LGBTQ INFORMATION NETWORK │ RAINBOW OF RESOURCES

YOUTH
 

Teen Vogue: GLAAD's 20 Under 20 in 2021: LGBTQ Youth Shaping the Future
High Schooler Censored By School Administration Over Saying He's Gay
Missouri High School Crowns its First Male Homecoming Queen

High School Football Player Turns the Closet Inside Out
Pennsylvania High School Elects Female Couple as Prom Royalty

Queer Teens and School Clubs: Only Safe Space But Covid Upended That
Student Banned From School Bus For Saying She is a Lesbian

Lesbian Couple Crowned Prom Queens

Teen Sensation JoJo Siwa Comes Out and Changes the World for LGBTQ Youth

Trans Student is Valedictorian at Maine High School

Gay High Schooler Suspended for Wearing Nail Polish

Trans Teen Voted Homecoming Queen

Rural HS Athlete Going to Prom with Former Teammate

Tim Cook to LGBTQ Youth: You Are a Gift to the World

 

 

JoJo Siwa Tells Ellen it Feels Amazing Being an LGBTQ Icon
Queerness is Happiness

Trevor Project Study Finds One in Four Queer Youths ID as Nonbinary

Video: Interview with LGBTQ High Schoolers

Launch of New Anti-Bullying Website to Support LGBTQ Youth

HRC: LGBTQ Youth Report

National Safe Schools Coalition
Queer Couples at High School Proms

Prom Night: Closeted Prom Queen

Keaton Jones: Why Do They Bully?

Respect for All Project
Inclusive Sex Education Needed for LGBTQ Students

LGBTQ Documentary: Story of Our Own

Info: LGBTQ Bullying

Video: LGBTQ Band Camp

Teaching Tolerance
TED Talk: Problems Facing LGBTQ Youth

AAMFT: Gay and Lesbian Youth

 

Support for LGBTQ Youth
 

Adolescence is a time of significant physical and social-emotional development for youth. For a variety of biological and social reasons, it is also the time when many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth begin to self-identify as such. In the US, approximately 3.5 percent of the adult population identify as LGBTQ, a number assumed to apply to youth (and in a recent Gallup poll, young adults were three times as likely as seniors to identify as LGBTQ).

 



LGBTQ youth benefit from supportive family and friends.

Support from family and friends promotes the healthy development of all youth, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. For LGBTQ youth and other young people who may feel marginalized, rejected, or threatened, this support may be critical to their safety and well-being. A recent survey by the Human Rights Campaign of 10,000 self-identified LGBTQ youth found that nine in ten youth are “out” to close friends and almost six in ten are out to their immediate family. Family acceptance has been found to have a positive association with self-esteem and general health. For sexual minority youth, family and friend support also promotes mental health and well-being and protects against psychological distress and depression. Family support protects against thoughts of and attempts of suicide, substance abuse, and STDs for sexual minority youth. Peer support has a strong impact across all ages, while family support may have the strongest impact among younger youth. Additionally, when parents were asked about their experience parenting an LGBTQ child, some reported experiencing personal growth and closer relationships, among other positive outcomes.

 



Support at school benefits all youth.

 

Positive school climate and school connectedness have an important role in promoting LGBTQ teens’ well-being, as they do for other youth. A national survey of LGBTQ youth suggests that gay-straight alliances (GSAs), LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, supportive staff, and comprehensive anti-bullying policies can promote positive school climates for LGBTQ youth. LGBTQ youth in schools with these supports were more likely to feel connected to their schools and were less likely to feel unsafe, among other positive outcomes. Positive school climates significantly reduce suicidal ideation among sexual minority youth, and research suggests that the mere presence of a GSA has strong links with the well-being of LGBTQ youth when they enter early adulthood. In fact, the presence of a GSA is associated with positive health outcomes for all students, LGBTQ and otherwise. Having bullying prevention policies that are inclusive of sexual orientation has also been associated with reduced prevalence of suicide attempts among sexual minority youth.

