Challenges for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender (LGBT) Youth
Young people growing up lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) in America face several difficulties including discrimination and social ostracism. Many LGBT teens end up disconnected from their homes, schools and communities. Below are a few facts and statistics from available research:
- 30% of LGBT youth reported suffering physical violence at the hands of a family member after coming out.
- 84.6% of lesbian and gay students reported being verbally harassed, 40.1% reported being physically harassed, and 18.8% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
- 74% of transgender youth reported being sexually harassed at school, and 90% of transgender youth reported feeling unsafe at school because of their gender expression.
- 29.1% of LGBT students missed a class and 30% missed a day of school in the past month because they felt unsafe in their school. Another study found that 28% of LGBT youth dropped out of school due to peer harassment.
- As a result of lack of acceptance and abuse in the home and/or at school, a disproportionate number of youth living on the streets are LGBT. The National Network of Runaway and Youth Services estimates that between 20-40% of homeless youth are LGBT.
- Compared with LGBT young adults who experienced very little or no rejection, LGBT young adults who experienced high levels of rejection were:
- Nearly 6 times as likely to have high levels of depression;
- More than 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide;
- More than 3 times as likely to use illegal drugs; and
- More than 3 times as likely to engage in unprotected sexual behaviors that put them at increased risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
LGBT teens need support in order to beat these statistics. There are two hotlines available to talk to LGBT youth:
Trevor Helpline Crisis Intervention, 24 hours a day, seven days a week
1.888.843.4564 (THE GLNH)
GLNH: Gay & Lesbian National Hotline, Monday – Friday, 6-11 PM EST
A recent study from the Williams Institute found that many LGBT youth could significantly benefit from access to youth mentoring programs. Many LGBT youth are at-risk. Family conflict, school harassment, bullying, homelessness, and depression have made many of these teens more likely to become involved with the juvenile justice system. Youth mentoring programs are designed to address the challenges that at-risk youth face. If you have or know an LGBT teen, take the time to research local groups in your community that could offer help.
How Parents Can Be Supportive
Experts recommend these tips for helping your LGBT teen:
- Protect privacy. Ask your child first before telling anyone else about their LGBT status. If you, as a parent, need to talk about this issue for your own mental health, then find a parent support group. But, don’t betray your child’s trust – it is most important to be respectful of what your child wants when it comes to information shared with friends, neighbors, and extended family members.
- Be on guard. Watch for behaviors that might indicate your child is a victim of bullying or he/she is depressed. If bullying, violence, or depression is suspected, parents should take immediate action, working with school personnel and seeking a professional counselor.
- Work with your child’s school. All youth – whether LGBT or not – deserve to feel safe and accepted in school. Parents should request that schools implement the following policies and practices:
- Encourage respect for all students and prohibit bullying, harassment, and violence against all students.
- Identify “safe spaces,” such as counselors’ offices, where LGBT youth can receive support from school staff.
- Encourage student-led and student-organized school clubs that promote a safe, welcoming, and accepting school environment. In particular, creating gay-straight alliances (which are school clubs open to youth of all sexual orientations) would be particularly helpful for an LGBT student.