LGBTQ Youth Face Persistent Challenges, High Stress

Megan Brooks

May 22, 2018

American teenagers who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) continue to face serious challenges, new research suggests.

In a national survey of about 12,000 LGBTQ teens, 77% reported feeling depressed, and 70% reported having feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness in the previous week.

In addition, 85% of the teen participants rated their average stress level as 5 or higher on a 10-point scale, and 95% reported having trouble sleeping at night.

Only 26% said they always feel safe in their schools, and just 5% said all of their teachers and school staff were supportive of LGBTQ people.

Half of trans and gender-expansive youth said they never use school bathrooms because they are unable to access those that align with their gender identity. Roughly three quarters of LBGTQ youth reported receiving unwanted sexual comments, jokes, and gestures in the past year.

More than two thirds said they had heard their families make negative comments about LGBTQ people; 48% of LGBTQ youth who were "out" to their parents said their families make them feel bad for being LGBTQ. More than three quarters of the youth rated coming out as LGBTQ to their parents as extremely stressful.

Call to Action

The study included youth aged 13 to 17 who identified as LGBTQ and who responded to the 2017 LGBTQ Survey, which is conducted by researchers at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation and the University of Connecticut, Mansfield.

The 2017 survey, a follow-up to the HRC's 2012 Growing Up LGBT in America survey, highlights the persistent challenges many LGBTQ youth face in their daily lives at home, at school, and in their communities, the researchers say.

"Now more than ever, it is crucial for each of us to do all we can to protect LGBTQ youth and ensure they feel valued, equal, and loved," HRC President Chad Griffin said in a news release.

"We hope our research findings will help inform policy and practice change to improve the lives of these young people," added principal investigator Ryan Watson, PhD, assistant professor of human development and family studies at the University of Connecticut.

The survey also points to some positive trends for LGBTQ teens: 91% report feeling pride in being an LGBTQ person, 93% are proud to be part of the community, and 3 in 5 say they have access to an LGBTQ student club, which has been shown to have a positive impact for LGBTQ youth.

The report encourages healthcare providers to be open to discussing sexual orientation and gender identity with their patients; to seek additional training to increase knowledge of LGBTQ issues; to be an advocate for LGBTQ youth at all levels of healthcare; and to provide educational resources for teachers, parents, and students.

The full report is available online.

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