Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK
Teen Text Hotline: (775)296-8336
LBGTQ Hotline: 866-4-u-Trevor
Serving troubled & at-risk girls.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), LGBTIQ teens are six times more likely to experience symptoms of depression than the general population. Research shows that low family satisfaction, cyberbullying victimization, and unmet medical needs contributed to their higher rates of depression. The Trevor Project found that the pandemic also contributed to mental health challenges: 60 percent of teens reported experiencing poor mental health sometimes or all the time since the pandemic began.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersexual & Queer (LGBTIQ)
Fifty percent of LGBTIQ teens (ages 13–17) seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. And 18 percent actually made a suicide attempt. That’s more than twice the rate of suicide attempts among all US teens, which is 9 percent.
Why Are LGBTIQ Teens Vulnerable to Suicide?
All teenagers are at risk for suicide. But LGBTQ youth suicide rates are higher because their risks are compounded. As The Trevor Project states, “LGBTIQ youth are not inherently prone to suicide risk because of their sexual orientation or gender identity but rather placed at higher risk because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society.” Most profoundly, they experience rejection or lack of support from their family members much more often than their heterosexual peers. Nonbinary and transgender family rejection statistics are particularly striking: The 2022 survey found that fewer than one-third of transgender and nonbinary youth say they live in a gender-affirming home.
Moreover, stigma and threats of violence from peers and society at large further impact their mental health and well-being. The Trevor Project survey found that LGBTQ youth who experienced anti-LGBTQ victimization, including being physically threats or harm, discrimination, or conversion therapy, reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year.
Hence, the feelings of isolation or “otherness” that often accompany adolescence are magnified for LGBTIQ teens. These challenges can be particularly overwhelming for younger adolescents. A 2019 study of LGBTQ teen suicide rates found that one out of four suicides (24 percent) in adolescents age 12 to 14 were among LGBTQ youth. Researchers found that family problems most often contributed to suicides among younger teens.
What LGBTIQ Youth Face in Schools
In addition to difficulty at home, LGBTIQ youth in schools often face bullying, threats of injury, and sexual violence. The following data on LGBTIQ teenagers comes from the
10 percent were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property
- 34 percent were bullied on school property
- 28 percent experienced cyberbullying
- 23 percent who had dated someone during the 12 months before the survey had experienced sexual dating violence
- 18 percent students had experienced physical dating violence
- Another 18 percent had been forced to have sexual intercourse at some point in their lives.
As a result, LGBTIQ students were 140 percent more likely than their heterosexual peers to skip school at least one day during the 30 days prior to the surveys.
Schools and government policies can make a difference for LGBTIQ youth. Youth living in states with anti-bullying laws that include sexual orientation and gender identity report less homophobic victimization and harassment. In addition, schools with Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs provide a more supportive environment for LGBTQ youth.
It is important for parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTIQ) girls to remember that each girl is unique and will have her own experiences and feelings. “Coming out” is a lifelong journey of understanding, acknowledging, and sharing one’s gender identity or sexual orientation with others. Here is information from the American Academy of Pediatrics to help parents support your daughter’s journey.
What your daughter may be experiencing and what you can do – “I feel different from other kids…”
Feelings of being “different” emerge throughout childhood, although it may not be clear to your daughter what the feelings mean. Girls may begin exploring gender before kindergarten, so coming out and sharing these feelings of being different with others may happen at any time. For many girls, gender identity becomes clearer around puberty as their bodies change. Romantic attractions during the teen years may also be experiences that highlight same-sex attractions for lesbian youth. However, many LGBTIQ girls have said, in retrospect, that they began to sense something different about themselves early in life, and for gender diverse youth, this feeling sometimes begins as far back as preschool.
It is common for LGBTIQ girls to feel scared or nervous during this stage. Some can start to feel isolated from their peers, especially if she feel that she don’t fit in or are given a hard time for being different. Just remember, research shows that children who feel loved and accepted for who they are have a much easier time.
Parents & Families can…
Play an important role advocating for safe spaces where their daughters can explore interests without judgment or stereotypes.
Support diverse friendships and social involvement without focusing on expectations around gender or sex.
Provide exposure to people working and enjoying activities apart from conventional gender expectations.
Engage in conversations and check regularly with your daughter about their interests, friend groups, and romantic attractions and about any bullying or teasing that may be taking place.
“I think I might be gay (or Lesbian, Bi or Tran), but I’m not sure, and I don’t know how I feel about that…”
Beyond just feeling different, girls begin to wonder if they might be gay, lesbian, bi, trans, or another term that describes their identity or sexuality. Many girls have mixed feelings when they first try on a new way of identifying. These can be a mix of excitement, relief, and worry.
