Results of my survey about people’s high school experience

The total number of people who completed the survey was 67. 39 of those people (60%) are in their 30’s. 14 of them (22%) are in their 40’s, and 6 of them (10%) are 25-20. 3 people are in their 50’s and 2 people are 18-25. 1 person is in their 60’s. 2 people chose to skip this question, which sort of baffles me.

52% of the people who completed the survey identified as straight, meaning 48% of people identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or something else. 6 people selected “other” and of these, 3 people chose to identify as “queer” and 2 people identified as having been lesbian in the past (“hasbian alli with bi leanings” and “Fallen lesbian (lapsed lesbian?)”). 1 person identified as “unknown.” Of the lgbt-identified people, 8 people identified as lesbian, 8 as gay, and 9 as bisexual.

In terms of people’s gender identity in high school, 35 people (55%) identified as female, while 18 people (31%) identified as male. 5 people said they were “female but kind of butch” and 2 people said they were “male but kind of effeminate.” 2 people identified as genderqueer and 2 people said “other”. Of those “other” people, 1 said “bisexual” which doesn’t make any sense, and the other said “uncertain.”

Here’s where it starts to get interesting. 35 people identified as straight, but only 18 (29%) of those people said they had never questioned their sexuality. 19 of the LGBT-identified people said they came out after high school. 9 people said they came out when they were in high school, and 1 person said they came out before they were 13. But that’s only 28 of the 30 people who said earlier that they identified as LGBT. Also, only 1 straight person said they questioned their sexuality in high school, while 9 people said they questioned their sexuality after high school. Added to the other 18 non-questioning straight people makes up 28 of the 33 people who originally identified as straight. So we turn to the “other” category for some clarity. 2 of the “other” people did turn out to be LGBT: One said “LGBT- Came out after I dropped out of high school” and the other said “LGBT, but never “came out” since people pretty freely experimented, dated whoever, etc.” Five other people essentially identified as straight with a little gay around the edges. One said “Straight-questioned at age 30” while another said “Not questioning, not sexually interested in women, but I enjoy looking.” Still another person said “Straight. Questioned my sexuality between 10-13ish” and a fourth person said “Been questioning since I was 17 or so. Currently in a long-term relationship w/man.” A fifth person said “Straight – Never really questioned it, but considered experimentation.”

The next question moves into people’s experiences in high school itself. Of the 61 people who answered the question about whether they were bullied, 39 people (58%) said they were teased or called names. This lends some empiral evidence to the suggestion that bullying is a much bigger problem than just lgbt youth. Only 19 people (23%) said they had never been bullied at all. 14 people (17%) said they had been subject to humiliation, and 8 people (10%) said they had been beaten up. Two people who checked “other” noted that they were physically beaten but “fought back and won”, one of whom identified themselves as lgbt. A fifth person said they were teased or bullied in middle school, but not high school.

The question about the reasons people were bullied appears to have been one that was either phrased poorly or made people uncomfortable. A full 43 people skipped this question, meaning the results I have here at based on only 22 people who answered. I’d like to hear from people why they skipped it, because I am thinking of doing a follow up survey trying to better address what I was trying to understand with this question.

But of the 22 people who did respond to this question, people marked “other” more than any other option – 23 times (38%), in fact (this is one of the quesiton for which people could mark more than one option). 9 of the “other” people said they were teased for being smart, being a “nerd” or for getting good grades. 4 “other” people said they were teased because they dressed differently. 15 people (23%) said they were teased or bullied because they weren’t feminine or masculine enough, Only 10 people (17%) said they were bullied because of their sexual identity or perceived sexual identity. 7 people (12%) said they were bullied because of their percieved attractiveness. 3 people (5%) said they were teased because of their race or ethnicity and 3 people said they were teased because they were poor.

In response to the question about activities people participated in, this was fascinating. It is my belief that the arts are healing, and perhaps I am surrounded in a self-selecting way by other people who feel the same way I do, but I was surprised how many people said they participated in arts-based activities in high school. This was by far the activity more people picked than anything else – 45 people (43%) selected this one. Second most popular was spiritual/religious activities (16 people, 15%) and after that it was sports or cheerleading (13 people, 13%) and political organizing (12 people, 12%). Three people said they played role playing games, and 3 people wrote in non-political volunteer work as their activity. 3 other people also wrote in academic clubs (Spanish club, newspaper, etc) and 2 people mentioned listed Girl Scouts. It is worth noting that 17 people skipped this question and 50 people responded.

I asked about religious background because of the damaging role religion can play in glbt adolescents lives. It can also be very damaging in striaght adolescent girls’ lives – especially the straight teenage girls who are coerced into having a child after being actively discouraged, forbidden, or denied birth control. 21 of 66 people (32%) said their families were not at all religious. 19 people (29%) said their families gave them mixed religious messages. 12 people (18%) said they belonged to conservative religious institutions growing up, while 10 people (15%) said they belonged to open and affirming religious groups growing up. 7 people checked “other” and of these folks, 2 of them identified themselves as loosely Catholic. One person said “my mother was actively hostile towards organized religion” and one person said “way too complicated for a check mark.”

