Queer, Young and Bullied

Startling facts about suicide and harassment among America's LGBT youth

A new report about “Being LGBT in the 21st Century” shows some sobering statistics about what it means to be young and LGBT today in America. Liberty Hill, a West Coast-based organization, surveyed LGBT teens around the country to find out about the real dangers of bullying and suicide, and what can be done to prevent yet another loss of life.

Turns out more young people may be considering suicide than we think. Almost 73 percent of LGBT girls and 47 percent of boys admit that at one time or another they have thought about suicide, says Liberty Hill. Worse, more than half of girls say they have made an attempt (compared to 20 percent of boys).

These kids are also at higher risk for depression, and three times as likely to use illegal drugs or engage in risky sexual behavior both as teens and as they mature into young adulthood.

It can be particularly tough for transgender youth who tend to come out to peers before they ever talk to their families and other adults. But their peers can sometimes do the most damage.

Almost 90 percent of transgender teens admit they have experienced verbal harassment (and 32 percent say that harassment has come from school staff). They also tend to suffer violence and abuse more often than many other teens because of their gender identity.

But fortunately, a few initiatives are proving to be effective in curbing these high rates of suicide and bullying. One of them is parental support – and the other is having support at school through the administration, teachers and GSAs. GLSEN says that schools with GSAs show a considerable drop in bullying and overall homophobia.

Mark Hatzenberger, a researcher at Columbia University, says that there are several ways to improve the quality of life for LGBT teens in this country – both within the schools and community, like having effective anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies and GSAs, not to mention more visible gay, lesbian, transgender and same-sex couples within the community. He also says regions that have more Democrats tends to be more tolerant and offer more support for young people who may be coming out or questioning their gender.

For more information about how to start a GSA, click here. And for support for anyone who may be considering suicide, please consider contacting The Trevor Project’s free 24-hour Lifeline: 866-488-7386