"I didn't feel safe to be out": How LGBTQ members deal with bullying

It was a day of bright colors and celebration on Sunday at the annual Portland Pride Parade, dedicated to highlighting all the diverse aspects of the LGBTQ community. The parade caps off Pride Week in the Rose City. (KATU photo taken 6-18-2017 by Tristan Fortsch)

A new study shows alarming rates of LGBT students being bullied in our schools as well as more suicide attempts.

The study comes from the University of Oregon and Oregon Safe Schools and Communities Coalition.

They say different struggles exist within the group that not everyone can see.

Digging deeper into the study and speaking with members of the LGBTQ community, it’s obvious that many struggles still exist.

But, the issues aren’t as blanketed over the whole community, and some have to fight for their safety more than others.

“I didn't feel safe to be out, I really didn't feel safe to admit to myself that I was queer let alone to another human being,” Cass Averill, who came out in the small, coastal town – Reedsport.

But, it wasn’t the biggest struggle he was about to face.

“Being seen out in the world as a transgender person is a whole different kind of, um, it's a whole world; there's all new different considerations that you have to take into account,” Averill says.

Now, identifying as a transgender man, Averill says safety is his number one concern.

“That is not something I had to worry about in the same way when I was younger lesbian-identified, that's not to say that lesbians don't have to deal with that, too,” Averill says.

The “State of Safe Schools Report” says one in five transgender youth report being threatened with a weapon at school compared to one in 10 LGBT students.

“Sexual identity and sexual orientation are really separate,” lead researcher, Julie Heffernan, says.

Heffernan says acceptance is a struggle for everybody, but who you’re attracted to isn’t always visible to the public. Whereas gender identity might present itself in more obvious wasys.

“Their gender doesn't show up in ways that people feel ok with, it's makes people, kids, and adults nervous,” Heffernan says.

Heffernan says gender identity isn’t always understood by the public, even some people in the LGBT community had to educate themselves.

“I consider myself pretty well educated, too, I hadn't met a trans person until I moved here,” Vince Mays says.

Mays says he falls under the big umbrella of the rainbow, but had to discover how gender identity functions.

“I mean even for smart people, trans is a big thing to put your head around,” Mays says.

That’s why people are working to create inclusiveness for trans people that may still not feel safe in the world today. One example being a non-profit in Eugene, Trans*Ponder.

“We’re working a lot more with the systems than with the students themselves,” Oblio Stroyman with Trans*Ponder says. “We’re going in and giving a lot of trainings at different schools.”

And, Trans*Ponder is one of many organizations helping to make public spaces more inclusive.

University researchers are also finding ways to educate teachers on how to feel more comfortable with the topic and helping families cope.

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