Connect with us

Research/Study

Tech companies failing to stop dangerous conversion therapy disinfo

According to the report, “rainbow-washing” particularly aims at the trans community for conversion to cisgender identities

Published

on

Max Huskins/Los Angeles Blade graphic

MONTGOMERY, Al. – Anti-LGBTQ groups “easily” spread dangerous disinformation online about the so-called conversion therapy as tech companies fail to de-platform such content, especially in non-English languages, according to two reports from the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism (GPAHE).

The reports detail that even though conversion therapy is a widely condemned practice, content related it is “distressingly easy” to find through simple searches on various platforms. 

Though searches in English yielded problematic results, GPAHE found that non-English languages, especially Swahili in Kenya, led to much more anti-LGBTQ disinformation. 

“Tech companies say they have taken steps to ban harmful content related to conversion therapy, but they have to do more, especially in non-English languages,” said Wendy Via, president and co-founder of GPAHE and co-author of the report.

The group’s research took place in English and Spanish in the U.S., English in Ireland and Australia, German in Germany, Spanish in Colombia, and English and Swahili in Kenya.

Conversion therapy has been condemned by dozens of medical and psychological organizations, including the American Medical Association (AMA), which also supports a nationwide ban on conversion therapy. 

According to the Williams Institute, LGB people who have undergone conversion therapy are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide. 

Conversion therapy is banned for minors and sometimes adults in seven countries: Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Germany, Malta, France and Taiwan. Both France and Canada outlawed the debunked practice just last month. 

The U.S. has no nationwide ban, but conversion therapy is outlawed in 20 states and more than 100 municipalities in the nation. Partial bans also exist in Mexico, Australia, and Spain.

“Until online searches lead people to only authoritative information about the dangers of conversion therapy, tech companies are complicit in spreading anti-LGBTQ+ hate and disinformation that causes mental and physical harm for individuals, and furthers societal harm,” said Via. 

Generally, Google, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and, to some extent, YouTube have taken steps to curtail conversion therapy information, according to GPAHE’s first report “Conversion Therapy Online: The Ecosystem.” When the group searched the term “conversion therapy” on these platforms, they mostly found trustworthy information, except in Swahili. 

However, in comparing social media platforms, the group found that YouTube’s search mechanism returns disinformation and propaganda more frequently than Facebook or Twitter. GPAHE also said the platform is “rife” with pro-conversion therapy material. 

On YouTube, we point viewers to authoritative sources like the Trevor Project for conversion therapy related searches and remove hateful and harassing content against the LGBTQ+ community that violates our policies,” Elena Hernandez, a YouTube spokesperson told the Blade in an email.

YouTube also provided a listing on background of the platform’s policies:

  • Per our hate speech policy, we remove content promoting violence or hatred against protected individuals or groups, including the LGBTQ+ community. For example, content promoting conversion therapy violates this policy and will be removed
    • In Q3 of 2021, we removed over 44,000 channels, over 114,000 videos, and over 50 million comments for violation of our policy on hate speech.
  • Per our harassment policy, we also remove content that features prolonged name calling or malicious insults based on their intrinsic attributes, including sexual orientation or gender identity.
    • In Q3 of 2021, we removed over 70,000 channels, over 283,000 videos, and over 157 million channels for harassment & cyberbullying. 
  • Additionally, our hate and harassment policies include penalties for creators who repeatedly brush up against the line, including removal from the YouTube Partner Program.
  • Our Community Guidelines apply globally  in every country we operate. More than 20,000 people around the world, including many with non-English language expertise, work to detect, review and remove content that violates our policies.
    • We publish video removals by country in our quarterly Transparency Report – based on the IP address of the channel when a video was uploaded. This isn’t an exact indication of language, but can be used as a loose proxy to demonstrate that we vigorously enforce our policies around the globe, including on non-English content.
    • Note that within the top 10 countries for videos removed, the vast majority are non-English speaking, for example Vietnam, India, and Brazil.
  • Our systems are trained to raise authoritative sources, like news organizations and experts, in search results, recommendations, and information panels for certain sensitive topics. We’re always working to expand and improve these. 
    • For example, searches about “conversion therapy” and “reparative therapy” surface an information panel linking to The Trevor Project.

