How Schools In India Can Be Hell For A Kid With An Alternate Gender Or Sexuality

CREAEditor's Note: With #QueerWithoutFear, Youth Ki Awaaz and CREA have joined hands to advocate for safer and more inclusive campuses for LGBTQ+ students and break the silence around the discrimination faced by students who identify as queer. If your college or school has an LGBTQ+ support group, a campus queer collective, or an initiative that’s pushing for a safer campus, share your story!

By Cake Staff:

You know how kids have a knack for pointing out a ‘flaw’ or a ‘difference’ in your body or countenance? Clinical Psychologist Camillo Zacchia says that’s just how they observe and make sense of the world. But anyone who’s ever had to interact with their peers in school will tell you the intent isn’t always so pure. Sometimes, it’s downright bullying. Kids can be cruel, and they know it. But there’s also something about the school environment that can foster that kind of cruelty.

Yesterday, Breakthrough – which runs multimedia campaigns to unpack discrimination against women and girls – held a twitter chat about how school can be hell for kids who face this kind of “othering” and “bullying” not only from their classmates and seniors, but from faculty members and administrative staff. As part of their #StandWithMe campaign, they invited twitter users to share their experiences of the same, and many opened up about their school days:

These sort of rules only further solidify the concept of a gender-binary in the classroom, making it harder for kids who are trans, non-binary or gender-queer to have a healthy view of themselves and their identities. But schools and staff reinforce the gender-binary in harmful ways even for cisgender children, from slut-shaming:

To unreasonableness:

To just downright sexism:

And it only gets worse when there is a reluctance to even talk about sex or gender, period!

Creating such a stern, restrictive, and foggy binary-based atmosphere also has a negative impact on kids who are queer, or struggling with their gender or sexual orientation. When all conversations are constrained by a heteronormative outlook – from jokes shared between students, to remarks made by teachers – it sets the grounds to ostracise children who are seen as ‘different.’ Everything from your haircut, to how you carry yourself, to your personal interactions is deeply scrutinized, and then judgement is passed:

When it’s the “fat guy” or the “queer kid” or the “quiet girl” getting picked on, you can be sure it’s all coming from a place of learned prejudice and an aversion to accepting difference. If these toxic attitudes aren’t checked in school itself, the bullies get off easy, and the bullied must deal with exclusion, and with mental and physical harassment. It is not a coincidence that suicide rates among LGBTQ youth in India are high. It is not a coincidence that such few trans students are enrolled in higher education. The seeds of discrimination are sewn early in a child’s life, and the way a school responds or doesn’t respond to their needs it crucial.

By the time we’re in college or university, we become a little more attuned to bullying or harassment. In fact, we may even have thicker skins, and a confidence instilled by the presence of a complaints system. But for kids in school, teasing can cause a undue amount of stress, and can sometimes escalate into rather traumatic situations. We owe it to kids in school to provide a safer, more welcoming environment. We owe them the skills they need not only to stay strong in these situations, but to challenge their aggressors, with the full knowledge that they will be backed up by friends, parents and teachers.

And while all of this is necessary, we should also focus on the source of aggression, as this tweet points out:

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