LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, and questioning) teens do not only have to bear the challenges of being an adolescent, but they also face with frequent peer rejection, bullying, and threats. Violence is often directed at them and they are frequently harassed. For this reason, their psychological well-being is at risk.
Currently, heterosexuality is the most widely accepted form of sexual orientation, and sadly, any sexual orientation or gender pattern that falls outside of what society considers acceptable continues to carry a stigma. Sexual orientation can actually vary along a continuum. However, typically, it is defined as being heterosexual (having emotional and physical attraction to someone of the opposite sex), homosexual (having emotional and physical attraction to someone of the same sex), or bisexual (having emotional and physical attraction to both sexes).
Transgender is a descriptive term for individuals whose gender identity or whose expression of gender does not agree with their biological attributes – the sex they were born with. Transgender individuals have been a part of human society from as early as ancient indigenous societies through today. It is only that we are beginning to understand their psychological, emotional, and physical experience, and as a result, becoming more accepting.
Despite the growing acceptance for the LGBT community, there is significant room for improvement. While there are many people working hard to fight for the equality of LGBTQ youth, in the meantime, their education, health, and psychological well-being remains to be at risk. The following is a list of statistics that point to the vulnerabilities of LGBTQ youth:
- LGBTQ youth are more than twice as likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol.
- Only 37% of LGBTQ youth report being happy. At the same time, non-LGBTQ youth have reported being happy. Also, over 80% of LGBTQ youth believe that they will eventually be happy and that moving away from where they currently live will contribute to that happiness.
- Any time an LGBTQ teen is harassed or physically assaulted, the risk of self-harm among LGBTQ youth is 2.5 times greater.
- LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual teens.
- LGBTQ youth have identified bullying as the second most significant problem in their lives that gets in the way of their education. (Having a non-accepting family is the most significant problem that affects their education.)
- Those LGBTQ youth who reported being frequently harassed in school had a lower grade point average than those teens who were not as frequently harassed.
- Reports indicate that one third of LGBTQ youth tend to miss an entire day of school because of not feeling safe there.
- Of those LGBTQ youth who are bullied and harassed, 60% did not report those incidents to parents, school administration or teachers.
In addition to the risks mentioned above, LGBTQ teens are more at risk for suicide than other teens. LBGTQ teens are 2-5 times more likely to attempt suicide. Furthermore, there are two factors that make LGBT teens more vulnerable to suicide. The first of these is lack of parental support. Without the support of one’s family, teens feel that they have nowhere else to turn. Parental support can be a safeguard for the rejection teens often get from the outside world. Rejection from parents is the number one contributor to a suicide attempt.
The second factor is school bullying, which is common, as indicated above. According to Emily Bazelon’s book, Sticks and Stones, 85-90% of LGBTQ youth have been verbally harassed, 40% have been physically harassed, and 20% have been physically assaulted. Bullied teens are up to five more times likely to commit suicide.
As a parent or caregiver, although you may not agree with the sexual orientation of your teen, you can still stand by his or her side and keep them safe and alive! Furthermore, you can educate yourself on the needs of LBGTQ teens, join an LGBT support group for parents, and/or participate in family therapy to work through family concerns and strengthen relationships.
These are just a few suggestions to help protect the life of an LBGTQ teen!
Mental Health America. “Bullying and LGBT Youth”. Retrieved on January 22, 2015 from http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/bullying-and-gay-youth