 



Without a supportive network, adolescence can be difficult for these youth.

LGBTQ youth are at greater risk of having any of a host of negative outcomes. Many LGBTQ teens are verbally and physically harassed in school (for LGBTQ youth of color, the proportion is even higher), even to the point that they do not want to attend class. Transgender students often face the most hostility at school, compared to sexual minority youth. Sexual minority teens are at increased risk of depression, suicide, and substance use. Available research indicates that lesbian and bisexual teen girls may become pregnant at higher rates than their straight or questioning peers. Additionally, a disproportionate number of LGBTQ youth are homeless. While worrisome on their own, these various risk factors are also associated with school dropout and decreased academic achievement.

[Source: August Aldebot-Green, Angela Rojas, Maryjo Oster, Shelby Hickman, Rachel A. Gooze, Eliza Brown]

 

Gay People Are Coming Out Younger

CDC Health Report: LGTBQ Teens

Report: Queer Youth Still Attempting Suicide at High Rate

Info: Stop Bullying

Video: Interviewing LGBTQ Highschoolers

Gay Valedictorian Meets Ellen

TJ and Cyrus: I Can't Help Falling in Love With You

Prom Night: Closeted Prom Queen

Camp Brave Trails: What's It All About?

Gay Teen in Memphis Crowned Homecoming Royalty

Info: LGBTQ Homeless Youth

Gay Hockey Player Voted High School Homecoming King

GLSEN: LGBTQ Students Not Safe at School

Rainbow Camp

Gay High Schooler Suspended for Wearing Nail Polish

Puberty and Finding Out Who You Are

Broadway for Orlando: Love Sweet Love

Meet a Transgender Homecoming Queen

AMA: Preventing Suicide in LGBTQ Youth

CDC: LGBTQ Youth Resources

Camp Brave Trails: LGBTQ Youth Leadership Camp

 

Trevor Project Study Finds One in Four Queer Youths ID as Nonbinary

 

The Trevor Project released a new research brief in July 2021 about nonbinary youth in celebration of International Nonbinary People’s Day on July 14. The organization found that about one in four LGBTQ youth identifies as nonbinary. According to the group’s research, 26 percent of the sample of 35,000 identified as nonbinary — and an additional 20 percent responded that they weren’t sure or were questioning if they were.

Data for the study came from The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health. The organization supports LGBTQ youth in crisis.

Nonbinary, as the Trevor Project defines, refers to someone whose gender identity does not fit within traditional gender constructs as only male and only female. The group notes that trans and nonbinary identities can overlap, the two terms aren’t synonymous. In fact, the organization found half of their sample identifies as nonbinary and transgender.

Thirty-three percent of those who did identify as nonbinary reported using pronouns such as “they/them” and five percent of them reported using neopronouns such as “xe/xem.”

“Young people are using a variety of language to describe the nuances of their gender identity outside of the binary construction of gender. These data emphasize that. While there is certainly an overlap, youth understand ‘transgender’ and ‘nonbinary’ as distinct identity terms — and you cannot assume one’s identity simply based on the pronouns they use,” said Jonah DeChants, a research scientist at The Trevor Project.

In a statement, the organization said that the research is a tool for educating teachers, medical professionals, and youth-serving groups, and adults on the complexities of nonbinary identities. This includes the language youth use to express their identity and how they can be affirmed.

The Trevor Project found that nonbinary youth who reported that “no one” respected their pronouns were 2.5 times more likely to attempt to die by suicide than those who said most people respected their pronouns.