The company has come under fire in the past for policies surrounding conversion therapy. In 2019, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) revoked its enforcement of Google over an app tied to conversion therapy. At the time, other major companies – like Apple and Amazon – removed the app. 

Google eventually removed the app. “After consulting with outside advocacy groups, reviewing our policies, and making sure we had a thorough understanding of the app and its relation to conversion therapy, we’ve decided to remove it from the Play Store, consistent with other app stores,” the company said in a statement to Axios

Though initial search mechanisms generally didn’t lead researchers to conversion therapy providers, Facebook and Twitter’s algorithms did lead users down a dangerous conversion therapy “rabbit hole” once they found a provider, the report found.

The Blade could not reach Meta (Facebook) and Twitter for comment. 

Last year, a Reuters report detailed how even though Facebook banned conversion therapy, the debunked practice continued to thrive in Arabic. 

“Facebook led me to conversion therapy, and I’m not alone,” said Omar, an Egyptian man who turned to Facebook when he began feeling sexually attracted to other men. He requested Reuters use only his first name because he has not yet come out to his family. 

Though GPAHE’s report did not study Arabic languages, it did find that languages other than English yielded more harmful search results. 

In all languages and countries, GPAHE found that search results from Microsoft’s Bing and Amazon’s Silk and Alexa were “significantly less authoritative.”

“These companies are rarely, if ever, challenged on their search algorithms despite serving hundreds of millions of people worldwide,” the release said. 

GPAHE suggested that Bing and Silk create search algorithms that surface authoritative information. In addition, Amazon should remove conversion therapy providers from the Smile program, the group said.

Both Microsoft and Amazon did not immediately return requests for comment. 

Amazon has had a checkered past with anti-LGBTQ content, especially on its web store. However, the company did stop selling books prompting conversion therapy in 2019.

“It’s time for the major internet and social media companies to wake up to their role in promoting harmful practices and disinformation,” the report read. “Conversion therapy is dangerous. If someone is searching for this material on any internet platform, they should only find authoritative results that document the therapy’s harms.” 

The group also found a “highly problematic” difference between results in English and Swahili in Kenya. Search results in English led to a mix of trustworthy and false information, while results in Swahil lead to material that disparages and mocks LGBTQ+ people and calls conversion therapy repuatable. 

“Even the Wikipedia page in Swahili in Kenya is filled with hateful disinformation,” a GPAHE press release read. 

German search results yielded mostly accurate information about conversion therapy. The group said this was likely due to Germany’s conversion therapy ban and strict hate speech laws. 

“Unlike what GPAHE found in most other countries and languages, Google searches in German for various conversion therapy terms came up almost entirely with authoritative results,” the report read.

However, the group did find one exception in searching “reintegrative therapie.” The search term populated reintegrativethereapy.com, a conversion therapy provider, in all of the first four results. But mostly trustworthy information follows. 

Using terms such as “reintegrative therapy” or “unwanted same-sex attraction” is a common way for conversion therapy providers and proponests to evade safeguards and prompt their content. According to the GPAHE report, such search terms led almost exclusively to unauthoritative and harmful disinformation.

GPAHE suggested that tech companies incorporate the terms “same-sex attraction” and “reintegrative therapy” into the algorithms to increase reliable and safe results.

Another method conversion therapy supporters use is hiding behind a so-called religious imperative or claiming that they are protecting kids, the report said. 

“As conversion therapy providers constantly rebrand their malicious efforts and introduce new terms, tech companies need to keep up to protect their users,” said Via.

GPAHE has sent its report to tech companies and will follow up with each over the coming months. 

