The negative experiences and hostile environments LGBTQ+ youth face in America contribute to disproportionate levels of queer youth homelessness and mental health complications.
According to The Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ+ Youth Mental Heath, “10% of LGBTQ+ youth reported undergoing conversion therapy, with 78% reporting it occurred when they were under age 18. Youth who reported undergoing conversion therapy reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who did not.”
Across the United States, only 20 states have passed laws completely banning the practice of conversion therapy. The legality of conversion therapy in America thus puts thousands of LGBTQ+ youth in physically and mentally dangerous positions.
A vast majority of those forced into conversion therapy are young and impressionable, and the negative connotation surrounding their sexual identity can create long-term self-esteem issues and internalized homophobia. The relationship between suicide attempts and conversion therapy confirms that these practices are significantly detrimental to the minds of queer youth. Furthermore, the True Colors Fund, a non-profit organization working to end homelessness in the LGBTQ+ community, reports that “1.6 million youth are homeless each year and up to 40 percent of them identify as LGBTQ+.”
Because LGBTQ+ youth represent only 7 percent of the total youth population, there is a staggering disproportion of homelessness among these populations. The disproportionate rates of LGBTQ+ youth homelessness result from many factors, including feeling unsafe at home, being turned out of their homes, being forced into in or out-of-home conversion practices, and mental, physical, or emotional abuse. To decrease the prevalence of LGBTQ+ youth homelessness, the root issue must be addressed, which is, for the most part, widespread homophobia among the older, child-raising generations.
A survey conducted by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the University of Connecticut focused on the lives of over 12,000 LGBTQ+ teenage responders from every state in the nation. The survey found that LGBTQ+ teenagers face “heartbreaking levels of stress, anxiety, and rejection… [and] also overwhelmingly feel unsafe in their own school classrooms.”
LGBTQ+ young people who participated in the survey also made it abundantly clear that supportive families and inclusive schools are key to their success and well-being. Some specific statistics from the survey include:
"Only 26% say they always feel safe in their school classrooms— and just 5% say all of their teachers and school staff are supportive of LGBTQ+ people"
"More than 70 percent report feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness in the past week"
"67% of LGBTQ+ youth hear their families make negative comments about LGBTQ+ people"
"78% of youth not out to their parents as LGBTQ+ hear their families make negative comments about LGBTQ+ people"
"48% of LGBTQ+ youth out to their parents say that their families make them feel bad for being LGBTQ+"
"Only 27% of LGBTQ+ youth can 'definitely' be themselves in school as an LGBTQ+ person"
"73% of LGBTQ+ youth have experienced verbal threats because of their actual or perceived LGBTQ+ identity"
"70% have been bullied at school because of their sexual orientation"
These eye-opening facts on the family and school experiences of LGBTQ+ youth reveal the vast improvements that we have yet to make in American culture. By standing up for others instead of remaining bystanders to incidents of homophobia, we can work together to implement changes in our schools. Additionally, we can forward conversations with prejudiced individuals in order to generate change across our communities.
Although these changes may seem small, widespread advocacy can help thousands of LGBTQ+ youth throughout the nation. As a collective, changes will not occur unless we are willing to confront and fight against the heartbreaking realities and circumstances that LGBTQ+ people endure in the United States.
"About Conversion Therapy." The Trevor Project, www.thetrevorproject.org/get-involved/trevor-advocacy/50-bills-50-states/about-conversion-therapy/. Accessed 16 October 2021.
"The Cost of Coming Out: LGBT Youth Homelessness." Lesley University, lesley.edu/article/the-cost-of-coming-out-lgbt-youth-homelessness. Accessed 16 October 2021.
"True Colors United - Our Issue". True Colors United, 2021, https://truecolorsunited.org/our-issue/.
Kahn, Ellen, et al. 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report. 2018. Human Rights Campaign, hrc-prod-requests.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/files/assets/resources/2018-YouthReport-NoVid.pdf?mtime=20200713131634&focal=none. Accessed 16 October 2021.
About the Author:
Nidhi Rao is a high school sophomore and the current secretary of her class. Since childhood, Nidhi has been passionate about gaining new perspectives on political issues and hopes to inform and inspire others by writing in The Alcott Youth Magazine. In her spare time, she is interested in painting, hiking, kayaking, reading, and listening to music.