[Source: Alex Cooper, Advocate, July 2021
]

Trevor Project Study Finds One in Four Queer Youths ID as Nonbinary

Queerness is Happiness

Pennsylvania High School Elects Female Couple as Prom Royalty

Queer Teens and School Clubs: Only Safe Space But Covid Upended That
Teen Vogue: GLAAD's 20 Under 20 in 2021: LGBTQ Youth Shaping the Future

Student Banned From School Bus For Saying She is a Lesbian

Lesbian Couple Crowned Prom Queens

Teen Sensation JoJo Siwa Comes Out and Changes the World for LGBTQ Youth

Trans Student is Valedictorian at Maine High School

Gay High Schooler Suspended for Wearing Nail Polish

Trans Teen Voted Homecoming Queen

Video: Interview with LGBTQ High Schoolers

Rural HS Athlete Going to Prom with Former Teammate

Tim Cook to LGBTQ Youth: You Are a Gift to the World

Inclusive Sex Education Needed for LGBTQ Students

 

Research Update: Crucial Role of Community Members in the Lives of LGBTQ Youth

It’s safe to say that middle school and high school can be some of the best and worst years of our lives. For some, it depends on what classes you’re taking, what activities you’re in, how many friends you have, or what your report card says. But what about how your gender expression and sexual orientation are affected by these extremely formative years?

All youth have natural have ups and downs in their feelings of safety and belonging, and their relationships within their community, but a Search Institute study revealed a profound gap between LGBTQ youth and non-LGBTQ youth in regards to developmental relationships and feelings of belonging within one’s community.

 



In 2018, 11 public schools from a rural region in Minnesota participated in a survey through Search Institute that asked a multitude of questions ranging from students’ feelings of safety and security in their communities to how students view their relationships with friends and family. This survey also allowed the students to anonymously identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or gender non-conforming, which offered us more comparisons across differences. Of the 3,011 6th- through 12th-graders who participated, 545 (18%) identified as a member of the LGBTQ community.

When compared to non-LGBTQ youth in these communities, LGBTQ youth were less likely to report:

--Feeling safe (particularly emotionally safe), accepted, and that they belong in school.
--Feeling secure with their future paths.
--They are glad they are themselves and they believe in themselves.
--They have strong relationships with family members, especially parenting adults.
 

 

In almost every facet of this survey, non-LGBTQ youth were more likely to report positive experiences than their LGBTQ peers. Focus areas of questions included interest and participation in the community, time spent outside of school, experiences in the community, perceptions of self and future, school experiences and attitudes, and experiences and priorities in their relationships. Through the analysis, some discrepancies were particularly striking:

--LGBTQ youth were much less likely to report strong developmental relationships with parenting adults, grandparents, and community adults, and slightly less likely to report strong developmental relationships with friends and teachers.
--39% of LGBTQ youth say that they have no strong developmental relationships in their lives, whereas only 25% of non-LGBTQ youth say they have no strong developmental relationships in their lives.
--LGBTQ youth were much less likely to report that they felt like they belonged and were valued in their community, were safe (particularly emotionally), and had opportunities in their community when compared to their non-LGBTQ peers.
--LGBTQ youth were much less likely to report having strong goals and a hopeful future when compared to their non-LGBTQ peers.
--LGBTQ youth were much less likely to report feeling glad they are themselves and believing in themselves.
--LGBTQ youth are less likely to report positive school experiences and attitudes when compared to their non-LGBTQ peers for all questions except, “I enjoy learning.” 50% of both non-LGBTQ and LGBTQ youth said they enjoy learning.

 



Movement Advancement Project’s 2019 report Where We Call Home: LGBTQ People in Rural America echoes the findings from our study. They also found that LGBTQ youth in rural communities often struggle to find a sense of belonging, perhaps as a result of not having access to spaces where they feel safe to be their authentic selves (Movement Advancement Project, 2019). According to the Movement Advancement Project, LGBTQ groups, allies in schools, and shared community spaces are vital but are not always experienced by youth. Organizations and individuals in rural communities can leave LGBTQ youth feeling isolated from the rest of the community if they’re not intentional about inclusivity.

Similarly, parents of LGBTQ youth in rural communities may experience less access to information and fewer support systems. They may also be less likely to seek out resources, as it can be very hard for some parents to accept or advocate for their LGBTQ child (Movement Advancement Project, 2019). This can often leave the child isolated from their family members, forcing them to seek support elsewhere. We see some evidence of this pattern in the survey in the LGBTQ youth who reported similar levels of developmental relationships with friends and teachers as their non-LGBTQ peers, but were less likely to report strong developmental relationships with family members.