GPAHE added that it “hopes that the report will help tech platforms flag or ban harmful material and serve as an additional authoritative resource for those who search for these organizations or conversion therapy information in general.”

Many of the world’s most surfaced conversion therapy providers were detailed in the group’s second report, “Conversion Therapy Online: The Players.” GPAHE specifically laid out 25 organizations and their “sophisticated and extensive” online presence.

The report found that these providers are interconnected and are essentially composed of three major networks: the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity, Core Issues Trust and Exodus Global Alliance. 

These groups have moved into the space, rebranding in a process known as “rainbow-washing,” where they claim to be “friends of the LGBTQ+ community” and feature “younger, hipper, more diverse faces,” according to GPAHE. The groups say they are “victimized by modern society,” co-opting ​​the “language of the LGBTQ+ rights movement to assert liberation for what they call the X-LGBT community.”

According to the report, “rainbow-washing” particularly aims at the trans community for conversion to cisgender identities.

“In recent years, proposed bans on conversion therapy have motivated providers to organize and up their legislative and litigation games,” the report read. “Their activities are bolstered and promoted by powerful social conservative organizations and relatively new X-LGBT groups, such as the Changed Movement, in various countries.”

Of the 25 groups named by GPAHE, 13 were based in the U.S., the most of any country. The states they were located in included Utah, Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Kentucky, California, Missouri, Connecticut, Tennessee and Michigan. 

Other top conversion therapy organizations were located in Northern Ireland, Brasil, Mexico, Germany, England, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Norway. Others did not have a specific location listed. 

In addition to websites, many of the groups were also on Facebook. Some of the anti-LGBTQ organizations were also on Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

“Getting rid of this harmful material online is an important step toward creating a society where LGBTQ+ people are accepted and loved and nobody feels like they want or need to change who they are,” said Heidi Beirich, report co-author and co-founder of GPAHE. “No more hate. That’s the overall goal.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Research/Study

TV news spent just 43 minutes covering anti-trans violence in 2021

Last year marked the deadliest year of anti-trans violence on record, but coverage by corporate TV news networks dropped by 20%

Published

on

Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Alex Paterson | WASHINGTON – A new comprehensive analysis of national cable and corporate broadcast TV news coverage from Media Matters’ LGBTQ Program found that in 2021, networks failed to devote air time to the epidemic of anti-trans violence.

When they did cover the issue –  a paltry 43 minutes across 19 segments – the segments left much to be desired, further highlighting the need for better and more robust coverage.

At least 57 transgender or gender-nonconforming people were killed in the United States in 2021, making it the deadliest year on record for the community. The vast majority of these victims were Black or Latina trans women.

A Media Matters analysis of broadcast news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as cable news coverage on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC found that cable and corporate broadcast TV news networks failed to adequately report on anti-trans violence in 2021, discussing the topic in just 19 segments for a total of 43 minutes of coverage.

Despite a surge in brutality, broadcast and cable TV news spent just 43 minutes covering anti-trans violence in 2021

Corporate TV news networks have clearly demonstrated that they have the capacity to cover anti-trans violence but continuously choose to ignore the subject. Each network has a responsibility to inform their viewers with accurate coverage and finally improve this woeful dearth of reporting.

“More than five months into 2022, we have already seen a push from state legislatures to attack trans lives, while right-wing media outlets – like Fox News – have launched hateful attacks against the trans community. The lack of substantive reporting from national TV news about this violent epidemic further highlights the need for these networks to report accurate information and provide quality coverage instead of letting right-wing media control the narrative around trans identities.”

For the second year in a row, the United States witnessed the deadliest year on record for transgender and gender nonconforming people, with at least 57 individuals killed in 2021. The vast majority of these victims were Black or Latina trans women. Despite this uptick, Media Matters’ latest study documented a 20% drop in the total amount of coverage of anti-trans violence from our 2020 report.

