A few days ago while I was at work, one of my co-workers asked me to scrounge up some facts about the adversities faced by LGBT+ youth. As a young person in the community, I was happy to oblige; I had never really looked up any kinds of stats about this subject before and felt that I should. However, there was another part of me that was nervous – nervous to confront truths I suspected would not be very positive. Unfortunately, the information I found online – specifically in the 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report released by the Human Rights Campaign and the University of Connecticut – confirmed the nature of those truths.
According to the report, 70% of LGBT+ youth have been bullied in school because of their sexual orientation, and only 27% of LGBT+ youth said they felt they could “definitely” be themselves in school. In regards to mental health, LGBT+ youth report much higher rates of depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug use, and lower self-esteem than non-LGBTQ youth. In fact, 95% of LGBTQ+ youth report they have trouble sleeping at night.
And the stats are even worse for trans individuals and LGBT+ youth of color. The report reveals that 51% of trans youth can never use the bathroom or locker room corresponding to their gender identity, and only 1 in 5 are always called by their preferred pronouns in school. For LGBT+ youth of color, the challenges they face finding LGBT+ counselors of color or programs “often lead to feelings of isolation and a lack of a sense of belonging,” the report said.
As I was reading through those stats, I kept nodding my head, as if saying, “Yup. I remember that. I’ve been there.” It is not a fun feeling to read through that report and be able to relate to so much of it, or think that it can be worse for other members of the community. But then I think about the other side of it: This research exists. There are people out there who care so much about this issue that they want to dedicate their time conducting research about what it’s like to be a young member of the LGBT+ community.
And then I think about the organization that published this report: the Human Rights Campaign, a powerhouse for LGBT+ advocacy and equality. And they’re not the only resource that’s out there. There are also organizations like The Trevor Project, a crisis and suicide prevention hotline for LGBT+ individuals, Live Out Loud, an organization connecting LGBT+ youth to successful professionals in their community, and Trans Lifeline, a hotline staffed by trans people for trans people. These are just a few of the many organizations and resources that exist for our community.
So after reading through that HRC report, and looking at these other resources, I don’t feel hopeless. I feel more hopeful than ever. We all have the right to love ourselves and love whoever we want. And it all starts with us spreading love and kindness to one another, day in and day out, regardless of one’s identity. Whether that means getting involved in a local LGBT+ organization, advocating for LGBT+ inclusive curriculums and clubs, or just listening to someone’s story, you can make a difference. And you can undoubtedly brighten someone’s day with those acts of kindness.