 



According to the survey, LGBTQ youth in these communities spend significantly less time participating in activities or programs in a religious community than their non-LGBTQ peers. Participation in faith communities is often a significant part of the lives of people in rural communities, including LGBTQ folks. However, it tends to be easier to find LGBTQ-accepting congregations in urban areas than it is in rural areas, and this can often lead to rejection or the feeling of not being welcome for many LGBTQ folks (Movement Advancement Project, 2019). According to the Movement Advancement Project, this can cause a ripple effect of disconnection to one’s community, when the religious community is a center point of the rural community experience. This disconnection deprives LGBTQ youth of crucial support, resources, relationships, and opportunities to contribute that a faith community has the potential to offer.

Consistent with many other studies, recent Search Institute research published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence highlighted the higher rate of suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth—particularly transgender youth (published in Pediatrics)—compared to non-LGBTQ youth. Those risks are well known. The study in these rural communities points to some of the ways communities can make a difference.

 



In 2019, the Trevor Project released a national study that, along with many other important findings, uncovered that having at least one supportive adult in the life of a young person who identifies as LGBTQ reduces the chance of a suicide attempt by 40%. This study and future Trevor Project studies hope to better understand the association between supportive adults and the alleviation of minority stress (the stress placed on an individual who is a part of a marginalized group) on LGBTQ youth.

Of course, supportive adults and friends cannot, and should not, take the place of mental health or crisis services. At the same time, LGBTQ youth should not be left to their own devices to sort out questions of identity and belonging in the community, only to seek help when they reach a serious crisis point. Being a supportive adult or friend is something everyone can and should do.

As community members, we cannot continue disregarding the feelings and experiences of LGBTQ youth. You don’t have to be someone’s parent to be a supportive adult; support to youth from a marginalized group can come from neighbors, teachers, coaches, community leaders, and everyone in between. Based on this survey, LGBTQ youth in rural communities can really benefit from more supportive, inclusive, and accepting community members who aren’t legally obligated to care for them.

Change can happen in many ways at many levels. As community members, we have the ability and responsibility to support diverse and marginalized groups, and that includes LGBTQ youth. That support can start by being part of a web of positive developmental relationships that value, guide, care for, respect, inspire, and open up new possibilities for them as they navigate issues of identity, growing up, and feeling that they belong and have a positive future.

[Source: Mackenzie Steinberg, Research and Development Communications VISTA at Search Institute, January 2020]

 

Research Update: Crucial Role of Community Members in the Lives of LGBTQ Youth

Study: Gay & Bi Teen Boys Are Coming Out to Parents in Record Numbers
Survey: More Than 1 In 3 LGBTQ Youth Experience Discrimination At Work
Many LGBTQ Youth Don’t Identify with Traditional Sexual Identity Labels
Trevor Project: 40 Percent of LGBTQ Youth Considered Suicide in the Past Year
Survey: More Than Half of LGBTQ Youth Have an Eating Disorder

 

LGBTQ Couples at High School Proms

 

Prom season is here! High school students across America have designed elaborate promposals, saved up their pennies and squeezed into formalwear for a magical evening of memory-making. And increasingly, proms have become inclusive of LGBTQ kids.
 

Gay Olympic Skier Gus Kenworthy recently posted the following comment: "Been seeing a lot of pics of same-sex couples going to high school proms together and I frigging love it! I wish I would've been out and proud and secure with myself when I was a teenager but I didn't think it was an option. So happy to know that kids nowadays realize it is!"

 

 

Comments from LGBTQ youth regarding their recent high school prom experience including the following comments:

 

"A few years ago I was afraid to go out wearing flannels because I thought I would look too gay or not feminine enough. yesterday I wore a suit to prom. that’s character development."

 

"Finally getting to go to prom with your girlfriend is the best thing ever!"

