Could The Rise Of Bullying Against LGBT Students Be A Good Thing?

During a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division Thomas Perez voiced support for Minnesota Democratic Senator Al Franken’s “Student Non-Discrimination Act,” a bill that would “end bullying in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.” That’s an ambitious but good goal.

Perez said we need the law because “the bullying of kids who are LGBT is probably the largest growth area in [the DOJ Civil Rights division docket],” adding, “this is an emerging growth area, I regret to say.” And that’s bad… right?

Depends on how you look at it.

In one way, even though LGBT kids are getting bullied more often, the fact that the DOJ recognizes it as an “emerging growth area” might signify the following positive trends:

1) More and more LGBT students are coming out as a result of a growing comfort with being out in American culture.

2) Schools, students, and parents have done a better job reporting anti-LGBT bullying to school administrators, state boards, and eventually the government. This suggests that GLSEN, PFLAG, GSAs, the It Gets Better campaign, and the media have all done a good job educating people about this issue.

3) Government agencies (and not just LGBT orgs) have begun collecting more data on LGBT bullying, something that will be harder for future administrations to ignore.

Of course, the rise in LGBT bullying could also mean that more younger bullies have been influenced by the virulently anti-gay campaigns 2004 and statewide anti-gay referendums ever since, though without any hard data we’ll never know for sure. Bullies aren’t known for wanting to participate in studies analyzing why they’re such assholes.

Nevertheless, when asked about the benefits of LGBT hate crimes laws like the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, Perez said:

“It has “transformed our ability to combat hate crimes in remarkable ways. One of the really remarkable and helpful ways that this has transformed our government is that is has facilitated additional cooperation with state and local authorities. We’ve trained over 4,000 local law enforcement officers. I have participated personally in many of them. Our message is this: this is not a law simply for the feds, this is everyone’s law.”

Perez said he doesn’t measure the success of the law by the number of federal prosecutions of hate crimes, but in terms of whether it has prevented crimes…

His words not only confirm our suspicions that hate crime laws ensure a prompt and thorough investigation by police—rather than serving merely as a deterrent to would-be bashers—but it also makes us wonder, have hate crime laws really reduced hate crimes against LGBTs?

Going by last year’s statistcs, it would seem not.

Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #bullying #civilrights #hatecrimes stories and more


  • QJ201

    4) Over the last decade or so, there have been numerous (successful) lawsuits filed against school districts for failing to protect LGBT students.

  • Kev C

    Law enforcement in the US is primitive. Total hate crimes reported in the US is about 7500 per year. But in Britain, it’s 50,000 per year. Obviously Britain is much bigger than the US.

  • the crustybastard

    Perez said he doesn’t measure the success of the law by the number of federal prosecutions of hate crimes, but in terms of whether it has prevented crimes…

    Right. Because the number of federal prosecutions of LGBT hate crimes is ZERO.

    But he can fantasize it’s prevented a HILLION BAJILLION crimes, then pat himself on the back for a job well done.

  • Brand

    This morning’s thread about the 14-year-old boy Phillip who killed himself in Tennessee asked what could we do to work against this trend. Well, getting these news stories out there about the alternatives, about the legislation passed in their favor, about the people going to bat for them, and about the successful cases brought against school districts was one of my suggestions. (Long post got lost!) So while I trashed Daniel Villarreal up one side and down the other a week ago, I commend him for this article and encourage him to follow up with more details about these successful cases.

    LET A BULLIED GAY TEEN READ ABOUT SOMEONE WHO WAS THERE AND GOT THE SYSTEM TO TAKE NOTICE AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! That’s the kind of “It Gets Better” some of these kids need to happen for them. I’d like to see therapists and lawyers willing to travel to these kids’ home towns, talking to these kids and taking on pro bono cases if they think they’ve got one.

Comments are closed.