Only 1 in 4 LGBTQ teens in the United States feel safe in school

These statistics about LGBTQ teens in the US are revealing | Photo: Unsplash/Sharon McCutcheon

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and University of Connecticut today (15 May) released the largest ever survey of LGBTQ teens in the United States.

The 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report surveyed over 12,000 teens aged 13 to 17. They identify as LGBTQ and hail from all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia. HRC and UCONN asked over 150 questions from April to December 2017.

Of the respondents, 34% identify as trans or non-binary. Another 34% identify as bisexual, and 37% identify as gay or lesbian.

Addressing family life, school environment, and more, the survey reveals startingly realities for LGBTQ youth.

Not feeling safe or supported in school

Youth spend a lot of time in school — that’s why it makes sense to understand how school environment affects queer youth.

19 states plus the District of Columbia (DC) have laws protecting students from bullying. Another 13 plus DC have anti-discrimination laws specifically for schools.

Given that not even half of the country has rules in place to protect these teens, the statistics make more sense. A total of 70% of respondents said they experienced bullying at their school. Half of all trans girls say they’ve been physically threatened.

‘At my school, LGBTQ topics aren’t really discussed,’ one student said.

27% feel they can ‘definitely’ be themselves at school. 13% reported hearing positive messages about the LGBTQ community and only 26% feel safe in school.

Only 5% said teachers and school staff are LGBTQ allies and supportive of the community.

An abundance of stress

The report also explores the relationship between mental health and LGBTQ youth.

85% of them rate their average stress a 5 or higher on a 1 to 10 point school. Another 95% report having trouble sleeping at night.

While 77% reported feeling depressed in the last week, only 41% received counseling in the last year.

‘My fear keeps me from seeing a counselor about things like my anxiety and depression,’ one respondent explained. ‘I don’t know how they’d react [to my LGBTQ identity], so I’d rather go online to talk to my other queer friends about it.’

Discrimination and harassment that LGBTQ youth face worsens mental health.

20% reported they were forced to do sexual things they did not want to in the past year. Another 77% said they received unwanted sexual comments, jokes, and gestures.

Specific experiences for people of color and trans youth

‘Being black already makes life hard,’ one person said. ‘Adding being gay on top of that is extremely difficult.’

4 in 5 LGBTQ youth of color experience racism in their lives, and only 11% believe people regard their race positively in the US.

For trans youth, over half (51%) can never use bathrooms or locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity. Most (58%) say it’s because they don’t feel safe, while 46% say they don’t know if the school allows them, and 17% know the school does not allow them. Some even try not to use the bathroom at school.

Only 1 in 3 are called by their true name in school and only 1 in 5 are addressed with their proper pronouns in school.

Listen and learn

The report ends with advice for schools, families, and more about helping LGBTQ youth.

This mostly includes listening and learning about LGBTQ issues, getting involved, and watching for signs of bullying.

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