 

"One day you're gonna wake up and you're going to realize that you have to accept who you are. You're going to realize that there's no point in pretending to be someone you aren't, because, while life is the longest thing we experience, it's still goes by so fast. I'm thankful I have amazing friends, supportive family members, and tons of supportive people online. And I'm thankful for my girlfriend most of all. I went from not believing that love that wasn't platonic was even real and that relationships were a waste of time, mainly because I didn't believe anyone could love me, to going to taking silly gay prom pictures in public. Life gets a whole lot better once you accept who you are."

 


 

Logo: Queer Kids at High School Proms

LGBTQ Nation: Queer Couples at High School Proms

Trans Teen Crowned Homecoming Queen

Pennsylvania High School Elects Female Couple as Prom Royalty

The Prom: Broadway Musical

NewNowNext: LGBTQ Prom Photos

Prom Night: Closeted Prom Queen

Gay Teen Becomes Prom King in Small Town

Trans Teen Voted Homecoming Queen

High School Changes Homecoming Rules in Fairness to LGBTQ Couples

Video Story: New Kind of Prom Date

High School Seniors Attend Queer Prom

Gay Hockey Player Voted High School Homecoming King

Teen Vogue: GLAAD's 20 Under 20 in 2021: LGBTQ Youth Shaping the Future

 

Paris Jackson Took Her BFF to Prom

 

Model, actress, and singer Paris Jackson is best known for being the one and only daughter of pop star Michael Jackson. She was 22 years old in 2021.  She came out publicly as bisexual in 2018 over social media, claiming to have been “out” since she was 14 years old. “I’ve been a part of the community for years,” she told her followers on Twitter.

Paris decided to go with her best friend Melissa Lauren to the prom instead of a romantic date. But we think they’d make an adorable couple… just saying! Paris opted for a more masculine look in a suit and tie that matched perfectly with her electric blue hair. Who says you have to wear a dress?

 


 

LGBTQ Youth at Risk

 

While many minority groups are the target for prejudice and discrimination in our society, few persons face this hostility without the support and acceptance of their family as do many gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth.

LGBTQ young people are increasingly visible in our schools. Why? Probably partly because young people in general are reaching puberty at younger ages than they did in generations past. And probably partly because sexual minority young people are growing up in the midst of a civil rights movement, feeling both an urgency and an increasing sense of community in their normal adolescent quests for identity and integrity.

 

Recent studies have shown that, on average, lesbian and gay youth first become aware of their same-gender attractions at an average of 9-10 years old and first identify as lesbian or gay at an average of 14-16 years old.

 

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, "Most lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth are happy and thrive during their adolescent years. Going to a school that creates a safe and supportive learning environment for all students and having caring and accepting parents are especially important. This helps all youth achieve good grades and maintain good mental and physical health. However, some LGBTQ youth are more likely than their heterosexual peers to experience difficulties in their lives and school environments, such as violence."
 

The Trevor Project
It Gets Better Project

ABC News: Sexual Minority Youth At Risk of Violence

2018 Survey: LGBTQ Youth and Suicide

We Are Family

Child Trends: Facts About LGBTQ Youth

Camp Brave Trails: LGBTQ Youth Leadership Camp

Info: Encouragement for LGBTQ Youth in Crisis

Broadway Kids Against Bullying: I Have a Voice

The Prom: Broadway Musical

Camp Brave Trails: What's It All About?

Meet a Transgender Homecoming Queen

Gay High Schooler Suspended for Wearing Nail Polish

Info: LGBTQ Homeless Youth

Keaton Jones: Why Do They Bully?

Bisexual Youth More Likely to Be Bullied and Commit Suicide

Video: Advice for LGBTQ Teens

Rainbow Camp

 

LGBTQ Youth Statistics

Nine out of 10 LGBTQ students (86.2%) experienced harassment at school.  Three-fifths (60.8%) felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.  And about one-third (32.7%) skipped a day of school in the past month because of feeling unsafe.

