LGBTQ youth experience trauma at higher rates than their straight peers, including bullying, harassment, and domestic violence.The following information highlights the unique challenges facing LGBTQ Youth, why they need extra support, and some resources available to assist them, their families, & allies.
Why This Matters
Bullying: Bullying creates a learning environment that instills fear within LGBTQ students, which can prevent them from succeeding academically and professionally. According to a 2017 Youth Risk and Behavioral Study about LGBTQ high school students, 33% of them reported being bullied on school grounds, 27.1% reported being cyber-bullied, and 10% reported not attending school due to safety concerns.Meanwhile. 24.3% of students who were “not sure” of their sexual orientation reported being bullied on school grounds, 22% reported being cyber-bullied, and 10.7% reported not attending school due to safety concerns.
Homelessness: Discrimination, rejection from family members, and social stigma add onto the physical and mental health challenges LGBTQ Youth face daily, which can eventually leading them to homelessness. According to a July 2012 study from the William Institute at UCLA Law, 46% of LGBTQ Youth ran away because of family rejection of sexual orientation or gender identity, 43% were forced out by parents because of sexual orientation or gender identity, 32% ran away due to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse at home, 17% aged out of the foster care system, and 14% ran away due to financial or emotional neglect from their families. The study also reports that LGBTQ Youth constitute 40% of the homeless youth population in the United States. Out of the 40%, 43% of clients served by drop-in centers.
Hostile School Climate: Physical and verbal harassment at school adds onto the emotional, behavioral, and mental health challenges LGBTQ Youth deal with. According to a 2015 report by GLSEN, LGBTQ students are three times more likely to miss school if they experienced high levels of discrimination from their peers. Though rates of physical assault and homophobic statements against LGBTQ students are at their lowest since 2007, 66.2% of these students felt discriminated against due to their sexual orientation and only 10.2% of students said their schools’ anti-bullying policies included protection from verbal harassment regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. The report also found that 57.6% of LGBTQ students who were harassed in school did not report the incident to school staff.
Mental Health Disparities: Common mental health disparities LGBTQ Youth deal with include depression, substance abuse, self harm, and suicidal tendencies. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, LGBTQ individuals are almost three times more likely to experience these challenges. Regarding depression risk for LGBTQ Youth between 18 to 24 years old, a 2015 survey from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System found 46.9% of bisexuals, 38.8% of lesbians or gay individuals, and 33.3% of queer or questioning individuals face higher risks of becoming depressed. Regarding substance abuse, the survey also reported that 19.2% of LGBTQ individuals participated in binge drinking and 15.8% of LGBTQ individuals smoked daily. Regarding self harm, a November 2018 online survey from the University of Manchester found 65% of the LGBT students had committed acts of self-harm that included cutting, hair pulling, scratching, burning or non-lethal overdoses. Regarding suicidal tendencies, a national study conducted on adolescent sexual orientation and suicidal risk reported that lesbian, gay or bisexual youth are more than twice as likely as their peers to be depressed and consider or attempt suicide (Russell & Joyner, 2001).
Conversion Therapy: The practice of conversion therapy is carried out in the contexts of healthcare and religious custom. Changing the sexual orientation and gender identity of LGBTQ individuals not only takes a toll on their mental health but also lowers their trust in licenced professionals and religious clergy who offer it. A January 2018 report from the William Institute at UCLA School of Law at UCLA found that out of the 77,000 who receive conversion therapy between the ages of 13 to 17, 20,000 receive it from licensed healthcare professionals and 57,000 receive it from spiritual advisers. As of 2018, nine states and the District of Columbia banned licenced professionals from using conversion therapy on LGBTQ Youth. In January of 2019, New York passed their own ban.
Domestic Violence: In unhealthy relationships, domestic violence can take the forms of physical, emotional, and mental abuse. According to a 2015 report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, the most common types of violence LGBTQ survivors reported to experience were physical violence (20%), verbal harassment (18%), and threats and intimidation (13%) (p. 9). Also, only 4% of LGBTQ survivors reported to experiencing sexual violence (p.9).
