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Home » Child/Adolescent Mental Health » Who’s At Risk? » Lesbian, Gay, Bi-, Transgendered » Considerations in Supporting LGBTQ Youth

Considerations in Supporting LGBTQ Youth

  • Common acronyms for the queer youth community are LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning), GLBTQ, and LGBTI (‘I’ stands for inter-sexed).
  • Many young people are now using the word “gay” to mean “dumb” or “stupid” rather than the correct definitions of “homosexual” or “happy.”  Other anti-queer terms that are commonly used include “fag,” “faggot,” and “dyke.”
  • School and community adults often ignore anti-LGBTQ bullying and harassment, choosing to look the other way when incidents occur.  Many adults do not know how to intervene appropriately and effectively.
  • Although almost all schools have anti-bullying policies, language regarding sexual orientation and gender identity or expression is often not included.
  • Most incidents of anti-LGBTQ bullying and harassment go unreported.  When interviewed, queer youth have said they did not speak up because they did not believe anything would be done to address the problem.
  • It is important to note that parents or guardians who are LGBTQ are also harassed.  LGBTQ parents may be mistreated by other caregivers or even by peers of their children.
  • School and class truancy are issues among queer youth mostly due to rational fears of being victimized by verbal or physical harassment or abuse.
  • Academic performance among LGBTQ youth can be negatively impacted, in part by school and class truancy as well as by increased incidents of anxiety and depression.
  • Anti-queer language, bullying, and harassment negatively impacts the mental health of LGBTQ youth.  Compared to their heterosexual peers, queer youth have higher rates of mental health problems including depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
  • Rates of suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, and suicide deaths are greater among LGBTQ youth.  LGBTQ youth are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.
  • Homelessness is an issue for LGBTQ youth who may not be welcome in their homes or communities because of their identities.  The number of queer homeless teens reported is likely underestimated as many “couch surf” from one friend or family member’s home to another’s.
  • Queer homeless youth often face discrimination in shelters and foster homes and therefore may not access these services.
  • It was not until 1973 that the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality as a mental health disorder from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
  • Some people from religious groups and other organizations may try to engage LGBTQ youth in “reparative therapy” or “reparative” therapeutic techniques to attempt to change homosexual orientation.  These therapies harm, rather than help, this already vulnerable population.

The American Psychological Association has stated, “Homosexuality is neither mental illness nor moral depravity.  It is simply the way a minority of our population expresses human love and sexuality.”