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LGBTQ Youth Report High Rates Of Weight-Related Bullying

Jessica Hill

LGBTQ teenagers are often bullied not just for their sexual or gender identity – but also for their weight. That’s the finding in a new study from the University of Connecticut.

The findings come from a national survey of nearly 10,000 LGBTQ teens. It’s the first large-scale study about weight-based bullying among kids who don’t adhere to sexual and gender norms.

“Even though there’s been almost a decade of research on weight-based teasing and bullying, almost all of it has focused on heterosexual youth,” said Rebecca Puhl, one of the study’s authors. She said they found that up to 70 percent of LGBTQ kids reported having been teased about their weight. And she said more than half of those who aren’t overweight say they’ve experienced it.

“Weight is a visible issue that people can quickly look to for something to make fun of someone or to belittle them. We need to better understand the nature and extent of these experiences as they occur for LGBTQ kids and teens.”

Puhl says that includes not just peers, like other kids at school, but family members.

“Parents become concerned about their child’s weight and sometimes they make comments in ways that come across as very shaming or judgmental.”

Most school districts across the country have anti-bullying policies, but Puhl said they vary widely from place to place.

“Body size and body weight are essentially off the radar. They’re not getting included in these policies.”

Puhl said she hopes the finding leads to stronger school policies to protect LGBTQ kids who are bullied because of their weight.