Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning
(LGBTQ) Youth By Jennifer L. Kolb, LPCA, NCC
For youth to truly thrive as individuals, they need to feel socially, emotionally, and physically safe and supported. This is especially critical for LGBTQ* youth, particularly regarding overall mental health and well-being. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) recently released a report entitled “Growing up LGBT in America,” a document that summarizes key findings of groundbreaking research among more than 10,000 LGBT-identified youth ages 13-17. According to the HRC, this is the largest known sample to date of LGBT youth from “every region of the country, from urban, suburban and rural communities, and from a wide variety of social, cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds.” Key findings of the research indicate that LGBT youth are at increased risk for family rejection as well as elevated risk for bullying, violence, and discrimination. As such, LGBT youth are more likely to experience associated negative health and mental health outcomes.
While the HRC report and other studies indicate that far too many youth lack critical support, studies also show that LGBTQ youth are quite resilient. How can parents, family members, friends, teachers, and allies best support LGBTQ youth and foster resiliency? Research shows that the following are effective ways to promote and enhance the health and well-being of LGBTQ youth:
- Talk and listen. Inviting open discussion can help a teen feel loved and supported. Respond calmly and use respectful language.
- Stay involved. Making an effort to know what is going on in a youth’s life can help youth feel cared about and can help youth to stay safe.
- Be proactive. There are many local and national organizations and information resources available to learn more and stay informed. Some of these include:
www.hrc.org The Human Rights Campaign is “the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, and envisions a world where LGBTQ people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.”
www.itgetsbetter.org is an organization whose mission is “to communicate to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth around the world that it gets better, and to create and inspire the changes needed to make it better for them.”
www.pflag.org PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) is “the nation’s largest family and ally organization” with local chapters throughout the Charlotte area.
www.timeoutyouth.org is an organization in Charlotte whose mission is “to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth by offering vital programs, fostering unconditional acceptance, and creating safe spaces for self-expression through leadership, community support and advocacy.”
While societal, legal, and policy changes have led to notable improvements in the lives and mental health of LGBTQ youth, there is still much work to be done. In the interim, LGBTQ friends, families, and allies can help to foster positive outcomes for LGBTQ youth by offering affirmative support, perhaps by using a few of the ideas and resources included in this article.
*Variations of this acronym are used to reflect relevant populations. Many studies consider lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, but do not consider youth who identify as queer or questioning.