Support for Gay Teens Facing Homophobia and Bullying
Despite the signs that our culture is moving toward LGBT acceptance, many teens are still struggling in their own environment. Some sociologists have estimated that one in 10 teens is gay. The actual population of LGBT people may be much larger but it is hard to say since many gay people hide their sexual orientation or keep it private out of fear. Homophobia exists in hallways, neighborhoods, homes, and classrooms across the country and around the world.
In 2012, the Human Rights Campaign published a groundbreaking study called "Growing Up LGBT in America" — the largest study of its kind, involving more than 10,000 teenagers. Here are some key findings:
54 percent of LGBT youth say they have been verbally harassed and called names involving anti-gay slurs.
47 percent of LGBT youth say they do not "fit in" in their community (16 percent of non-LGBT youth say they feel that way).
37 percent of LGBT young people describe themselves as happy, while 67 percent of straight youth describe themselves as happy.
83 percent of LGBT youth believe they will be happy eventually; only 49 percent believe they can be happy if they stay in the same city or town.
Nine in 10 LGBT youth are out to their close friends.
LGBT youth who are out to their immediate family are more likely to report being happy than those who are not out.
About two-thirds of high school youth are not out to their classmates.
Websites and resources to help gay teens
With so many young LGBT people struggling, parents, teachers, and teens can turn to the following resources for support for gay youth:
The American Academy of Pediatrics' tips for families of gay teens, including advice for parents to take a no-tolerance approach on homophobic remarks toward their child
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, GLSEN, a resource for setting up and supporting Gay-Straight Alliance clubs in schools (there are currently more than 4,000 registered) and creating LGBT "Safe Spaces" on school campuses with their "Spot the Sticker" campaign
GLAAD, a longstanding LGBT advocacy organization that organizes "Spirit Day" (aka 'Wear Purple Day'), supports school LGBT alliance clubs, and offers advice and legal support for LGBT youth who are bullied or discriminated against.
LAMBDA Youth OUTreach website, where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning (LGBTQ) teens can learn about family and community support and access online forums with their peers as an outlet for the challenges they face
The It Gets Better Project, an outreach program designed to organize a social network to show support and encouragement for gay teens. Find the video clip series on YouTube, or follow the program on Facebook
Athlete Ally and the You Can Play Project, which are working to support LGBT athletes and end homophobia in sports.
LGBT literature for teens in some school and public libraries; books like Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, Deliver Us from Evie by M.E. Kerr, and The Misfits by James Howe (which inspired a national "No Name Calling Week" in some schools) have become increasingly popular and focus on the troubles and triumph of gay characters
The Trevor Project, a 24/7, toll-free, nationwide hotline and resource for crisis and suicide prevention for the LGBTQ youth community; the hotline is 1-866-488-7386