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Out of the Margins key findings: education - Out of the margins


By Out of the Margins Network

Last month we published the Out of the Margins report, which explores the discrimination faced by lesbians, bi women and trans (LBT+) people worldwide. Today, we’re sharing some key findings from the education chapter of the report.

Norms, stereotypes and myths

Researchers in Montenegro and Argentina explored the role that norms, stereotypes and myths play in school environments. The author of the Argentina report noted that:

‘The heterosexual nuclear family is usually presented as the only model not only in the classrooms, but also in textbooks…resulting in the invisibility of rainbow families in schools.’

There was a similar picture in Montenegro, where students showed strong support for traditional, binary gender roles. Many thought that alternatives were unacceptable, abnormal and/or sinful. For example:

  • 86 per cent of high school students surveyed think men should be masculine, and 88 per cent think women should be feminine
  • 50 per cent of respondents believe that trans people are ‘mentally disturbed’
  • 30 per cent agreed with the statement ‘transgender people commit a sin if they live in the gender they feel, instead of the gender they were given at birth’.

It makes for disturbing reading to find that these views are so deeply rooted and presents a clear call for an urgent response to address these so called ‘norms’.

Role of teachers and schools in creating safe environments

Both studies emphasised the crucial roles that teachers and administrative staff play in creating safe and inclusive environments for LBT+ communities – and the problems when these people fail to act with  students not feeling safe to raise concerns as evidenced in the report:

‘Despite the existence of school teams for protection against violence […] the school administration and professional services did not provide them with adequate support. Most respondents have never approached a school educator, psychologist or [the] school administration.

The reasons why they did not turn to the professional service were: mistrust, fear of revealing their identity, fear of their parents not knowing their gender identity or sexual orientation, and lack of accessibility to the support systems provided by schools for students.’

In South Africa, research showed a pattern of children and young people not being allowed access to spaces (e.g. bathrooms, changing facilities) and ways of expressing themselves (names, clothes) that reflect their gender identity and expression. These rules and patterns, which are likely to be set at school policy level, are then upheld by teachers. It was found that:

  • 78 per cent of trans and gender-variant children and teenagers choose to not use the bathrooms at school unless it is an emergency
  • Seven out of 10 trans and gender-variant children and teenagers do not play sports at school
  • Seven out of 10 trans and gender-variant children and teenagers have unsupportive teachers at school.

Exclusion, violence and bullying

In Montenegro, 60 per cent of high school students think trans people should have the same rights as everyone else, and most recognise physical violence is a reality for gender non-conforming children and young people. However, exclusive and disrespectful views, and the framing of trans people as a ‘threat’, for example, are widespread even when students expressed broad support for equality. For example:

  • 56 per cent of students surveyed said it would ‘not be easy’ (and 48 per cent thought it was ‘unlikely’) for them to continue being a friend to a trans person
  • 33 per cent think trans people should not use a toilet that corresponds with their gender identity
  • 46 per cent believe trans people ‘violate the tradition and culture of our society’.

Trans and gender non-conforming students in Montenegro provided various testimonies of violence, exclusion and bullying. As one student recounted:

‘The biggest violence I experienced was being locked up in a toilet at home with a group of three guys and two girls, who had been abusing me for about 45 minutes, telling me everything and everything – from the name I was given at birth to ‘freak’, ‘sick man’, ‘faggot, ‘lesbian, ‘he needs to kill you’. As I tried to open the door to see what it was about, one of the guys hurt my finger on my left hand, my finger was broken.’


The research projects undertaken as part of the Out of the Margins project are further evidence of the widespread and incredibly harmful types of exclusion LBT+ people may face in the education system. As researchers in Montenegro summarised, it’s crucial to recognise the links between victimisation in school and wider experiences of exclusion and violence in the community:

‘Many young trans people are often in a situation of experiencing high levels of peer violence in schools… which often results in dropping out of the education system, further marginalising them in their chances of finding adequate employment. Young trans people are [also] at significant risk of… abuse, self-destructive behaviour, and suicide, as well as verbal and physical abuse in their families.’

Out of the Margins used the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to guide their research. These include the right to quality education for all. This report makes clear exactly how crucial it is that the SDGs are met, and the difference it will make for LBT+ people when they are. For more information, and to read the whole report, click here.

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