Many girls may try to suppress these feelings to meet societal expectations, to fit in, or even to avoid upsetting their parents or families. In some cases, girls might be overwhelmed by all these feelings, which increases the risk for depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. For example, she may isolate herself from others for fear of being exposed, or “outed.” Some girls may feel very alone, especially if she live in a community that doesn’t have an active LGBTIQ-youth support system. Having a supportive and helpful environment at home and good relationships with friends will help her manage her feelings and deal with any discrimination she may face.
“I accept that I’m gay, but what will my family & friends say?”
Girls may accept that they are LGBTIQ but not yet ready to start sharing this information with anyone. Some girls will feel comfortable with being open about their identity or sexuality, while other girls may not tell anyone for a long time. Girls may look for clues on how you feel about her gender identity and sexual orientation. By speaking positively about LGBTIQ celebrities or current events, you will let her know you are supportive of her identity.
Society has become more open and accepting of LGBTIQ individuals, and youth are beginning to come out at earlier ages than they did a generation ago. Girls may first come out to online communities or peers they perceive to be safe and accepting before telling their family.
It is important for parents and children to realize that acceptance is a process that involves the entire family. Just as it takes time and support for LGBTIQ youth to understand and accept their identity, the same is true for parents.
“I’ve told most of my family and friends that I’m gay (or Lesbian, Bi or Trans)”
Hopefully, girls will feel secure enough in who they are and share that information with loved ones. It takes courage and strength for a girls to share who they are inside, especially for girls who are unsure of how their families will respond. They may be afraid of disappointing or angering their families or, in some instances, may fear being physically harmed or thrown out of their homes. Again, parents usually need time to deal with the news. While it may take them days, weeks, or many months to come to terms with their daughter’s sexuality or gender identity, it is important for parents to show love and support for her, even if they don’t fully understand everything.
Coming out to others can be a liberating experience, especially for girls who are embraced by their communities and families. Coming out allows LGBTIQ girls to feel free to speak openly about their feelings and possibly romantic relationships for the first time. For transgender and gender diverse girls, they may finally feel free to begin expressing themselves genuinely as the gender they feel inside.
Parents and families can
When your daughter discloses her identity to you, its best to respond in an affirming, supportive way.
Accept and love your daughter as she is. Try to understand what she is feeling and experiencing. Even if there are disagreements, she will need your support and validation to develop into healthy teens and adults.
Stand up for your daughter when she is mistreated. Do not minimize the social pressure or bullying your daughter may be facing.
Make it clear that slurs or jokes based on gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation are not tolerated. Express your disapproval of these types of jokes or slurs when you encounter them in the community or media.
Be on the lookout for danger signs that may indicate a need for mental health support. These are anxiety, insecurity, depression, low self-esteem, and any emotional problems in your daughter who may not have a source of support otherwise.
Connect your daughter with LGBTIQ organizations, resources, and events. It is important for her to know she is not alone.
Celebrate diversity in all forms. Provide access to a variety of books, movies, and materials—including those that positively represent gender diverse individuals and individuals who have different sexual orientations than the norm. Point out LGBTIQ and queer celebrities and role models who stand up for the LGBTIQ community, and point out people in general who demonstrate bravery in the face of social stigma.
Support your daughter’s self-expression. Engage in conversations with her around their choices of clothing, jewelry, hairstyle, friends, and room decorations.
Reach out for education, resources, and support if you feel the need to deepen your own understanding of LGBTIQ youth experiences.
Even if you are having trouble understanding your daughter’s identity or feelings, not withdrawing from your role as a parent is probably one of the most important ways to help her continue to feel a sense of being cared for and accepted. Feeling loved has been shown to be critical to overall health and development of all children regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. Many parents do need their own supports to help them understand and cope with their own difficult emotions and concerns during their daughter’s coming out.
What To Do If Your Daughter Comes Out To You
There will be things you don’t know; don’t panic. Tell them that you will learn what you don’t know and you will be there for every step of their self discovery
- Tell her that she is in charge of who she come out to and when she decide to do that.
- Reassure her you are always on her side.
- Let her know this only changes what she want it to change.
- Remember this is the same child you loved yesterday, and last week. Continue to love her as you always have.
She may not be asking you to understand, she is asking you to accept and love her. Don’t panic and let her get their thoughts out before you ask questions.
If you tell her anything in that moment back it up with actions. If you told her you would find her a therapist to talk to? Find one. If you told her you would research? Start it that night.