I was deeply saddened by question 9, which asked whether people had some adult in their life growing up who they felt loved them unconditionally. 21 out of 65 people (23%) said they did not have an adult like that at all. Considering I think this is the most basic, fundamental love a parent can give their child, knowing that a full fourth of the people who answered this survey didn’t feel like they got it – from anyone! – is deeply troubling.
16 people (18%) did say they felt they got it from both or all their parents, and another 16 people said they got it from a teacher. 13 people (14% said they got it from an extended family member, and 13 people said they only got unconditional love from their mother or stepmother. 7 people (8%) said they got unconditionality from a sibling, and only 4 people (4%) said they got it from just their father or stepfather. 1 person said they got it from “chosen family, adults in the queer community.”

In part two of my results, I will share some of the 48 write-in responses I received to the last survey question. Stay tuned! Thanks to everyone who participated.


~ by realsupergirl on November 7, 2010.

6 Responses to “Results of my survey about people’s high school experience”

  1. I will say I had a lot of trouble answering some of these questions. For example, what does it mean to ‘question’ one’s sexual identity? I don’t mind outing myself a bit – I put that I questioned my identity in the 10-13 range. But I knew I was attracted to girls. I just had so many people assume I was gay I sort of wondered if they picked up something about me that I didn’t (nope). Basically I had never been attracted to a man, but was bright enough to wonder whether that wasn’t cultural conditioning.

    On the whole, as complicated as it would be to tabulate, I think this type of survey would be better with open ended essay-type questions rather than offering choices.

    • Mike, thanks for your comment. I think your response echoes many of the responses I got, which point to a sexuality which is much more fluid. It’s NORMAL for people to question their sexuality, especially in adolescence when our identities are so in flux and we’re so affected by what other people think of us. Hence, only a relatively small fraction of the people who filled out the survey said they had never questioned their sexuality, including many people who identified as straight.

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  3. I think this was an admirable feat. I don’t mind taking surveys, but I never really understood the objective of this one…and why it was distributed to such a small subset of people, i.e. your close friends and acquaitances. During the survey’s run, you posted how you couldn’t believe how few of your male lgbt friends had taken it. So, I decided to take it. But our hesitation was likely because we wondered – as much as we love you – whether it would be conducted objectively and without judgment. I think the results are incredibly intersting, and I look forward to reading more, but I hope when you report on Phase 2 (the open-ended responses) you do so as a detached scientist who has no connection to her subjects…just observations. No judgment. No pity for those who may not have experienced the best of childhood circumstances. No voiced confusion over an answer, no matter how confusing may have been. We put our hearts out there for you as best as we could and from as comfortable a place as we could muster.

    When you said how saddened you were that so many of use did not receive “unconditional love,” I immediately wanted to defend my parents. That concept is so loaded and can be perceived many ways. I can’t remember what I answered, but I never questioned the love or nurturing I received from my parents. They were and are still deeply devoted to their children. In our profoundly religious household, I knew that my parents would always love me and wound never turn their backs on me. But I knew their religious beliefs would make it extrememly difficult to accept my gayness without trying to “fix” it. In this way – and only in this way – was their love unconditional. That is what is difficult for many of us. We probably had to check that box knowing what good people our parents or other adult guardians were but not wanting to make them come across as uncaring. I hope I explained as much in the open-ended section. My memory fails me.

    My parents struggled with the fact that they had a gay son almost as long as I struggled with affirming I was gay. I just happened to arrive at the affirmation a decade before they did. Coming out is a process for them as well. They never bullied me directly, but they showed their distaste for other lgbt’s in my presence before I came out to them. I also showed my disgust. I didn’t even give myself unconditional love. I am rambling. I would be interested to see the results of a survey that questioned former bullies or parents of bullied children or parents of lgbt children…

    Please, again, for your friends, report the rest of these results with a level of detachment. BTW…we all love you…

    • A.J. Monroe, I appreciate your feedback. Although, I can’t quite figure out who you are…you seem to be using a pseudonym I’m not smart enough to crack…

      I wondered about including my own thoughts and emotional reaction to some of the data. I chose to do so because I decided I was doing this for me, and for people who read my blog and follow me on FB, all of whom are friends of mine. Not a research journal, where obviously I would be more detached and scientific in my approach.

      But I meant no judgment, and I appreciate your thoughts about how complicated the question of “unconditional love” really is, how nuanced and layered any answer to the question I posed in the survey must be.

  4. I love you, Eve, and I love how reflective you are! And since at least several of the people who follow your blog and would participate in this conversation would absolutely know who I am, I prefer to remain anonymous on this subject. On others, I’ll absolutely be myself.

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