The study analyzed coverage of anti-trans violence for ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC between January 1 and December 31, 2021 and found that:

  • Cable news networks spent approximately 35 minutes covering anti-trans violence in 2021, with the vast majority of coverage airing on MSNBC. MSNBC spent the most time reporting on the topic, with 29 minutes of coverage across 9 segments. This was more than four times as much coverage as CNN and Fox News combined. 
    • CNN covered anti-trans violence for 4 minutes across 3 segments, while Fox News covered it for 2 minutes across 2 segments. 
    • All three cable networks decreased their total amount of coverage from 2020 to 2021.
  • Morning and evening corporate broadcast TV news shows spent 9 minutes covering anti-trans violence in 2021. CBS produced the longest reporting, with 5 minutes across two segments. ABC spent 2 minutes covering the topic in 1 segment and NBC covered it for 2 minutes across 2 segments. 
    • Both ABC and CBS decreased the total amount of coverage from 2020, while NBC stayed the same. 
  • There were some troubling trends in coverage: 
    • The majority of national TV news coverage of anti-trans violence did not include a trans person as a guest, with only 7 of the 19 segments featuring a trans or gender-nonconforming guest. 
    • Only 4 of the 19 segments even mentioned the name of a slain trans person. 
    • Nearly one-third of the reporting on anti-trans violence occurred during LGBTQ Pride Month in June, with these networks covering the topic for 13 minutes in that month. This is a decrease from 2020, when these networks aired 29 minutes total.

Reports from MSNBC accounted for more than two-thirds of this coverage; every other network covered the topic for 5 minutes or less each.

