Stereotype of ‘bullied, at-risk’ homosexual youth queried
The Australian, April 21, 2016
An education researcher has queried the stereotype of the “bullied” or “at-risk” homosexual youth, suggesting it is a construction of scientific literature that may be counter-productive.
University of New England academic Tiffany Jones appears to have broken ranks from many colleagues in the field b highlighting the deficiencies of some advocacy-driven research studies, particularly those presenting gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (GLBTIQ) youth as victims of homophobic bullying.
It is an extraordinary admission given Professor Jones’s role as a collaborator on a high-profile research project, the 2010 Writing Themselves In 3 study, which has propagated this view and formed the basis for education policy across the country, including the Safe Schools gender and sexual diversity program.
In a paper published in the Journal of Sex Education, Professor Jones argues that the “bullied GLBTIQ student” is a recent emergence constructed by researchers, many of whom are backed by GLBTIQ networks.
Studies that repeatedly focus on students’ experiences of homophobia, depression or suicidal thoughts have created an “expected narrative” for the GLBTIQ student, she writes.
She singles out Writing Themselves In, led by La Trobe University’s Australian Research Centre in Sex Health and Society, in which she is listed as a co-author, for inviting research participants to list the effects of homophobia on their schooling. Eleven of 13 options offered had negative connotations.
“A stress on victimhood and endangered wellbeing can be supported by research participating processes, whereby students may be repeatedly asked … to describe and express their feelings about experiences of bullying and thoughts of suicide, or to … describe moods,” she writes.
“Research can further emphasise at-risk GLBTIQ identities through recruitment processes privileging support groups and services for struggling youth.
“The methodologies underpinning the representation of GLBTIQ students as at-risk victims constitute a dominant discourse in Western research … and because of their negativity may be starting to impact on the experiences of students.”
The paper, published in 2014, has emerged ahead of the marriage equality plebiscite.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, a proponent of marriage equality, sparked controversy last month when it said the plebiscite would cost $525 million, allocating $20m to an anticipated increase in mental health support services by those hurt by a public debate.
Professor Jones could not be contacted for comment but her analysis has attracted the support of University of Sydney health sciences academic James Athanasou.