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Experiences of Middle Eastern and North African LGBTQ+ Students

In GLSEN’s 20+ years of research, we have determined that schools are not safe or welcoming spaces for LGBTQ+ youth, who consistently face hostile school environments due to their sexuality, gender identity, race, and/or ethnicity. LGBTQ+ youth of color are particularly vulnerable to these discriminatory environments. Until recently, the specific experiences of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) students has not been thoroughly studied, and even less studied are the experiences of MENA students who identify as LGBTQ+.

Here are the key findings from our brief:

  1. More than half (61%) of MENA LGBTQ+ students felt unsafe regarding their sexual orientation.
  2. Nearly half (46.9%) of MENA LGBTQ+ students reported experiencing harassment or assault based on their race/ethnicity.
  3. More than a third (39.8%) of MENA LGBTQ+ students have missed at least one day of school in the last month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable.
  4. MENA students are more likely to experience religion-based victimization than nearly all other racial/ethnic groups. 

Among LGBTQ+ students in general, experiences with anti-LGBTQ+ victimization at school often result in lower school engagement, attendance, and belonging, as well as lowered educational aspirations, such as graduating high school on time. Victimization also results in a lower psychological well-being, lowered self-esteem, and greater depression. MENA LGBTQ+ students are particularly susceptible to victimization due to the intersections of their identity. Racial, ethnic, and LGBTQ+-biases have been found to compound these negative attitudes at schools. 

This report sheds light on one of the most under-researched identities in our country’s school system. It is incredibly important to understand the experiences of Middle Eastern and North African LGBTQ+ students so that we can work toward creating safer, more affirming schools where all students can thrive.