  • Top trends from a year of anti-trans violence coverage on broadcast and cable TV news
    • Cable and corporate broadcast TV news networks failed to adequately report on anti-trans violence in 2021. 
    • From 2020 to 2021, every network’s total amount of coverage of anti-trans violence either decreased or stayed the same, and the quality of this coverage varied drastically across networks. 
    • TV news coverage of anti-trans violence decreased from 54 minutes of coverage in 2020 to 43 minutes in 2021, despite the fact that incidents of violence increased. 
    • Deadly violence against trans people was discussed in only 19 segments; corporate broadcast networks covered the topic for just 9 minutes, while cable networks covered it for 35 minutes.
    • The majority of TV news coverage of anti-trans violence did not include a trans person as a guest, with only 7 of the 19 segments featuring a trans or gender-nonconforming guest. 
    • Only 4 of the 19 segments even mentioned the name of one slain trans person.
    • MSNBC produced the most reports on the topic, with 29 minutes of coverage combined across 9 segments, more coverage than all other networks combined. 
    • CNN covered the topic for 4 minutes across 3 segments, while Fox News covered it for 2 minutes across 2 segments. In comparison, Fox News aired 86 segments about trans people from January 20, the day President Joe Biden took office, through March 18 — primarily fearmongering about trans athletes and lying about best practice health care for trans youth.
    • On the corporate broadcast networks, ABC covered the topic for 2 minutes, CBS for 5 minutes, and NBC for 2 minutes.
    • Nearly one-third of the total coverage came during LGBTQ Pride Month in June, with cable and corporate broadcast TV news networks reporting on the topic for 13 minutes in that month.
  • At least 57 transgender or gender nonconforming people were killed in 2021 — the deadliest year on record
  • In 2021, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) identified at least 57 transgender or gender-nonconforming people who were brutally killed in the U.S., marking the deadliest year on record. The majority of victims were trans people of color; at least 36 of the victims were Black, 34 of whom were Black trans women, and 10 were Latino, including nine Latina trans women. Official records of anti-trans violence only go back to 2008 and likely represent just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to such crimes, as many of the crimes against trans people go unreported or are reported using the incorrect name.The 57 transgender or gender-nonconforming people who HRC reported were killed in 2021 were:
  • Tyianna Alexander, Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín, Bianca “Muffin” Bankz, Dominique Jackson, Fifty Bandz, Alexus Braxton, Chyna Carrillo, Jeffery “JJ” Bright, Jasmine Cannady, Jenna Franks, Diamond Kyree Sanders, Rayanna Pardo, Jaida Peterson, Dominique Lucious, Remy Fennell, Tiara Banks, Natalia Smut, Iris Santos, Tiffany Thomas, Keri Washington, Jahaira DeAlto, Whispering Wind Bear Spirit, Sophie Vásquez, Danika “Danny” Henson, Serenity Hollis, Oliver “Ollie” Taylor, Thomas Hardin, Poe Black, EJ Boykin, Aidelen Evans, Taya Ashton, Shai Vanderpump, Tierramarie Lewis, Miss CoCo, Pooh Johnson, Disaya Monaee, Briana Hamilton, Kiér Laprí Kartier, Mel Groves, Royal Poetical Starz, Zoella “Zoey” Rose Martinez, Jo Acker, Jessi Hart, Rikkey Outumuro, Marquiisha Lawrence, Jenny De Leon, Angel Naira, Danyale Thompson, Cris Blehar, Nikai David, Ke’Yahonna Stone, Za’niyah Williams, Nikki Turietta, Rubi Dominguez, Keeva Scatter, Martina Caldera, and Gerri Judd.
  • In addition to lethal attacks, trans people faced alarming rates of violence in the past year: they were sexually assaulted while incarcerated, stabbedbeaten at workand relentlessly attacked in public. Trans people are disproportionately vulnerable to violence due to discriminatory social factors, such as heightened barriers to accessing health carestable housing, and jobs. A 2021 Williams Institute study found that “transgender people are over four times more likely than cisgender people to experience violent victimization.” In 2022,  at least 12 trans people have been killed in the U.S. so far. This coincides with right-wing media outlets – including Fox News – launching hateful attacks against the trans community, including specific calls for violence. On March 31, Fox’s Tucker Carlson even falsely claimed that trans people face relatively lower rates of violence, lying that in the U.S., “you are a lot better off being trans than being not.” Right-wing outlets have also incessantly lied that trans people are “grooming” children for sexual activity, and trans people in turn have faced real-world harassment and violence, including being publicly assaulted and called a “groomer.”
  • Cable news networks spent 35 minutes covering anti-trans violence in 2021, with the vast majority of coverage airing on MSNBC
  • From January 1 to December 31, 2021, Media Matters reviewed news programming between 6 a.m. and midnight on cable channels CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. During that time frame, cable news networks spent a total of 35 minutes discussing anti-trans violence across 14 segments. MSNBC spent the most time reporting on the topic, with 29 minutes of coverage across 9 segments. This was more than four times as many minutes of coverage as CNN and Fox News combined. MSNBC’s Velshi produced three segments on anti-trans violence throughout 2021, the most of any cable or corporate broadcast news show. CNN covered anti-trans violence for 4 minutes across 3 segments, while Fox News covered it for 2 minutes across 2 segments. Fox News’ 2 segments on the topic were about L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón, who was allegedly blocked from pursuing “gang enhancement” charges against “an alleged MS-13 gang member” who was charged with assaulting a trans woman in Los Angeles.
