The lives and wellbeing of LGBT teens have improved dramatically over the past two decades thanks to the tireless work of advocates, lobbyist groups, and lawmakers, both within the community and allies beyond it. However, with the rise of popular hateful rhetoric and the glacially slow pace of social change, many of our LGBT youth still face drastic threats from both the society at large and those closest to them.
We need to talk more about our experiences with these threats, as well as what can be done to fight them, and see justice when it’s too late.
Going against the general trend, hate crimes have been shown to increase for the past two years in a row. With more politics-driven violent crimes taking part at protests, it’s easy to chalk this up to an aberration. Indeed, there has been a 400% rise in homicides targeting LGBT individuals, but also a rise in similarly targeted assaults that end up accidentally fatal. Wrongful death cases, of which you can see more here, can help the bereaved find justice in such cases, but hate crimes need to be treated more seriously to stop them from getting to that point.
A part of the general ignorance surrounding this topic is the widespread underreporting of anti-LGBT violent crime in news media, compared to other violent crimes.
LGBT youth are under significantly greater stress than any other demographic mentioned in recent studies, as you can see here. Besides creating a culture that is becoming more and more difficult to find comfort in, this has led to what could be called a suicide crisis for LGBT teens. In a National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, over 40% of high school students who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or questioning reported suicidal thoughts. The same study had no stats for transgender teenagers, but many are concerned they face a similar, if not higher, risk.
One of the issues very little discussed when it comes to LGBT people is their higher rates of homelessness than other demographics. Homelessness is on the rise in general, with 2017 being the first year to see a rise since the Great Depression. However, 20% of homeless youth are LGBT, which is double the 10% of LGBT teens in the population, which you can read more about here.
In part, severe family conflict lies at the root of most LGBT homelessness, as well as an increased risk of sexual abuse before the age of 12. Homeless shelters need to do more to accommodate their queer beneficiaries. Improving awareness of this over-representation can help shelters focus on training to protect LGBT individuals and to keep discrimination from some of the few safe spaces available to teens in that kind of predicament.
As progressive politics become a more common talking point, it’s easy for many outside the LGBT community to believe that we live in a world that is, by large, post-bigotry. However, we know that’s not true and we must continue making the case for the marginalized and the threatened, especially those too young to properly defend themselves.