What is it like to grow up LGBT in America?

Youth march at a rally to end the ban on gays in the military. June is LGBT Pride month, a time to celebrate being yourself. PHOTO: M.V. Jantzen

A groundbreaking study by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) sheds light on what it is like for youth ages 13 to 17 to grow up lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) in America. The study hopes to increase public awareness about anti-LGBT bullying and harassment.

“It is critical that we get a better understanding of the experiences, needs and concerns of LGBT youth,” the HRC says. A high number of LGBT youth are homeless, in foster care or living in high-risk situations because they have been rejected by family or their community.

According to the data, when LGBT youth are worried or sad, they feel less able to talk with their parents or family members about their problems compared with non-LGBT youth. Outside the home, nearly six in ten youth say that churches or places of worship in their community are not accepting of LGBT people and less than half say their own church or place of worship is not accepting.

Schools, on the other hand, are considered one of the most accepting parts of the community for LGBT youth. Among LGBT youth, 75 percent say that their peers do not have a problem with their identity as LGBT. However, LGBT youth are still much more likely than non-LGBT youth to be kicked or shoved at school and called mean names. By being different, LGBT youth are also more likely to be excluded by their peers.

“The impact on their well-being is profound, however these youth are quite resilient,” the study says. “They remain optimistic and believe things will get better.”

Growing Up LGBT Key Findings:

  • Non-LGBT youth are nearly twice as likely as LGBT youth to say they are happy. Among LGBT youth, 67 percent report being happy while only 37 percent of LGBT youth say they are happy.
  • LGBT youth are more than twice as likely as non-LGBT youth to experiment with alcohol and drugs. Over half of LGBT youth say they have used alcohol and drugs while only 22 percent of non-LGBT youth say they have.
  • LGBT youth are twice as likely as their peers to say they will need to move to another town or part of the country to feel accepted. Among LGBT youth, 63 percent say they will need to move to achieve their dreams and be happy, compared with 31 percent of non-LGBT youth who say the same.

What are the top three issues kids face?

LGBT youth said:

1 Non-accepting families (26%)

2 School/Bullying problems (21%)

3 Fear of being out or open (18%)

Non-LGBT youth said:

1 Classes/exams/grades (25%)

2 College/career (14%)

3 Financial pressures related to college or job (11%)

PHOTO: Human Rights Campaign Growing Up LGBT in America
SOURCE: Human Rights Campaign Growing Up LGBT in America

What is LGBTQ? (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning)
Lesbian: a woman who is romantically attracted to other women
Gay: a man who is romantically attracted to other men
Bisexual: a man or woman who is romantically attracted to both men and women
Transgender: a person who is born a female, but who identifies as a boy; or a person who is born a male, but who identifies as a girl
Queer: a term that includes all LGBT people; often used by youth
Questioning: includes people still forming their gender identity


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