  • Morning and evening broadcast TV news shows spent 9 minutes covering anti-trans violence in 2021
  • From January 1 to December 31, 2021, morning and evening corporate broadcast TV news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC spent 9 minutes across 5 segments covering anti-trans violence. CBS produced the most reporting, with 5 minutes across two segments. ABC spent 2 minutes covering the topic in 1 segment and NBC covered it for 2 minutes across 2 segments. 
  • The quality of coverage of anti-trans violence varied across networks
  • Key moments and notable trends include
    • From 2020 to 2021, TV news coverage of anti-trans violence decreased from 54 minutes of coverage to 43 minutes. Every network except NBC decreased its total amount of coverage during this time period. NBC’s coverage stayed the same at 2 minutes.
    • The majority of TV news coverage of anti-trans violence did not include a trans person, with only 7 of the 19 segments featuring a trans or gender-nonconforming guest. CBS and NBC each aired 1 segment that included a trans guest, while ABC’s only segment on the topic did not. As for the cable networks, 4 of MSNBC’s segments included a trans guest while only 1 of CNN’s 3 segments did. Fox News did not include a trans guest while covering the topic.
    • Only 4 of the 19 segments — two from MSNBC and 1 each from CBS and CNN — actually said the name of a trans person who was killed in 2021. 
    • Additionally,  during a CBS Mornings segment on the topic, CBS reporter Jamie Yuccas deadnamed Nikki Kuhnhausen, a 17-year-old trans girl who was killed in Washington in 2019. Deadnaming is when someone calls a trans person by their former name – and it goes against journalistic best practices
    • Nearly one-third of the reporting on anti-trans violence occurred during LGBTQ Pride Month in June, with TV networks covering the topic for 13 minutes in that month. 
  • Violence facing the trans and gender nonconforming people deserves robust TV news coverage
  • It is paramount that broadcast and cable networks produce accurate coverage about the record levels of anti-trans violence — and that coverage must actually feature trans voices. That TV news networks decreased the amount of coverage they dedicated to anti-trans violence at a time when right-wing voices are spreading anti-trans hate and encouraging the passage of discriminatory legislation is just one symptom of corporate TV news’ larger failure to adequately report on issues facing trans people. Corporate TV news networks have clearly demonstrated that they have the capacity to cover anti-trans violence but continuously choose to ignore the subject. Each network has a responsibility to inform their viewers with accurate coverage and finally improve this woeful dearth of reporting.
  • Methodology
  • Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream database for all original programming on cable networks CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC and corporate broadcast news networks ABC, CBS, and NBCfor any of the terms or any variations of the terms “transgender,” “trans,” “transphobe,” “transphobia,” “gender identity,” “gender nonconforming,” “nonbinary,” or “gender fluid” within close proximity of any of the terms “violence,” “crime,” “hate,” “attack,” “homicide,” “shoot,” “shot,” “murder,” “death,” “die,” “dead,” “kill,” “stab,” “strangle,” “beat,” or “burn” from January 1 through December 31, 2021, 6 a.m. EST to midnight daily.
  • We also searched for the names of the transgender and gender-nonconforming people who were killed in 2021: Tyianna Alexander, Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín, Bianca “Muffin” Bankz, Dominique Jackson, Fifty Bandz, Alexus Braxton, Chyna Carrillo, Jeffery “JJ” Bright, Jasmine Cannady, Jenna Franks, Diamond Kyree Sanders, Rayanna Pardo, Jaida Peterson, Dominique Lucious, Remy Fennell, Tiara Banks, Natalia Smut, Iris Santos, Tiffany Thomas, Keri Washington, Jahaira DeAlto, Whispering Wind Bear Spirit, Sophie Vásquez, Danika “Danny” Henson, Serenity Hollis, Oliver “Ollie” Taylor, Thomas Hardin, Poe Black, EJ Boykin, Aidelen Evans, Taya Ashton, Shai Vanderpump, Tierramarie Lewis, Miss CoCo, Pooh Johnson, Disaya Monaee, Briana Hamilton, Kiér Laprí Kartier, Mel Groves, Royal Poetical Starz, Zoella “Zoey” Rose Martinez, Jo Acker, Jessi Hart, Rikkey Outumuro, Marquiisha Lawrence, Jenny De Leon, Angel Naira, Danyale Thompson, Cris Blehar, Nikai David, Ke’Yahonna Stone, Za’niyah Williams, Nikki Turietta, Rubi Dominguez, and Keeva Scatter. Martina Caldera and Geri Judd, whose names were added to the HRC tracker after the conclusion of this study, were not searched for.
  • Early police reports and local coverage often referred to victims by their deadnames. We also searched for the deadnames of the 2021 victims but have not listed those names here as deadnaming is a form of harassment.We also searched transcripts in the Nexis database for all of the above terms and names; however, this double-check was limited to news shows airing between 5 p.m. and midnight on Fox News and MSNBC. We were able to search all cable news transcripts for CNN and all broadcast news transcripts for ABC, CBS, and NBC.
  • We included segments about anti-trans violence, which we defined as instances when anti-trans violence was the stated topic of discussion or when there was significant discussion of anti-trans violence. We defined “significant discussion” as any back-and-forth exchange between two or more people about anti-trans violence; we did not include passing mentions. We also excluded teasers, which we defined as short mentions from the host of segments coming up later in the broadcast. We rounded all times to the nearest minute.

