You're standing in front of your Family and Friends prepared to make your dreams of a lifetime come true. It's at that moment that you are grateful that you have a professional guiding your ceremony. The Supreme Court has finally ruled upon this issue. Now is the time to plan your perfect LGBT Wedding. I have been performing Commitment Ceremonies since the beginning, and I am so pleased this has opened up for everyone to marry the one they Love. Contact Reverend Jacqui Weiks, Your LGBT Wedding Officiant
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LGBT Youth Issues
While the lives of many LGBT people have improved over the past few years, there are still a disproportionate number of issues affecting LGBT youth: whether it’s at school, at home, or within their communities, LGBT youth face harassment and exclusion that can lead to lifelong issues, including anxiety and depression, creating barriers to happy, healthy lives and self-acceptance.
LGBT Youth Issues: Bullying
The It Gets Better Project brought a lot of awareness to the bullying and intolerance faced by LGBT youth, but awareness is not enough. In a recent survey, between 78 and 86 percent of LGBT youth reported experiencing verbal harassment, while 25 percent reported being physically attacked at school because of their sexual or gender identities. Even more troubling is the fact that not all of these incidents are student-to-student bullying: a significant number of trans youth reported being verbally harassed by teachers or staff, while some respondents stated that they were physically or sexually assaulted.
In addition to the immediate physical and mental effects of bullying, verbal and physical assault can cause long-term harm and limit opportunities for LGBT youth:
- Mental illness:LGBT youth who are bullied show increased risks of anxiety, depression, and self-harm, as well as higher rates of attempted suicide.
- Absenteeism: A significant percentage of transgender individuals have reported withdrawing from school due to the severity of bullying, and more than a third of LGBT youth in a recent survey had missed days of school because they felt unsafe.
- Substance abuse: LGBT youth tend to report much higher rates of substance abuse, which studies have tied to feelings of hopelessness and the desire of LGBT youth to escape their current situation.
For many LGBT youth, Gay-Straight Alliance groups are a valuable resource when it comes to creating safe spaces and avoiding bullying, but many schools still lack a way to provide LGBT students the resources and support they need.
LGBT Youth Issues: Family Rejection
Sharing your gender or sexual identity with your family can be a major step toward self-acceptance and happiness, but half of LGBT youth still experience a negative reaction when they come out to their parents. Whether it’s through denial, physical or verbal abuse, or being kicked out of the home, family rejection can lead to major issues for LGBT youth, including substance abuse, self-harm, or homelessness. When combined with the negative effects of bullying at school, family rejection often eliminates safe spaces and puts kids at risk.
Unsurprisingly, having an accepting family can significantly improve the lives of LGBT youth: studies have shown that a supportive family can insulate LGBT youth from some of the worst mental and physical risks brought about by bullying. Supportive families shield their LGBT kids from health risks like HIV infection, and LGBT youth whose families accept them have lower rates of depression and suicidal thoughts. Even if school isn’t a safe space, a good home life can give LGBT youth an escape from the harassment they may experience outside of the house.
LGBT Youth Issues: Homelessness
Closely related to family rejection and a lack of safe spaces, LGBT youth homelessness is a growing issue that significantly affects the physical and mental health of these community members. In the past few years, a number of studies have revealed that LGBT youth homelessness is a much bigger problem than many people realized:
- Family conflict: Between 20 and 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT, and a significant percentage of homeless LGBT youth report that they became homeless due to conflicts with their families.
- Sexual victims: Homeless LGBT youth have higher rates of sexually-transmitted diseases, including HIV, and are more likely to become sexually victimized or exchange sex for basic needs like food and shelter.
- Mental abuse: Many of the same mental health issues reported by bullied LGBT youth are present among homeless youth, but in much higher rates and with more lasting effects.
As the epidemic of LGBT youth homelessness has gained greater public awareness, advocacy groups have called for improvements in the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act to specifically address the needs of LGBT youth, including the addition of nondiscrimination protections to the law.
Bringing Hope to LGBT Youth
Despite all of the barriers and challenges faced by LGBT youth, wider awareness of the issues brings some hope that things can and will get better. The ACLU’s LGBT project has identified several opportunities to help LGBT youth, and many smaller organizations created safe spaces and provide support for struggling LGBT youth. In a future article, we’ll take a look at some of these organizations working to ensure that LGBT youth have access to the resources, support, and community they need to thrive.
Are you a parent or an educator of LGBT youth? We’d love to hear your ideas for making schools, homes, and communities safer spaces. What’s worked for you, and what are some issues you’ve noticed?