-GLSEN National School Climate Survey 2009

LGBTQ students are three times as likely as non-LGBTQ students to say that they do not feel safe at school (22% vs. 7%) and 90% of LGBTQ students (vs. 62% of non-LGBTQ teens) have been harassed or assaulted during the past year.

-GLSEN From Teasing to Torment 2006

 

Sexual minority youth, or teens that identify themselves as LGBTQ, are bullied two to three times more than heterosexuals.

-Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, OH 2010

Almost all transgender students had been verbally harassed, called names, or threatened in the past year at school because of their sexual orientation (89%) and gender expression (89%).

-GLSEN: Harsh Realities, Experiences of Transgender Youth In Our Nation’s Schools 2009

LGBTQ youth in rural communities and those with lower adult educational attainment face particularly hostile school climates.

-Greytak & Diaz, Journal of Youth & Adolescence 2009
 


 

LGBTQ adolescents are 190 percent more likely to use drugs and alcohol than are heterosexual teens.

-Marshal & Friedman, Addiction Journal 2008

It is estimated that between 20 and 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as LGBTQ.

-National Gay & Lesbian Task Force: An Epidemic of Homelessness 2006

 

62% of homeless LGBTQ youth will attempt suicide at least once—more than two times as many as their heterosexual peers.

-Van Leeuwen JMm, Child Welfare 2005

 

Teen Kicked Out of Her Prom for Wearing a Tuxedo

Lesbian Couple Voted First-Ever High School Prom Queen and Queen

Video: Interview with LGBTQ High Schoolers

Info: LGBTQ Bullying

Camp Brave Trails: What's It All About?

Teen Vogue: GLAAD's 20 Under 20 in 2021: LGBTQ Youth Shaping the Future

Teen Learns to Accept His Sexuality & Gender in Different Ways

Video: High School Seniors Attend First Queer Prom

Prom Night: Closeted Prom Queen

Trans Student in North Carolina Nominated for Homecoming King

Info: Encouragement for LGBTQ Youth in Crisis

Gay Teens Crowned Homecoming King and Queen

Video: LGBTQ Band Camp

Pennsylvania High School Elects Female Couple as Prom Royalty

Gay Teen in Memphis Crowned Homecoming Royalty

Cutest Prom Couple

Puberty and Finding Out Who You Are

Gay Texas Teen Comes Out in Graduation Speech

 

 

Fear of the Future

 

In July 2015, street photographer Brandon Stanton, the creator of the popular on-line photo blog Humans of New York, posted a picture that has proven exceptional even for a Facebook page with 13 million followers.

"I'm homosexual and I'm afraid about what my future will be and that people won't like me," reads the caption of a photo of a tearful boy.

 

The shot is of a boy with downcast eyes and his forehead in his hand. The boy is sitting on a stoop, dressed in a crisp, white shirt and a mint-colored sweater.

Within 24 hours, the Facebook post earned more than 500,000 likes, 45,000 shares and a response from presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The former secretary of state offered the following words of comfort: "Prediction from a grown-up: Your future is going to be amazing. You will surprise yourself with what you're capable of and the incredible things you go on to do. Find the people who love and believe in you -- there will be lots of them."

 

Other comments on the photo included:

George Takei, actor and director: “Looks like you’ve got a head start. 620,000 people ‘like’ you already. I’m honored to be one of them.”

Gavin Newsom, former mayor of San Francisco and current lieutenant governor of California: “You are so brave and I’m very proud of you. I understand why you’re scared, but all you have to do is look through these comments to see that we are all on your side. You have so many opportunities ahead of you. The best is yet to come. I promise!”

Ellen DeGeneres: “Not only will people like you, they’ll love you. I just heard of you and I love you already.”
 

