Protecting Vulnerable Populations: LGBTQ Youth in Florida
Youth that identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) face the same struggles as all adolescents, with the added stress of feeling unsafe in social environments, being outcasts in school and often 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 percent have heard negative messages about being LGBTQ and 26 percent report non-accepting families.
Extensive research has established that LGBTQ children experience a higher rate of abuse and neglect than those that identify as heterosexual, which leads to high rates of LGBTQ children being served by the child welfare system. Many are placed in households within the system in which they experience both indirect and direct forms of continued physical and mental abuse.
LGBTQ youth also struggle with peers in school. They are more likely than their peers to be bullied. Studies show a 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. Each year 110,000 LGBTQ youth experience homelessness in America. Of the homeless youth in Florida, 40 percent identify as LGBTQ.
Conversion Therapy is Ineffective and Dangerous
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 had 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 that are victims of sex trafficking come from a toxic household in which they feel unsafe or in which they experienced some kind of trauma. While it is perceived that the majority of sex trafficking victims are female, an increasing number are boys that 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.
- 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: The system must take a child’s transgender identity, rather than the gender assigned to them at birth, into consideration during a pre-placement assessment. The child welfare system must work to ensure the safest and best quality placements for these children.
- Create bully-free schools without reinforcing the school-to-prison pipeline: The education system must have a stronger support system for this population of kids, including safer schools and support from the community.
- Ban harmful conversion therapy from being practiced on minors in Florida: Conversion therapy is ineffective and dangerous and has been denounced by all major medical and mental health organizations.
- Support programs that strengthen the LGBTQ community: The system must take a child’s transgender identity, rather than the gender assigned to them at birth, into consideration during a pre-placement assessment. The child welfare system must work to ensure the safest and best quality placements for these children.
- 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 for male victims and LGBTQ victims.
- For LGBTQ Youth, Schools’ Failures May Mean Higher Risk Of Criminalization—The Huffington Post
Schools are not doing enough to ensure the safety of LGBTQ youth.
- Unjust: How the Broken Criminal Justice System Fails LGBTQ Youth—Movement Advancement Project
Report finds that LGBTQ youth are twice as likely to end up in juvenile detention; 20% of youth in juvenile justice facilities identify as LGBTQ compared to 7-9% of youth in general.
- LGBTQ Youth—The Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Overview of LGTBQ youth and their experiences in adolescence.
- LGBTQ Homelessness—National Coalition for the Homeless
According to the Williams Institute, 40% of the homeless youth served by agencies identify as LGBTQ.
- Serving Our Youth: Findings From a National Survey of Services Providers Working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth who are Homeless or At-Risk of Becoming Homeless—The Willams Institute
LGBTQ individuals face a particular set of challenges, both in becoming homeless as well as when they are trying to avoid homelessness.
- Youth Involvement in the Sex Trade—Center for Court Innovation
This study examines the lives and needs of youth who are involved in exchanging sex for money, food, housing, drugs or other goods. The study identifies LGBTQ youth as a portion of the population that has been historically overlooked.
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.