Gender describes the characteristics and activities we associate with men and women, like “boys hate reading and have short hair” and “girls love pink and have long hair.” A survey of elementary school students showed that one in three children heard classmates being bullied for wearing or doing something usually associated with the other gender. Forty-three percent of elementary teachers also reported hearing sexist comments from their students. Of the surveyed students, one in 10 said they didn’t conform to gender norms; they were twice as likely to be bullied at school.
While the problem begins in elementary school, it continues and worsens in middle and high school when issues of gender begin to encompass sexual orientation. Another survey of LGBT students in sixth through 12th grade showed that 30 percent felt unsafe in school and 29 percent felt unsafe on their way to and from school. One-quarter had experienced cyber-bullying as a result of their gender expression or sexual orientation, and one-third had been sexually harassed online.