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  2. Transitioning to Adulthood

Transitioning to Adulthood

Although many youth experience a smooth transition into adulthood and the workforce, some encounter challenges in finding or maintaining employment. Because LGBT youth may experience less supportive school environments than their non-LGBT peers, they may struggle in school and, in turn, have higher school dropout rates or have lower aspirations for postsecondary education than other populations of youth1 These potentially negative school experiences can affect the postsecondary outcomes of LGBT youth as they transition into employment or postsecondary education. Also, LGBT youth may have difficulty finding, and need support identifying, jobs and higher education opportunities that are affirming and safe.

Colleges and Universities

In looking for postsecondary educational opportunities, LGBT youth may want to consider a college’s or university’s climate relative to the experiences of LGBT students. The LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index is a resource for youth to find higher-education learning environments that are welcoming to LGBT youth. The index assesses eight factors including LGBT policy inclusion, LGBT student life, LGBT campus safety, and LGBT counseling and health. As of June 2014, the index has data for 424 campuses. Also, the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals maintains a directory of colleges and universities that have an office dedicated to LGBT topics.


LGBT employees experience harassment and discrimination at greater levels than their non-LGBT colleagues.2 One survey found that 44 percent of LGBT adults experienced some form of discrimination on the job because of their sexual orientation.3 No federal law provides workplace protections for LGBT Americans. However, as of June 2014, 18 states and the District of Columbia ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, and three additional states ban discrimination based on sexual orientation only.4

Employers can benefit from policies and programs (including state laws) that support LGBT employees. Protections for LGBT employees have been found to attract other diverse applicants and fair-minded job seekers. For example, a recent survey showed that 71 percent of LGBT adults would prefer a job with an employer in a state where same-sex marriage equality is recognized, and 42 percent would consider changing jobs if their employer moved their workplace from a state that recognizes same-sex marriage to a state that does not.5 When seeking employment, LGBT youth may likewise consider the policies and practices of an organization, an agency, or a company before pursuing employment there. The Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index provides information on LGBT equality at U.S. businesses, which can provide useful guidance as LGBT youth transition into the workforce.6

Learn more about Transition Age Youth and Youth Employment.


Civil Rights at USDA: A Backgrounder on Efforts by the Obama Administration (PDF, 9 pages)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a training component that addresses sexual orientation and gender identity diversity. This statement describes the work that USDA is doing to improve civil rights.

The Economic Well-Being of Lesbian, Gay, or Bisexual Youth Transitioning Out of Foster Care
This resource discusses the well-being of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth aging out of foster care and compares data with their heterosexual peers. Data come from a longitudinal study, the Midwest Study of Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth. This brief was written as part of the Youth Demonstration Development project, supported by the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

LGBT at USDA: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Special Emphasis Program (PowerPoint, 31 slides)
This PowerPoint presentation focuses on the USDA’s LGBT Special Emphasis Program. It highlights information for a safe, inclusive workplace environment.


1 Kosciw et al., 2012; Kim, 2009
2 Movement Advancement Project, 2013; Badgett, Lau, Sears, & Ho, 2007
3 Out & Equal Workplace Summit, 2009
4 National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 2014
5 Out & Equal Workplace Summit, 2009
6 Human Rights Campaign, 2012b

Other Resources on this Topic

Youth Topics

Youth Voices

Youth Briefs

How Individualized Education Program (IEP) Transition Planning Makes a Difference for Youth with Disabilities

Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.

Youth Transitioning to Adulthood: How Holding Early Leadership Positions Can Make a Difference

Research links early leadership with increased self-efficacy and suggests that leadership can help youth to develop decision making and interpersonal skills that support successes in the workforce and adulthood. In addition, young leaders tend to be more involved in their communities, and have lower dropout rates than their peers. Youth leaders also show considerable benefits for their communities, providing valuable insight into the needs and interests of young people

How Trained Service Professionals and Self-Advocacy Makes a Difference for Youth with Mental Health, Substance Abuse, or Co-occurring Issues

Statistics reflecting the number of youth suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders highlight the necessity for schools, families, support staff, and communities to work together to develop targeted, coordinated, and comprehensive transition plans for young people with a history of mental health needs and/or substance abuse.

Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care: Challenges and Solutions

Nearly 30,000 youth aged out of foster care in Fiscal Year 2009, which represents nine percent of the young people involved in the foster care system that year. This transition can be challenging for youth, especially youth who have grown up in the child welfare system.

Coordinating Systems to Support Transition Age Youth with Mental Health Needs

Research has demonstrated that as many as one in five children/youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Read about how coordination between public service agencies can improve treatment for these youth.

Civic Engagement Strategies for Transition Age Youth

Civic engagement has the potential to empower young adults, increase their self-determination, and give them the skills and self-confidence they need to enter the workforce. Read about one youth’s experience in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).