********************

Alex Paterson is a researcher for the LGBTQ program at Media Matters, where he has worked since 2019. Alex holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Montana State University and has a background in LGBTQ advocacy, including previous work at the National LGBTQ Task Force.

********************

The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.

Continue Reading

Research/Study

LGBTQ+ college students more likely to pick school away from home

Experiences among LGBTQ students in graduate schools and community colleges followed a similar pattern to four-year colleges and universities

Published

on

Royce Hall UCLA/UCLA Media

LOS ANGELES – A new study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law conducted in collaboration with the Point Foundation, the nation’s largest LGBTQ scholarship fund, finds LGBTQ people were four times more likely than non-LGBTQ people to report having picked a college in a different city or state in search of a more welcoming climate (22% vs. 5%, respectively).

Twice as many LGBTQ people (33%) as non-LGBTQ people (14%) chose to attend a college elsewhere to get away from their families. While in school, LGBTQ students were more likely than their non-LGBTQ peers to experience poor mental health, bullying, and harassment.

Using data from the Access to Higher Education Survey, a nationally representative sample of adults ages 18 to 40, researchers examined the experiences of LGBTQ people who have attended a four-year college or graduate school. A companion study looked at the experiences of LGBTQ people in community college.

In four-year institutions, graduate school, and community college, LGBTQ students were more likely than their non-LGBTQ peers to experience discrimination and violence. One-third (33%) of LGBTQ people at four-year colleges were bullied, harassed, or assaulted, compared to 19% of non-LGBTQ people.

“Despite efforts to find more welcoming environments, many LGBTQ people in higher education face significant negative experiences, which can impact their ability to learn and succeed,” said lead author Kerith J. Conron, the Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and Research Director at the Williams Institute. “Colleges and universities concerned about improving diversity, equity, and inclusion must focus on improving conditions for LGBTQ students.”

“In this current climate, it’s sadly not a surprise to us that institutions of higher learning have a lot more work to do when it comes to making LGBTQ students feel safe, heard, and equally served by their schools,” said Jorge Valencia, Executive Director and CEO at Point Foundation. “Colleges need to make an institutional commitment that clearly communicates support for LGBTQ students. And LGBTQ students themselves must be involved in the process to ensure that policies, services, and infrastructural components are truly effective.”

ADDITIONAL FINDINGS – FOUR-YEAR COLLEGES

Bullying, Harassment, and Assault

  • Nearly one in five (19%) LGBTQ people experienced in-person bullying or harassment at a four-year college, compared to 5% of non-LGBTQ people.
  • 18% of LGBTQ people experienced sexual harassment, compared to 6% of non-LGBTQ people.
  • Among the LGBTQ people who were victimized, only one-fifth (20%) said that their college had an easily accessible, visible, and known procedure for reporting LGBTQ-related bias incidents and hate crimes distinct from generic reporting procedures.

Belonging and Outness

  • Fewer LGBTQ people experienced a sense of belonging at college (72%), compared to non-LGBTQ people (84%).
  • More than half (60%) of LGBTQ people were not “out” as LGBTQ to any of the faculty or school staff at their college and 37% were not “out” to any other students.
  • LGBTQ people were more than twice as likely to have changed their dress, appearance, or mannerisms to avoid discrimination at college compared to non-LGBTQ peers (16% and 7%, respectively).