Time: Hillary Clinton Comments on Photo of Young Boy

Newsweek: Photo Prompts Personal response From Hillary Clinton

People: Hillary Clinton Sends Touching Comment to Young Boy

 

 

Statistics: Bullying and Harassment of LGBTQ Youth

--84% of LGBTQ youth reported being verbally harassed at school
--39% of LGBTQ youth reported being physically harassed at school
--90% of LGBTQ youth reported hearing homophobic remarks from classmates
--82% of LGBTQ youth reported that faculty and staff never intervened when homophobic remarks were made in their presence
--39% of LGBTQ youth reported hearing homophobic remarks from faculty and staff
--9 out of 10 LGBTQ youth have experienced some kind of anti-gay harassment at school
--60% of LGBTQ youth felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation or gender identity
--LGBTQ youth are bullied 2 to 3 times more often than their straight peers
--LGBTQ youth are 190% more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than their straight peers
--44% of LGBTQ youth have been the target of harassment, verbal abuse, and physical abuse at home
--49% of LGBTQ youth have been the target of anti-gay hate acts at school
--48% of LGBTQ youth were the target of discrimination, harassment and violence at work, including 15% who were fired
--39% of LGBTQ youth report acts of vandalism, threats, and assault in their neighborhoods and communities
--LGBTQ youth are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers

--30% of all teen suicides are committed by LGBTQ youth (Suicide is the leading cause of death among LGBTQ youth)

 

The Trevor Project
It Gets Better Project

Meet a Transgender Homecoming Queen

ABC News: Sexual Minority Youth At Risk of Violence

Gay People Are Coming Out Younger

Info: LGBTQ Homeless Youth

Camp Brave Trails: LGBTQ Youth Leadership Camp

Gay High Schooler Suspended for Wearing Nail Polish

Keaton Jones: Why Do They Bully?

TED Talk: Problems Facing LGBTQ Youth

CDC Health Report: LGTBQ Teens

LGBTQ Documentary: Story of Our Own

GLSEN: LGBTQ Students Not Safe at School

Broadway Kids Against Bullying: I Have a Voice

Info: LGBTQ Youth in Crisis

AMA: Preventing Suicide in LGBTQ Youth

Rainbow Camp

CDC: LGBTQ Youth Resources

 

 

Challenges of LGBTQ Adolescents

A new generation of LGBTQ youth are coming of age in a society increasingly tolerant and yet still deeply divided about homosexuality. On one hand, there is increased openness, media attention, and an older generation of openly gay and lesbian role models. On the other hand, there is an increased backlash in the form of religious fundamentalism, violence, and legal intervention designed to "protect" traditional marriages and families. Sexual minority or queer youth are coming out younger than ever before and many are coming out in middle school and high school, while still living at home. Coming out, in some cases, then, has become a family affair.

Some families have experience with sexual minority status, either because there is someone in the family who is not heterosexual or they have family friends who are sexual minorities. However, most youth who come out while living at home are in families who have not had direct experience with queer individuals. Family therapists, familiar with the trials and tribulations of sexual identity, and experts on how to help families deal with difficult issues, are perfectly situated to be helpful.

 

Heterosexism is the unacknowledged belief that heterosexual people are normal, while other groups of people are not normal. Homophobia is the fear of homosexual people, which usually expresses itself in negative views of them. It is practically impossible to be raised in a heterosexist, homophobic culture like ours and not be influenced by some of the negative messages that swirl around on a daily basis about sexual minority people.

 

The Trevor Project
It Gets Better Project

Video: LGBTQ Band Camp

ABC News: Sexual Minority Youth At Risk of Violence

Video: Interview with LGBTQ High Schoolers

Gay People Are Coming Out Younger

Video: High School Seniors Attend First Queer Prom

CDC Health Report: LGTBQ Teens

How to Start a Gay-Straight Alliance at Your School

GLSEN: LGBTQ Students Not Safe at School

Camp Brave Trails: What's It All About?