Foster Care: LGBTQ Youth are highly represented in the foster care system, often face bias and discrimination, and need unique supports and protections. According to HRC’s analysis of the United States’ foster care system, 13 states, including New York, and the District of Columbia have explicit foster care non-discrimination laws or policies inclusive of both sexual orientation and gender identity. Meanwhile, there are 7 states that have laws or policies inclusive of sexual orientation only. In addition, a 2001 survey from New York City’s Urban Institute of Justice on LGBTQ youth in out-of-home found 78% were removed or ran away from their foster placements due to hostility toward their sexual orientation or gender identity and 70% reported physical violence in group homes.
Resources for LGBTQ Youth
The Human Rights Campaign, along with the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, serves as the largest national LGBTQ civil rights organization. HRC supports LGBTQ Youth and their families with its All Children-All Families Project and Welcoming Schools projects. In addition, HRC offers a resource guide to coming out for LGBTQ indiviuals, as well as LGBTQ terminology for their families. To call, dial 800-777-4723.
The Pride Institute is the nation’s leading provider of residential and outpatient treatment programs for LGBTQ indivuals who face mental health and substance abuse challenges. To call, dial 800-547-7433.
PFLAG is the nation’s largest family and ally organization, having over 400 chapters throughout all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. It offers confidential peer support for LGBTQ Youth, promotes community engagement with its advocacy efforts, and promotes open dialogue about sexual orientation and gender orientation. To be directed to a chapter, dial 202-467-8180.
True Colors United is an organization that fights against homelessness amongst LGBTQ Youth. Under its website’s resource page, the organization provides toolkits for LGBTQ Youth and their communities on topics such as inclusion, youth collaboration, and project management. To call, dial 212-461-440.
Self Abuse Finally Ends (S.A.F.E) helps individuals to overcome self harm tendencies with listings of local outpatient clinics and therapy referrals. The types of services it offers includes individual and family therapy, weekly group psychotherapy, friends and family educational seminars, and professional consultations. To call, dial 800-366-8288.
The Trevor Project is the leading national crisis intervention and suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ Youth who are between the ages of 13 to 24. To call, dial 800-488-7386.
U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline is confidential and free of cost. Its highly trained professionals offer 24/7 assistance to those affected by abuse, including support, crisis intervention information and referral services in over 170 languages. To call, dial 800-799-7233.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides 24/7 free and confidential support for those experiencing emotional distress. To call, dial 800-273-8255.
The National Runaway Safeline offers emotional support to families with children who face mental health challenges, including suicidal tendencies. With the assistance of crisis intervention professionals, families can attain access to 10,000 resources and support within their communities. To call, dial 800-RUNAWAY (800-786-2929).
FosterPal is a 24/7 advice line aimed to help foster, relative and non-relative caregivers, and adoptive families of LGBTQ+ Youth. Professionals help foster families navigate the foster care system and understand child developmental & behavioral issues with training, workshops, and resources. To call, dial 800-829-3777.
LGBTQ+ Family Support Groups in New York State
Spence-Chapin’s Modern Family Center supports LGBTQ+ Youth and their families with counseling, workshops, parent coaching, and social events. Licensed counselors offer culturally sensitive, bi-lingual, LGBTQ-affirming care in accepting, nonjudgmental environment. To call, dial 646-539-2167.
- 410 East 92nd St., New York, NY 10128
Center Families programs at The Family Program of the LGBT Community Center in New York City include support groups for LGBT parents and prospective parents; training for teachers and school administrators; advocacy and activist efforts; and financial planning for alternative families. To call, dial 212-620-7310 ext. 228.
- 208 W 13 St., New York, NY 10011
Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center’s Families Group is a social and informational group for LGBTQ parents and their kids in Kingston county, New York. It hosts events and gatherings where LGBTQ parents can network with one another while LGBTQ Youth can socialize with children their age. To call, dial 845-331-5300.
- 300 Wall Street., Kingston, NY 12401
The Pride Center of the Capital Region aims to increase the visibility of non-traditional families with monthly social and leadership opportunities in Albany, NY. It grants families of LGBTQ Youth their families access to counseling & case management services, training and education programs, and support groups for children. To call, dial 518-462-6138.
- 332 Hudson Avenue., Albany, NY 12210
The Loft LGBT Community Center in Westchester County, New York offers a variety of resources and programs, including support groups for LGBT Youth, networking opportunities for LGBT parents and their children. To call, dial 914-948-2932.
- 252 Bryant Avenue., White Plains, NY 10605
- Helpline: 914-948-4922
By: Laura Pellegrino, Public Policy Intern at Families Together in New York State
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