One In 10 Students Gay

by - Story: 25703

A Kelowna organization says Central Okanagan schools are unsafe for gay students and has the numbers to back up its claim.

The Indigo Spirit of Awareness Society (ISAS) says up to 10 per cent of the Central Okanagan student population is either gay, lesbian or bisexual and that many of those students do not feel safe in their schools.

The survey was conducted on-line last July. More than 80 people responded -- 40 per cent of them were heterosexual and the ages ranged from pre-teen to up to 30 years old.

Executive Director of ISAS, Paula Miles, says more than 90 per cent of respondents said that things need to change to help make lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and students who are unsure about their sexuality feel safer.

She says homophobic taunts topped the list in the survey.

“Eighty-five per cent of respondents heard derogatory comments, such as that’s so “gay”, “fag”, “homo”, “dyke”, or “lesbo” while they attended school.”

Miles says she knew there was a problem in Central Okanagan schools, but had no idea it was pervasive.

"If students hear these comments on a regular basis, how can any gay or questioning youth feel safe? Under these circumstances, it would be natural to be fearful of anyone learning about their sexuality.”

Miles says the survey only heightened the concern her organization has about students struggling with silence.

"Nearly 20 per cent revealed they knew someone who committed suicide, 37 per cent knew someone who attempted suicide, and 52 per cent knew someone who had considered suicide."

Miles says there's a veil of secrecy about homosexuality in the Central Okanagan community.

"Kelowna is a very conservative area. It has more than 100 churches in the surrounding area which is the highest per-capita in Canada and some of these churches preach that homosexuality is a sin."

Miles adds that as a result of that "veil of secrecy," many gays and lesbians are still in the closet and afraid to come out.

Further details of Miles' survey will be released at a community forum hosted by the Indigo Spirit of Awareness Society Monday January 29, 2007 at the Okanagan Regional Library, 1380 Ellis Street at 6:30pm.

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