How To Help Your LGBTIQ Daughter
Make an effort to learn more about the rich history and diversity of the LGBTIQ community. On the national level, LGBTIQ people are still second-class citizens in regard to some national policies and their rights are not guaranteed by law. Consider educating yourself about this and finding out what you can do to work toward extending equal rights to LGBTQ people in the United States. A good place to start is the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Don’t let fear of saying the wrong thing keep you from doing the right thing.
“Give kids the space to develop and use their voice,” Listen to them without judgement. Assure them they have your support. Encourage the youth to continue to keep you “in the know.” If your child turns to you to share personal information, you’re must be doing something right! You are askable. You’re sending out consistent verbal and non-verbal cues that say, “Yes, I’ll listen. Please talk to me!”
Let them know that you love them no matter what and tell them they are “perfect just the way you are” It’s what they need to hear.
“Support and encourage conversation around books, movies, music and other forms of media and activities that feature LGBTIQ themes and intersectional voices within the community from different racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds,
Shut down anti-LGBTIQ behavior.
Speak out against anti-LGBTQ remarks and behaviors. When you see young people engage in any bullying behavior, intervene every time. When you hear friends or co-workers telling non-inclusive jokes, ask them to stop using hurtful language.
Bisexual youth are promiscuous. This is a stereotype that even plagues bisexual adults. There is a persistent misconception that just because bisexuals are attracted to both sexes, they are naturally promiscuous. In fact, most bisexuals describe themselves as monogamous.
Youth who are transgender are lesbian/gay/bisexual before transition and are straight after transition. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, regardless of where they are in the transition process, 23% of transgender people identify as heterosexual, 23% identify as gay or lesbian, 25% identify as bisexual, 23% label themselves as queer, 4% describe themselves as asexual and 2% wrote in other answers.
Gay and lesbian teens only have sex or romantic relationships with the same sex. According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, although 22% of lesbian and gay teens say they have sex with the same sex only, about 9% say that they have sex with both sexes. This shows that sexual identity does not predict sexual behavior and has important implications for the following myths.
Lesbian and bisexual girls don’t experience intimate partner violence. Because the majority of those who perpetrate intimate partner violence are men, it is tempting to assume that lesbian and bisexual teenage girls don’t experience abuse in their relationships.
Unfortunately, one study shows that 42% of lesbian and bisexual girls experienced intimate partner violence in the past, compared with 16% of heterosexual girls. However, this study and others do not tell us whether they have experienced abuse in their relationships with girls or with boys.
Lesbian girls can’t get gonorrhea or chlamydia or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). About 2% of young lesbians report ever having any sexually transmitted infection (STI). A small percentage of young lesbians report having chlamydia, and this is associated with PID. It is true, however, that gonorrhea is rare among lesbians, but don’t forget that young lesbian women may have had sex with men.
Interestingly, the prevalence of bacterial vaginosis, a condition characterized by overgrowth of vaginal anaerobic bacteria, is higher in young women who have sex with women. Possible sources of transmission include digital-to-vaginal contact, oral sex, or sex toys.
Girls who have sex with girls can’t get pregnant, so you don’t have to worry about birth control. Don’t forget that heterosexuals use birth control for other reasons than preventing pregnancy. Some girls use birth control to help regulate periods, to ease cramping, or to treat acne. Lesbians and bisexual girls are at the same risk for these problems as are heterosexual girls, so don’t assume that they’re not interested in birth control just because they are not concerned about getting pregnant.
Also, as previously mentioned, lesbian girls may be having sex with boys, so conversations about birth control should be driven by who they are having sex with, not by how they identify.
Myth # 7:
Lesbian girls can’t get pregnant. A study by the Toronto Teen Sex Survey found that 28% of sexual minority youth report involvement in pregnancy, compared with 7% of heterosexual youth.
Now many who are reading this may be scratching their heads. If someone finds the same sex attractive, then why are they engaging in heterosexual sex? Some studies suggest that engaging in heterosexual sex is a way to hide their true sexual orientation, because we live in a heterosexist and homophobic environment. After all, what better way to prove that you’re heterosexual? Another study suggests that intentionally getting pregnant or getting someone pregnant is the quickest way to parenthood, and becoming a parent can compensate for one’s identity as a sexual minority.
So how do you overcome these persistent myths? The most important thing to do is not assume. Identity and behaviors are not the same. Always be specific when you’re asking questions about sex and relationships in LGBTQ youth.
Queer Youth – The Center – Las Vegas
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: LGBT Youth
LGBT Resources at Johns Hopkins Medicine
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbian and Gays (PFLAG)
Coming Out: Information for Parents of LGBT Teens
New Trevor Project Research: LGBTQ Youth Mental Health Challenges Continue – But There’s Hope
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