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GSAs, Gay-Straight Alliances, influence the heterosexist environment within a school system, especially rural schools. The data was collected from various journals documenting suicide rates and levels of self-esteem in rural environments. A lot of the data was collected was cross-referenced because of the lack of research into LGBT youth in rural environments. Much of the research that was conducted was focused on ameliorating internalized homophobia of urban LGBT youth instead of rural LGBT youth, so research into LGBT urban youth was applied to those in a rural environment. Heterosexism exists in school systems because of the lack of support for LGBT students in high school. Heterosexism is very damaging to the mental health of LGBT adolescents because it establishes homosexuality as being outside the norm, which leads to internalized homophobia. Harassment linked to adolescents’ perceived or actual sexual orientation can lead to anxiety, decreased self-esteem, lack of academic interest, a feeling of isolation, depression, and suicidal ideation. The aforementioned consequences of harassment often lead into adulthood. Also, there is a negative correlation between schools with an active GSA and the harassment experienced by the student. As the level of activity in the GSA increases, the amount of harassment decreases. The heterosexism results in students attempting to conform to heterosexual expectations, which results in students covering their actual sexual orientation and their gender identity.

Publication Date


Subject Major(s)



Heterosexism, Internalized Homophobia, GSAs, Rural, Adolescence, LGBT, Teens, Suicide, Self-Esteem


Health Psychology

Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Professor Mary C. Boyes


© The Author(s)

Heterosexism Faced by Adolescents in the Rural United States: A Case for Implementing Student-Made LGBT Programs