New Study Shows That LGBTQ Teens Feel Unsafe and Unwelcome

78% of youth are not out to their parents as LGBTQ because they hear their families make negative comments about LGBTQ people.

Support for rights of the LGBTQ community is the highest it’s ever been (despite the increasing polarization in support for these rights.) Though legal protections are currently higher than they’ve been in the past, many queer youth report that they feel unsafe and unwelcome in their daily lives: at home and at school.

In a recent survey conducted by the Human Rights Campaign titled The LGBTQ Youth Report, over 12,000 LGBTQ teens from the ages of 13-17 participated, with representation from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The survey introduction reads:

“Since 2012, LGBTQ Americans have seen tremendous strides toward equality and inclusion in the workplace, in health care, in public opinion and under the law. Marriage equality is now the law of the land, transgender candidates are being elected to public office, and mainstream television and movies routinely feature LGBTQ characters… And yet, the results of HRC’s 2017 Youth Survey reveal persistent, serious challenges for LGBTQ youth. In many cases, the cards remain stacked against LGBTQ-identified youth in terms of acceptance and support from their families, their mental health and safety in schools. For LGBTQ youth of color these challenges are compounded by racism and race-related stressors. Transgender and gender-expansive youth also face unique challenges…”

The extensive survey asked the participants many questions ranging from their comfort in their school’s bathrooms and health classes, to how well they sleep at night. Here are some disheartening statistics collected from the survey:

– Nearly eight in ten LGBTQ youth reported that they had felt depressed within the previous week.

– Only a quarter of them say they feel safe at school.

– 95% reported that they had trouble sleeping at night.

– 86% rated their average stress as five or greater on a scale of one to ten.

– Only 24% of LGBTQ youth can “definitely” be themselves as an LGBTQ person at home.

– 78% of youth are not out to their parents as LGBTQ because they hear their families make negative comments about LGBTQ people.

– LGBTQ youth of color report hearing family members express negativity about LGBTQ people more frequently than their white peers.

– 77% of LGBTQ youth report receiving unwanted sexual comments, jokes and gestures in the past year.

– Only 13% of LGBTQ youth report hearing positive messages about being LGBTQ in school.

– Only 12% received information about safe sex that was relevant to them as an LGBTQ person.

– Trans youth are over two times more likely to be taunted or mocked by family for their LGBTQ identity than cisgender LGBQ youth.

– Fewer than one-third of trans teens – 31% – say they are able to express themselves in a way that completely reflects their gender identity at school, with only one in three saying they are able or allowed to use the name that reflects their gender identity and just one in five who say they are able to use their correct pronouns.

The survey also included some anonymous quotes from LGBTQ youth:

“I wait until I get home to use the bathroom, even when I’m at school for 10+ hours… I wear my gym clothes over my normal clothes to avoid changing in locker rooms.”

“I transitioned in 7th grade and was bullied profusely by my peers. I asked my health teacher to educate the class. She said that it was too complicated for the students.”

“I feel very comfortable with my sexuality and gender, so if someone were to challenge it I could defend myself to the point where I don’t worry about that stuff.” (not all the quotes are sad!)

As if it wasn’t obvious before, this survey should serve as a sobering reminder that it is critical to the well being of LGBTQ youth for us to do everything in our power to protect them and show them that they are loved. This should also serve as a reminder of how powerful it is for us to be out and proud, to show LGBTQ youth they can have beautiful and fulfilling lives, and it does, indeed, get better.

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