or indirect abuse, including being forced to behave in a manner against their will, hit, kicked or slapped.

And 7.6 percent of the respondents were victims of sexual harassment, such as being forced to strip and molested.

Bullying negatively affected the academic performance of 59 percent of the respondents, and 41 percent said there were tensions in class.

Xiao He, 24, a postgraduate from a university in Henan, suffers bullying and violence not only from school but also from her family. Again, she has chosen to use a false name when talking to us.

She had a girlfriend at the age of 15, and during the four years they were together, her mother beat her several times a week and even attempted to send her to a mental institution.

"At that time, I was tortured and all I had in mind was ways to kill myself. I tried to jump from a building but was saved. I felt betrayed by the whole world and helpless," she says.

"Life is much better at university, where classmates accept my sexual preference. I want to join some LGBT NGOs to help others and change the current situation," Bing says.

According to Zhu Xueqin, a feminism psychology consultant from Shanghai focusing on gender and sexuality, the issue of bullying LGBT students is gaining attention now because of increasing public awareness.

"They should unite with other sexual minorities to defend themselves against such bullying.

"They need to enhance their self-confidence, both in their studies and in life. Also, they should gain support from families and teachers," she says.

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