Mental Health

  • LGBTQ people (35%) were about three times more likely than non-LGBTQ people (11%) to say that their mental health was not good all or most of the time they were in college.
  • LGBTQ people were at least twice as likely as non-LGBTQ people to report that a professional told them that they had a specific mental health problem while in college, including depression (32% vs. 16%), anxiety (33% vs. 15%), and suicidal thoughts (19% vs. 6%).
  • A minority of LGBTQ people reported that their colleges had LGBTQ-supportive counseling services (39%) or LGBTQ-informed health services (30%).

Experiences among LGBTQ students in graduate schools and community colleges followed a similar pattern to four-year colleges and universities.

This study is part of a series of reports that analyze data from the Access to Higher Education Survey:
COVID-19 and Students in Higher Education
Federal Student Loan Debt Among LGBTQ People
Educational Experiences of Transgender People
Community College and the Experiences of LGBTQ People

Read the report

Continue Reading

Research/Study

More than half of Trans students in higher ed report poor mental health

Many face bullying, harassment, assault, and unfair treatment-“It’s clear universities are not doing enough for transgender students”

Published

on

Georgetown University queer students confront anti-Trans protestors (LA Blade file screenshot/YouTube)

LOS ANGELES – A new study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law conducted in collaboration with the Point Foundation, the nation’s largest LGBTQ scholarship fund, finds there are an estimated 218,000 known transgender students ages 18 to 40 in the U.S. of which more than half (55%) say that their mental health was not good all or most of the time while they were in higher education programs.

More than a third (39%) of transgender people experienced bullying, harassment, or assault while they were enrolled in higher education. And nearly a third (32%) of transgender people reported unfair treatment by teachers, staff, or school administrators.

Using data from the Access to Higher Education Survey, a nationally representative sample of adults ages 18 to 40, researchers examined the school experiences and higher education environments of transgender people in four-year colleges and universities, community colleges, and vocational-technical schools.

Results show that transgender people (26%) were three times more likely than cisgender LGBQ people (9%) to say that lifetime adverse treatment at school impacted their academic success.

“Experiences of discrimination against transgender people are not unique to high school,” said lead author Kerith J. Conron, the Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and Research Director at the Williams Institute. “They also occur in higher education settings, where they can have a profound impact on the mental health and lifelong potential of transgender students.”

“It’s clear that universities and schools are not doing enough for transgender students,” said Jorge Valencia, Executive Director and CEO at Point Foundation. “When transgender people are reporting high levels of poor mental health, in part because of their mistreatment at the hands of staff or faculty, it’s time for institutions of higher education to make a change. We are advocating for schools to audit their policies to ensure the protection of LGBTQ students, to ensure LGBTQ people are being listened to and supported by funded programming and centers, among other things.”

ADDITIONAL FINDINGS

Financial Support

  • More than half of transgender people had federal student loans (51%), more than cisgender LGBQ (33%) and non-LGBQ people (23%).

Belonging and Outness

  • Three out of five (59%) transgender people reported a sense of belonging at the higher education institutions they had attended.
  • One in five (21%) transgender people was “out” as LGBTQ to most or all of their teachers/faculty and program staff and 44% were out to no faculty or staff.
  • Almost a third (32%) of transgender people reported being out to no other students.

LGBTQ Inclusion

  • About half (49%) of transgender people reported that LGBTQ issues were part of the curriculum at their school.
  • 39% of transgender people reported the presence of one or more gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.
  • One in five (20%) transgender people reported that they were aware their school had a policy allowing students to change their gender designation on their program records and documents, while 58% did not know if their school had a policy.
  • About one-quarter of transgender students said their school had LGBTQ-competent health (23%) and counseling services (25%).

This study is part of a series of reports that analyze data from the Access to Higher Education Survey. Previous reports examined the impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ students and federal student loan debt among LGBTQ people.

Read the report

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular