LGBTQ

June is LGBT Pride Month

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month (LGBT Pride Month) is celebrated annually in June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots, and works to achieve equal justice and equal opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) Americans.

New Reports Highlight the Human Service Needs of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender (LGBT) Populations

This is cross-posted in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children & Families The Family Room blog. See the original post here.

By Tyler Hatch, Truman-Albright Fellow, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation & Catherine Heath, Child and Family Program Specialist, Children’s Bureau

LGBT

Sexual orientation and gender are important aspects of a young person’s identity. Understanding and expressing sexual orientation and gender and developing related identities are typical development tasks that vary across children and youth. For example, some youth may be unsure of their sexual orientation, whereas others have been clear about it since childhood and have expressed it since a young age.1 Expressing and exploring gender identity and roles is also a part of normal development.2 The process of understanding and expressing one’s sexual orientation and gender identity is unique to each individual. It is not a one-time event and personal, cultural, and social factors may influence how one expresses their sexual orientation and gender identity.3

Unfortunately, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth experience various challenges because of how others respond to their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. This is also true for youth who are questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity, or may be perceived as LGBT or gender variant by others.4 A landmark 2011 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report reviewed research on the health of LGBT individuals, including youth. Although this research is limited, the IOM report found that “the disparities in both mental and physical health that are seen between LGBT and heterosexual and non-gender-variant youth are influenced largely by their experiences of stigma and discrimination during the development of their sexual orientation and gender identity.”5 These negative experiences include high rates of physical and emotional bias and violence; rejection by families and peers; and inadequate supports in schools, employment, and communities because of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

Stress associated with these experiences can put LGBT young people at risk for negative health outcomes. Research shows that due to these environmental challenges, LGBT youth are at risk for negative health outcomes and are more likely to attempt suicide, experience homelessness, and use illegal drugs.6 These issues may also contribute to anxiety, depressive symptoms, and feelings of isolation. Youth who express their gender in ways that vary from societal expectations for their perceived sex or gender are at risk for high levels of childhood physical, psychological, and sexual abuse.7 They are also at risk for school victimization.8 As a result, they may have poorer well-being than lesbian, gay, and bisexual peers whose gender expression is more closely aligned with societal expectations.9

To date, most research on LGBT youth has focused on the risk factors and disparities they experience compared with youth who are not LGBT. However, emerging research on resiliency and protective factors offers a strength-based focus on LGBT youth well-being. Addressing LGBT-related stigma, discrimination, and violence; building on the strengths of LGBT youth; and fostering supports such as family acceptance and safe, affirming environments in schools and other settings will help improve outcomes for LGBT young people. Federal and local policies and practices increasingly acknowledge and focus on the experiences and needs of LGBT youth. Numerous national advocacy and other organizations are also giving greater attention to LGBT youth in their work.10 Fostering safe, affirming communities and youth-serving settings such as schools for all youth requires efforts to address the challenges described here. At the same time, it is also important to acknowledge and build on the strengths, resilience, and factors that protect LGBT youth from risk, such as connection to caring adults and peers and family acceptance.

1 Institute of Medicine, 2011; Poirier, Fisher, Hunt, & Bearse, 2014
2 Institute of Medicine, 2011; Poirier, Fisher, Hunt, & Bearse, 2014
3 Poirier, Fisher, Hunt, & Bearse, 2014
4 Gender variant youth are not necessarily LGBT. In fact, any youth who does not fit typical social expectations for his or her mannerisms, behavior, or choice of clothing based on birth-assigned gender, for example, can be considered “gender variant.” This does not mean the youth is lesbian, gay, or bisexual—or identifies as a gender different from what he or she was assigned at birth (i.e., transgender).
5 Institute of Medicine, 2011, p. 142
6 Hunter & Schaecher, 1987; Reis, 1999; Reis & Saewyc, 1999; Ray, 2006; Ryan, Huebner, Diaz, & Sanchez, 2009; SAMHSA, 2014
7 Roberts, Rosario, Corliss, Koenen, & Austin, 2012
8 Toomey, Ryan, Diaz, & Russell, 2010
9 Rieger & Savin-Williams, 2012
10 American Association of School Administrators et al., n.d.; National Association of School Nurses, 2003; National Association of School Psychologists, 2006

Dating Violence Prevention

Healthy relationships consist of trust, honesty, respect, equality, and compromise.1 Unfortunately, teen dating violence—the type of intimate partner violence that occurs between two young people who are, or who were once in, an intimate relationship—is a serious problem in the United States. A national survey found that ten percent of teens, female and male, had been the victims of physical dating violence within the past year2 and approximately 29 percent of adolescents reported being verbally or psychologically abused within the previous year.3

Teen dating violence can be any one, or a combination, of the following:

  • Physical. This includes pinching, hitting, shoving, or kicking.
  • Emotional. This involves threatening a partner or harming his or her sense of self-worth. Examples include name calling, controlling/jealous behaviors, consistent monitoring, shaming, bullying (online, texting, and in person), intentionally embarrassing him/her, keeping him/her away from friends and family.
  • Sexual. This is defined as forcing a partner to engage in a sex act when he or she does not or cannot consent.

It can negatively influence the development of healthy sexuality, intimacy, and identity as youth grow into adulthood4 and can increase the risk of physical injury, poor academic performance, binge drinking, suicide attempts, unhealthy sexual behaviors, substance abuse, negative body image and self-esteem, and violence in future relationships.5

Teen dating violence can be prevented, especially when there is a focus on reducing risk factors as well as fostering protective factors, and when teens are empowered through family, friends, and others (including role models such as teachers, coaches, mentors, and youth group leaders) to lead healthy lives and establish healthy relationships. It is important to create spaces, such as school communities, where the behavioral norms are not tolerant of abuse in dating relationships. The message must be clear that treating people in abusive ways will not be accepted, and policies must enforce this message to keep students safe.

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011
2 CDC, 2010
3 Halpern, Oslak, Young, Waller, Markin, & Kupper, 2001
4 Foshee & Reyes, 2009
5 CDC, 2012

Homelessness and Runaway

Homelessness is a major social concern in the United States, and youth may be the age group most at risk of becoming homeless.1 The number of youth who have experienced homelessness varies depending on the age range, timeframe, and definition used, but sources estimate that between 500,000 and 2.8 million youth are homeless within the United States each year.2

Youth run away or are homeless for a range of reasons, but involvement in the juvenile justice or child welfare systems, abuse, neglect, abandonment, and severe family conflict have all been found to be associated with youth becoming homeless. These youth are vulnerable to a range of negative experiences including exploitation and victimization. Runaway and homeless youth have high rates of involvement in the juvenile justice system, are more likely to engage in substance use and delinquent behavior, be teenage parents, drop out of school, suffer from sexually transmitted diseases, and meet the criteria for mental illness.3 Experiences of unaccompanied homeless youth are different from those who experience homelessness with their families. While negative experiences persist for youth who are homeless with their families, their experiences may not vary drastically from youth living in poverty.4 Studies have also found distinct variability in outcomes experienced by homeless youth, suggesting that youth experience homelessness differently.5

Providing timely and direct interventions to homeless and runaway youth is important to protect them from the risks of living on the streets and to support positive youth development6, yet despite the risks and needs of these youth, few appear to know of, and access, support services.7 Even more critical is addressing the family/parental needs to prevent youth and/or their families from becoming homeless and addressing their behavioral health needs through comprehensive methods that involve both youth and their families. 

1 Toro, Dworsky, & Fowler, 2007
2 Cooper, 2006
3 Walsh & Donaldson, 2010; Toro, Dworsky, & Fowler, 2007
4 Samuels, Shinn, & Buckner, 2010
5 Huntington, Buckner, & Bassuk, 2008
6 Walsh & Donaldson, 2010
7 Pergamit & Ernst, 2010

 

Providing Unbiased Services for LGBTQ Youth Project

Learn more about the lessons that Providing Unbiased Services for LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) Youth Project has learned and the challenges it has faced.

There is a lack of data in this area

Providing Unbiased Services for LGBTQ Youth Project

The Providing Unbiased Services for LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) Youth Project is a collaborative effort that originated in Multnomah County, Oregon and focuses on training staff and encouraging policy changes to provide unbiased services for LGBTQ youth in in-home and out-of-home care settings.

The collaboration structure includes