All teens, regardless of their gender/sex identity, worry about the same
things: grades, making friends, dating, getting into college. But LGBTQ
teens face an extra set of stressors that most straight teens do not.
- Being outed – Having someone identify your sex/gender identity before you’re ready.
I first came out to my dad, sister, and two really close friends. One of those friends decided to tell pretty much everyone on our baseball team because, in his words, he wanted to warn them. I was really mad at him. My teammates started acting kind of weird around me, they stopped inviting me places, and things like that. It was my senior year of high school so I decided to just stick with it. I stoppedbeing friends with the guy who outed me after that.
It is NEVER okay to out someone without his/her permission.
- Rejection by family and friends
In “Growing Up LGBT in America”—a 2012 survey among more than ten thousand LGBT youth ages thirteen to seventeen—the teens were asked to describe the most important problem facing their lives.“Non-accepting families” ranked number one, with 26 percent of the respondents. When they were asked to describe one thing in their lives they would like to change, 15 percent said “my parent/family situation.” For those teens—particularly those who are not out to their family—they often fear how their family will react, knowing they are homo-/bi-/transphobic or swayed by their religion that condemns homosexuality. Still, given the fear of rejection and the disappointment they may well cause their family, more than half of the teens surveyed said they are out to their immediate family, about half said they have an adult in the family they could turn to for help, but less than a third chose their family among a list of places where they most often hear positive messages about being LGBT.
When families reject their LGBT children (even if unintended), they may try to change their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity, assume it’s just a “phase,” or prevent them from having LGBT riends. The results? Suicide attempts. High levels of depression. Using illegal drugs. High risk for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.
• Physical Safety at School and Beyond —LGBT youth are twice as likely as their peers to say they have been physically assaulted, kicked, or shoved at school. More than one third say they don’t come out at school because they will be treated differently or judged. “Growing Up LGBT in America” supported the fact that growing up lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender can be a rough ride with all kinds of challenges. When asked what the most difficult problem they were facing in their lives “these days,” 21 percent said “trouble at school/ bullying.” (Interestingly, 22 percent of non-LGBT youth listed “trouble with classes/exams/grades.) The report found that 51 percent of LGBT youth are twice as likely as their peers to say they have been physically assaulted, kicked, or shoved at school, verbally harassed and called names at school. That number compares to 25 percent of non-LGBT students.
Despite these statistics, a healthy 75 percent of LGBT teens say that most of their peers don’t have a problem with their gender identity.
• Harassment & Abuse
August’s Story—Nineteen-year-old August, who identifies as a non-binary transgender, was sexually abused at school from the time she was ten until age twelve. She doesn’t remember much from that time: “Probably a survival mechanism. I felt like a robot. I figured my abuser would either leave or that I’d go to another school.” August didn’t know the word rape, didn’t even hear the word until a year after the abuse began. To this day, she is deeply upset that the school withheld information because the teachers and administrators didn’t want to upset the students or add to their own discomfort.
A Happy Ending:
August is now involved in a youth program for LGBTQ teens. It’s the first time she’s been around “queers” her age and heard them talking about abuse, self abuse, gender. It has, she says, affected her mental health in a very positive way. “I am not alone.”
- Homelessness—It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that because somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT, they must be delinquents who cause tremendous discord at home or who are running from the law or unable to abide by rules set by their parents. Not true. The majority of homeless LGBT youth are what David Bond, vice president of Programs, The Trevor Project, labeled “refugees or asylum seekers” who are escaping really bad conditions at home or have been rejected, often kicked out. According to one study, 26 percent of gay teens were kicked out of their homes when they came out to their parents. Their only way to “survive” has been to choose the worst of two evils: fend for themselves or stay in a toxic, often dangerous situation.
- their homes when they came