Proponents of antihomophobia measures have long argued that such initiatives help to protect all students, regardless of whether they are straight or queer. The results of a new study confirms what those advocates have been stating all along.
A study by University of British Columbia researchers, published in the International Journal of Child, Youth, and Family Studies, reveals that Canadian high schools with explicit antihomophobia initiatives, such as gay-straight alliances or antihomophobia policies, have reduced levels of suicide and discrimination than those that do not.
The study analyzed data from the 2008 British Columbia Adolescent Health Survey for grades 8 to 12 from over 450 public schools, which involved 21,708 students.
In schools which had GSAs for three or more years, the chances of homophobic discrimination and suicidal thoughts were less than half among queer students than those at schools without GSAs. Heterosexual students, who also are targets of homophobic bullying, experienced less antigay discrimination in schools with GSAs, and straight male students at schools with GSAs were half as likely to attempt suicide than those at schools without GSAs.
Meanwhile, schools which had antihomophobia policies for three years or more saw notable reductions of suicidal thoughts among youth compared to schools that didn't have one: 70 percent less for gay and bisexual boys, 66 percent less for lesbian and bisexual girls, and 27 percent less for heterosexual boys.
While the researchers stated in their study that the reasons for differences in results between gender are yet to be determined, they theorize that the discrepencies may reflect how homophobic bullying may be more commonly used by males to reinforce gender expectations than by girls.
The research team, led by UBC School of Nursing's Elizabeth Saewyc, had discovered in a study published in 2013 that Canadian high schools with GSAs for three or more years saw a reduction in risky susbstance use by students.