This webinar talks about LGBT youth in schools and their relationship with suicide.

PowerPoint Slides (PDF)


Discussion Q&A

Does normalizing LGBT stigma include desensitizing all terminology?

In all conversations that we have with individuals, we try to convey an attitude of acceptance so we ourselves are not conveying stigma. We recognize, though, that stigma is out there in a big way in society and there is only so much we can do about that. One of the nightmares of people who are struggling with sexualities in a society that tends to repress them, is they feel that the only way they can be happy is for other people to change. This is such a powerless feeling. We have to help people see whatever elements things that they need to change within their own spirit, to chunk things down a little bit so it isn’t taking such a big overwhelming presence.

Where can we direct kids to look for help if they don’t want to talk to family, friends or teachers?

Depends on the age if they are able to sit down with a counselor.  Or in the community whatever kind of resources they have who may be able to support the person.

How do you support young children when they are identifying as the opposite sex?

The key element here as always, has to do with the parents. What kind of attitude of acceptance do we get from the parents? The idea seems to be to first of all not draw excessive attention to it. There is all kinds of research that says children will cross identify and later in adolescence will revert. Try not to draw attention to it and let it play itself out.

What approach is needed to change the culture of a school to accept students who are LGBT?

One of the big things that is having a lot of impact is the gay straight alliances.  There is very good research that came out of British Columbia, that you don’t see the results until around the 3rd year. It is then that you see the culture changing.

If bullying is a general problem, is it better to address it that way or as GSA suggested?

Do we want to focus on the sexuality element and risk stigmatizing or do we focus on the bullying aspect?  I am not going to speak as an expert on this, my instinct is, I would do both for starters, I think GSAs are a great idea. But I would look at bullying as a behavior, so I think both, but I would be looking at bullying in general.

Further Reading


Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans People and Mental Health

Bully Free Alberta

Canadian Crisis hotline for transgender youth

Trans Equality Society of Alberta

In preventing Trans Suicide, ‘We have a long way to go’ – NPR 

Trans Lifeline


Birkett, M., Espelage, D.L. & Koenig, B. (2009). LGB and questioning students in schools: The moderating effects of homophobic bullying and school climate on negative outcomes. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 38 (7): 989-1000.
LGBTQ students are often at great risk for negative outcomes like depression, suicidality, drug use, and school difficulties. Schools have the ability to lessen negative outcomes for LGBTQ students through creating positive climates and reducing homophobic teasing.

Cover, Rob. (2012). Queer youth suicide, culture and identity: Unliveable lives? Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company.
Understanding the cultural context in which suicide becomes a necessary escape from living an unliveable life is the key to queer youth suicide prevention. Uses cultural theory to outline some of the ways in which queer youth suicide is perceived in popular culture, media and research.

Hatzenbuehler, M.L. & Keyes, K.M. (2013). Inclusive anti-bullying policies and reduced risk of suicide attempts in lesbian and gay youth. Journal of Adolescent Health 53 (1): S21-S26.
Inclusive anti-bullying policies may exert protective effects for the mental health of lesbian and gay youths, including reducing their risk for suicide attempts.

McAndrew, S. & Warne, T. (2012). Gay children and suicidality: The importance of professional nurturance. Issues in Mental Health Nursing 33: 348-354.
Being gay is not inevitably linked to mental illness, but growing up gay in a heterosexist society can compromise mental well being. One shared experience that emerged was “knowing and not knowing” – providing valuable insights regarding the importance of providing professional nurturing of gay children.

Mayberry, M. (2012). Gay-straight alliances: Youth empowerment and working toward reducing stigma of LGBT youth. Humanity and Society 37 (1): 35-54.
“GSAs successfully empower their members on a psychological level to “speak out” […] but are limited by the fear of parental and community resistance. […] Efforts to engage in activist projects […] are constricted.” p.35. Proactive strategies for GSAs are suggested on p.50 ff.

Olson, R. (2012). Gay and suicidal: Sexual and gender minorities and suicide. Retrieved May 6, 2014 from

St. John, A., Travers, R., Munro, L., Liboro, R., Schneider, M. & Greig, C.L. (2014). The success of gay-straight alliances in Waterloo Region, Ontario: A confluence of political and social factors. Journal of LGBT Youth 11 (2): 150-170.
Discusses how the confluence of government and school board policy and community agency support facilitates the implementation, maintenance, and success of GSAs.

Suicide Prevention Resource Center. (2011). Suicide and bullying: Issue brief. Newton, MA: Suicide Prevention Resource Center. 8p. Retrieved May 6, 2014 from
Examines the relationship between suicide and bullying among children and adolescents, with special attention to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth.  It also explores strategies for preventing these problems. 

Suicide Prevention Resource Center. (2008). Suicide risk and prevention for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. Newton, MA: Education Development Center, Inc. Retrieved May 6, 2014 from

Taylor, C. & Peter, T., with McMinn, T.L., Schachter, K., Beldom, S., Ferry, A., Gross, Z., & Paquin, S.(2011). Every class in every school: The first national climate survey on homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in Canadian schools. Final report. Toronto, ON: Egale Canada Human Rights Trust. Retrieved May 6, 2014 from

Toomey, R.B., Ryan, C., Diaz, R.M. & Russell, S.T. (2011). High school gay-straight alliances (GSAs) and young adult well-being: An examination of GSA presence, participation, and perceived effectiveness. Applied Developmental Science 15 (4): 175-185.
Examines the potential for GSAs to support positive youth development and to reduce associations among LGBT-specific school victimization and negative young adult well-being. The presence of a GSA, participation in a GSA, and perceived GSA effectiveness in promoting school safety were differentially associated with young adult well-being.

Walton, G. (2004). Bullying and homophobia in Canadian schools: The politics of policies, programs, and educational leadership. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Issues in Education. 1 (4). 23-36.
Homophobia tends to be absent from public discussion, anti-bullying programs, and so-called safe schools policies. Educational leaders are challenged to initiate and support measures to confront homophobic bullying, even against certain opposition, in order to promote safety for all students.