Over half of Spanish LGBT minors suffer bullying at school

Suicide of transsexual teen highlights particular vulnerability of transgender youngsters

A demonstration against transphobia held in memory of Alan.
A demonstration against transphobia held in memory of Alan.J. Barbosa

On December 24, a 17-year-old transsexual from Barcelona committed suicide after suffering bullying at his school, according to his parents. The case has highlighted the problems that LGBT minors face, says Spain’s national federation of lesbians, gays, transsexuals and bisexuals (FELGTB), which claims than half of young members of the LGBT community are picked on at school. Transsexuals, it says, are particularly vulnerable “because they are more visible and this exposes them to greater risk,” says FELGTB chief Jesús Generelo.

FELGTB has no figures on bullying, and draws its conclusions from different reports, all of which say that sexual orientation is the main cause of harassment at school. It attributes this to what it calls a “lack of support” from within the education system, which in the case of the 17-year-old from Barcelona, who has been named only as Alan, contributed to the decision to end his life.

In a survey of LGBT youngsters, 43% said they had thought about suicide, and 17% said they had tried to kill themselves

“It’s terrible that there have to be cases like Alan’s before people wake up to this problem,” says Generelo. FELGTB surveyed around 700 young people who had been bullied because of their sexual orientation: 43% said they had thought about suicide, with 35% saying they had taken detailed steps toward ending their life, and 17% saying they had tried to kill themselves. The survey did not include transsexual minors specifically, but Generelo said this group was particularly vulnerable in schools.

There are no official figures on the number of transsexual minors who have committed suicide over the course of 2015 as a result of bullying, but Generelo says the families of victims will often hide the reason for the suicide so as to avoid further suffering, as well as because this means “coming out of the closet.” Generelo says the FELGTB is nevertheless aware of the problem through teachers and friends of deceased students.

Generelo says a 2007 law on gender identify is insufficient: “We need a law on transsexuality that covers all the bases.” The FELGTB says it will present a draft law on how transsexuals should be treated, from infancy to adulthood, based on legislation introduced in Andalusia that enshrines equal rights for transsexuals.

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Chrysallis, a nationwide association that represents the families of transsexual minors, confirms that Alan suffered bullying at school. It highlights the problems young transsexuals faces, citing the example of a student in Málaga who in 2013, left her school after it refused to accept her as a female and allow her to wear a skirt as part of her uniform. The minor’s parents took legal action, but a regional court closed the case after a three-month investigation.

FELGTB says it intends to end “systematic” discrimination against LGBT minors within the education system and wants awareness campaigns about gender issues to be implemented in schools and colleges. “As long as things continue like they are, we’re going to see more cases like Alan’s,” warns Generelo.

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