In September, Swiss residents said yes to marriage for everyone. A year ago, she agreed to change the law to criminalize homophobia. We often imagine the new generation to be more flexible in terms of gender and sexuality. However, young men can also be particularly hostile when someone departs from masculine and feminine norms.
Lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are almost twice as likely to be victims of harassment and five times more likely to experience sexual assault during their training. This is evidenced by a study conducted by the University Center for General Medicine and Public Health (Unisanté), the results of which were presented in Lausanne this Tuesday, the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
The researchers studied the experiences of 1,817 people in post-mandatory training – vocational or in a gymnasium – in 2017, in canton Vaud. These results are supported by more recent data. The LGBTIQ, which was conducted in 2021 among 3,000 people in Switzerland, also noted more experiences of violence among LGBT youth, most of whom prefer not to reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity at school.
One in six people is not just heterosexual
Of the people surveyed by Unisanté, 16.5% said they are gay or bisexual. And 1.3% declare themselves transgender, or are interrogated. Gay boys are particularly vulnerable, with 4.5 times more intimidation, insults, and threats than their heterosexual peers. “Violation of gender norms is still considered less fortunate for a boy. So this is an important reason for harassment in the home. However, girls remain the most victims of harassment, regardless of their sexual orientation,” notes Rafael Pease, Physician and co-author of this study. Young lesbians reported four times more sexual assaults than others.
LGBTQ youth are also, in general, in poor health and more likely to consume alcohol and psychotropic drugs. They are more likely to report experiencing symptoms of depression (58% of gay and lesbian and 67% of transgender people, compared to 36% in the general population). About 15% of the transgender youth surveyed reported being harassed every week during their training. And 11% of them experienced sexual violence.
Daily stress causes discomfort
“These figures, unprecedented in Switzerland, confirm a very worrying situation. The discomfort or consumption of LGBT youth has long been wrongly attributed to their sexual orientation or gender identity. We now understand that the reason is primarily the daily stress associated with the fact of belonging to a minority that does not They are still deeply stigmatized, in an age when they are building their identity,” says Rafael Pez.
Another element analyzed by the researchers: Violence often does not target sexual orientation or gender identity per se, but rather a lack of fit with norms: “What bothers, above all, is the blurring of certainty as to what a man or a woman is. There is a kind of normative pressure exerted among young people ”, confirms Rafael Pez.
However, one might think that an increased view of a shifting identity goes hand in hand with more tolerance in schoolyards. “The fact that we talk about it more in the media does not make life easier for the young people involved. The causes of discrimination are deep-rooted, and recent developments are no match for decades of disapproval. We also note the phenomenon of backlash: the increased visibility of LGBT people leads Exacerbating the negative feelings of a part of the population towards this minority.
The researchers concluded that there is a need to continue the work done in school to prevent violence and improve the health of transgender, gay and lesbian youth, where school climate and family are key “protective factors” for vulnerable populations. They hope to be able to renew their survey every five years, in order to establish a monitoring of the health of this population. New data is due to be collected at the end of 2022.
To talk about the people behind these numbers, Vogay is giving the floor to many concerned young people through video testimonials, then broadcasting them in schools, as a prevention tool. We met two of the participants, who recounted a school career marred by bullying.
‘I felt like I was the only person in school’
Maxim, 23 years old, Bill
“I was assigned a female at birth. But I consider myself non-binary. My difficulties started in high school, when one of the people I had family around said that I love girls as much as I love boys.
Information spreads quickly. I started hearing insults and ridicule. Dirty levees swayed my way. In the changing room, the girls told me “Don’t check me out” in disgust. I felt like I was the only person in the school, out of the 400 students.
At first she denied. Then I did some research on the internet, and realized that there was no problem. So I decided to come to terms with my duality. And there, it was as if I was being provoked. The boys came to show me a threesome, or to ask me in an awkward way about my sexual practices.
When I was 16, my mother called me on the phone one day. She told me, “We need to talk about your secret.” I come back immediately in anguish. And when I find myself in front of her, she throws me: “So, you are not straight.” The rumors about me made their way to my younger sister’s class, which brought them home. I confirmed, then we sat down to eat. We didn’t talk about it much. But my family accepted the situation well.
In September 2021 I walked out in front of my business school class. One of the teachers offered me to take the time, during class time, to announce that I was not bi, and that I would like people to address me as masculine. This time, it was voluntary, and it went really well. Those who refused to call me by my new first name simply ignored me.
That year, while I was campaigning on the streets for Marriage for All, I saw some bullies from high school. They told me they would vote yes, as if nothing had happened. Since I left school, the situation has been better. It was not written on my forehead that I am not straight. But today I still suffer from generalized anxiety disorder.
“It was their way of telling me I wasn’t a good girl.”
Maximilian, 20 years old, Lausanne
“At age 14, on a whim, I cut my hair very short. I started enjoying my reflections in the mirror. But when I looked down and saw two bumps in my chest, I was like, ‘Something’s wrong.'”
It was like seeing a painting that the artist had spoiled a part of. I searched for information on the internet to find out how to hide my breasts. I came across testimonials from transgender men. I got a big slap in the face. They were telling me it was my life. I was designated female at birth, but consider myself male.
I was bullied at school because of my differences and then there were constant comments like “You’re not pretty”, “You’re a tomboy”, “You act like a man”. At school, I would hear these kinds of phrases constantly. One day, it turned into a quarrel with a boy who often insulted me. Later, I understood: I was not in their eyes a “good girl.”
The bullying years at school broke me. It’s as if my body no longer belongs to me. I had to get it back. “My Coming,” the moment I realized my transient, was the beginning of Reconstruction. I started by concealing my chest with bandanas, then a “link”, a kind of bra to compress the upper body and give the illusion of a flat chest.
Three or four months later, my mom found out and said, “Are you playing the boy?” I said, “No, I’m a boy.” She was shocked. Not because she found out I was transgender. But because she understood that she had seen nothing. From there, she supported me in all my steps. Fortunately, because there was chaos in my family.
I can no longer use my birth name, and I no longer recognize it. So my friends gave me a nickname, while I found a new first name. My mother helped me. It was his way of sharing. At first, she was not a fan of Maximilien. But she ended up accepting it.
I was sure I wanted to have a stump lift. At first I also thought I would have to have genital surgery. To be a real man, I needed a penis. Then I understood that I do not want to modify this part of my body, it suits me well.
When I just started testosterone, I was about 16, my psychiatrist put my anxiety at the expense of hormone therapy, deciding that I wasn’t trans, but I just lost. He was trampling on my story and stripping my identity. Fortunately, I was well surrounded. It took two years to regain my confidence.
When I turned 18, I took testosterone again. No one had the right to stop my medical transfer. I had a stump lift a few months later. This process gave me a lot of confidence. You let me get close to who I am. It has nothing to do with willpower, or the degraded image I might have of the female. It is a fact that I feel deeply within me.