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TO: Gay And Lesbian Youth Suicide And Related Problems
Presented to The Action Committee Against Violence City of Calgary
For Easier printing: Document in Two Parts!

The Learned Homophobia Of Canadian Youth

A significant amount of social violence results from the hatred many people have acquired for homosexuality and homosexuals. This hatred is taught in many ways to children at a very young age as indicated by the data in The Canada Youth and AIDS Study published in 1988. The following results were obtained from cumulative whole class samples totaling almost 10,000 Canadian adolescents from each of three grade level. Information was also obtained from street youth and first year college and university students, yielding a total of about 38,000 Canadian youth surveyed.

To the statement "Homosexuals should be allowed to be teachers" (43: 73),  the results were:
 

Grade Level
Percent  Agreed
7
33%
9
39%
11
41%

 To the statement "I would be comfortable talking with a homosexual person" (43: 73), the results were:
 

Grade Level
Percent  Agreed
7
18%
9
22%
11
29%

The implications of these results are best recognized when the word "homosexual" is substituted with the name of any minority group. What would we think if, by grade 7, only 33 percent of Canadian adolescents felt that Native people should be allowed to be teachers? If only 18 percent of them would be comfortable talking with a Native, Black, or Jewish person?

One positive result is the decrease with age in anti-homosexual attitudes: about 10 percentage points during adolescence. The change, however, may not related to formal school education because, as a rule, teachers have been silent about homosexuality or they have avoided saying anything positive about homosexuality or homosexuals. If the topic is raised, most teachers will render the feeling that homosexual people are somewhat inferior to heterosexuals.

Subsequent data offers some insight into the positive attitudinal change. It can mostly be attributed to females. To the statement "Homosexuality is wrong" (43: 74), the results were:
 

Grade Level 
By Gender
 % Agreed 
7
Male
Female
52%
37%
9
Male
Female
53%
31%
11
Male
Female
49%
27%

The data indicates that only about three percent of males change their learned anti-homosexual attitudes between the ages of 13 or 14, to the age of 16 and 17. By the age of 19, for males in first year college or university, the percentage agreeing that "homosexuality is wrong" remains at about 50 percent. For females, however, there is a 10 percentage point drop in anti-homosexual attitudes, possibly because more of them find it difficult to condemn gay males for doing the same things girls have been been requested to do by heterosexual males.

[In 1978, when I was working on a graduate study project in part related to learned attitudes, I encountered a major study reporting that attitudes acquired by the end of one's elementary education had not changed to any significant degree by the age of 25. That is, as the above data reveals, and it especially applies to males, if they are taught to be homophobic by the age of 12, they will likely be homophobic when they are 20-years-old. The same may also apply with respect to learned sexist and racist attitudes. The implication of this phenomena, with respect to efforts focused on reducing homophobia or homohatred, is that the needed education must begin in elementary. It must also be highly effective and completed by grade 6. Follow-up education, combined with the integration of gay and lesbian realities in curricula, would then be necessary after grade 6 to produce the understanding required to undo the hatred taught to these adolescents.]
The highest level of homo-hatred is manifested by grade 7 students who are entering adolescence, a period when they will be recognizing or discovering their basic heterosexual to homosexual sexual desires or orientations. For heterosexual youth, there will be problems but, as a rule, their attraction and desire for the opposite sex will be positively acknowledged and approved, and the same applies to their dating activities. Bisexual and homosexual youth, however, will have the opposite experience.

The data presented suggest that about 80 percent of adolescents harbor various degrees of hatred for homosexual people and, if they discovered a homosexual component existing within themselves, they would have an 80 percent probability of experiencing various degrees of self-hatred and  related problems. This outcome is a social construction recognized to be a significant factor in youth suicide problems in which gay and lesbian youth are over-represented.
 

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