Protection of LGBTQ Youth: Prejudice Can Lead to Negative Outcomes

Youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) face the same struggles as all adolescents, many with the added stress of feeling unsafe in social environments, being outcasts in school and facing rejection from their families. The Human Rights Campaign reports that LGBTQ youth are twice as likely as their peers to have been physically assaulted, 92% have heard negative messages about being LGBTQ and 26% report non-accepting families.

Extensive research has established that LGBTQ children experience a higher rate of abuse and neglect than those who identify as heterosexual, which leads to high rates of LGBTQ children being served by the child welfare system.

LGBTQ youth can also struggle with peers in school and are more likely than their peers to be bullied. Studies show a significant link between bullying and increased dropout rates.

Failure to be accepted at home, potentially violent responses to sexual orientation and lack of desire to stay in a hostile school environment can all lead to homelessness. While youth who identify as LGBTQ make up about 7% of the total population it is estimated that up to 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ.

Conversion Therapy is Ineffective and Dangerous

The state of Florida does not have  a law banning conversion therapy on minors, although over 10 cities in Florida, 8 states and the District of Columbia have all banned this practice. A report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states, “conversion therapy—efforts to change an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression—is a practice that is not supported by credible evidence and has been disavowed by behavioral health experts and associations.” According to the American College of Physicians, conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, may actually cause emotional or physical harm to LGBT individuals, particularly adolescents or young persons. The American Psychological Association found reparative therapy caused harmful effects including depression, suicidality and anxiety. Numerous organizations, representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured.”

Vulnerable to Commercial Sexual Exploitation

The discrimination that this group often receives – from family, peers, neighbors, institutions, employers and others – makes them exceptionally vulnerable to entry into the commercial sex market. The majority of children who are victims of sex trafficking come from a toxic household in which they feel unsafe or have experienced some kind of trauma. While it is perceived that the majority of sex trafficking victims are female, an increasing number are boys who identify as LGBTQ.

Experiences of mistreatment and discrimination can have permanent, harmful effects on the mental and physical health of LGBTQ youth. Policymakers must work to create multi-faceted initiatives that understand and give compassionate support to this vulnerable population.

Support

  • Ban harmful conversion therapy from being practiced on minors in Florida: Conversion therapy is ineffective, dangerous and has been denounced by all major medical and mental health organizations.
  • Ensure LGBTQ youth in the child welfare system are placed in homes that understand and support the unique stress they experience: All children served by the child welfare system should be placed in safe and compassionate facilities that provide them appropriate physical and mental care.
  • Place children in settings appropriate to the gender they identify with, rather than the gender of their birth: Systems serving youth populations must take a child’s transgender identity, rather than the gender assigned to them at birth, into consideration during a pre-placement assessment.
  • Create bully-free schools without reinforcing the school-to-prison pipeline: The education system must have a stronger support system for this population, including safer schools and support from the community.
  • Programs serving young victims of sex trafficking must expand their reach to male and LGBTQ victims: Sex trafficking is often viewed as a crime against females. While females are the predominant population, services must be adapted to meet the unique needs of male and LGBTQ victims.

Legislation

Disclaimer: These links to third-party websites are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. They do not constitute an endorsement or approval by The Children’s Campaign or its affiliate organizations and partners.

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