TJ and Cyrus: I Can't Help Falling in Love With You

Broadway Kids Against Bullying: I Have a Voice

Info: Encouragement for LGBTQ Youth in Crisis

When an adolescent is different, it may create a family crisis. If the crisis leads to such distance from parents that they are no longer available to help the child develop, the family is not providing the necessary ingredients for development, and problems erupt. While difference is difficult, it is particularly difficult for sexual minority kids who sometimes feel as if they are growing up in enemy territory. Sexual minority youth often grow up loved but unknown. In many minority populations the older generation serve as models for the younger generation about how to live in an environment that oppresses them. However, most sexual minority youth grow up in families with heterosexual parents who may not understand the oppression, and who even may be a part of this oppression. Family therapy can help create a context in which open dialogue can occur so that the family is able to get back on track and nurture its youth.

 

Sexual minority youth, like all youth, follow their own paths toward self discovery, but they face special challenges. Youth who know they are LGBTQ have a sense of their difference for a while before they tell anyone. There is about a two-year period for most youth when they self-identify as non-heterosexual but keep this information to themselves. Remember, youth assume, like everyone else, that they are heterosexual. To have the knowledge that they are different, they must hold conflicting ideas in their head at the same time. "I am normal and I have feelings that are abnormal and wrong, so the feelings must be wrong or I don't really have these feelings." When youth do come out to others, it is usually to a trusted friend, and rarely to a parent first. The process of coming out and wiping away the last vestiges of internalized homophobia takes years, and sometimes, a lifetime.
 

HRC: LGBTQ Youth Report

National Safe Schools Coalition
Info:
Encouragement

Respect for All Project
The Prom: Broadway Musical

LGBTQ Documentary: Story of Our Own

We Are Family

Teaching Tolerance
AAMFT: Gay and Lesbian Youth

Info: LGBTQ Bullying

TED Talk: Problems Facing LGBTQ Youth

 

Youth who are openly struggling with the probability that they are not heterosexual can frighten parents. Most heterosexual parents assume their children will be heterosexual. When dreaming about the lives their children will lead, a same-sex partner is not part of the picture. Entertaining the idea creates fear and anxiety. Parents are afraid for a range of reasons. Most worry about the rejection their children will face and fear for their children's safety. They have heard hateful comments all their lives about homosexuals and know their child will be punished. Life is more difficult if you are not part of the mainstream, and some parents believe that homosexual behavior is sinful. Some recognize that their child's exploration poses difficult questions, which challenge all they think they know about gender, sexuality, and identity. They question their own parenting and wonder where they went wrong. The belief that they have control over their children's sexual identity may mislead parents to discourage atypical gender behavior so their child will turn out straight. Some may believe that once they relinquish control over something so basic as gender and sexual orientation, any control over the child becomes an illusion.

 



Families should seek help any time their adolescent withdraws from them more than is comfortable. Many sexual minority youth hide because it is difficult to reconcile the person they feel developing inside them with the person they are expected to be by everyone else. When youth come out to their families, they risk a great deal. Adolescents are dependent on their families for physical and emotional support. If they misjudge their parents, they have a great deal to lose. They may feel they can be themselves and risk rejection, or live a lie. Sexual minority youth, unlike members of other minority groups, cannot, and do not, expect their families to accept or tolerate their identity, much less help them nurture it and protect themselves.

Families should also seek help when their adolescent is acting out in dangerous ways. Most sexual minority youth have been ridiculed or experience verbal and physical threats of violence by their peers because they do not fit in. Those most likely to be abused are those who do not fit gender role stereotypes or those who live in communities that are openly homophobic. Many youth are verbally and physically attacked by family members who unwittingly denigrate their children for not living up to hetero-sexist expectations. Some of these youth act out during adolescence because they do not have the resources to manage their pain.

Family therapists who are knowledgeable about sexual minority youth will work towards creating a safe refuge for youth and their families. They will help family members evaluate the negative messages they receive from the culture about minority sexuality, teach families the facts, and work towards family members deciding themselves that which they believe. Family therapists will help family members talk with one another about their different beliefs in a way that encourages difficult, yet important dialogue. Family therapists will help families get back on track towards nurturing their adolescent's growth and development, and they will help members see that the uniqueness of each child is a gift and a blessing.

[Source: Linda Stone Fish and Rebecca G. Harvey, AAMFT]

 

 

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