Feature by Simran Bharadwaj
Image via Freepik
LGBTQ+ youth have challenges but despite the stigma and stereotypes, they are often resilient. The courage and self-awareness that they have to live as their authentic selves. In this heteronormative world, it is difficult to express your own unique identity without harassment from others. It is important for others to recognize the struggles that LGBTQ+ youth face and learn how to be better allies.
Adolescence is hard to navigate regardless of your gender or sexual identity. LGBTQ+ youth often cannot find a safe space to express themselves without becoming victims of bullying. Schools do not end up being the safe spaces they should be due to bullying and harassment that may or may not be reported to teachers. Additionally, the bullying may not even be student to student incidents, but rather teachers or staff who verbally harass the children. The bullying often does not stop here either. Due to advancements in technology, children can be cyberbullied relentlessly.
LGBTQ+ youth also face danger outside of the classroom if they lack support from their family. As a minor it is often not possible to leave the home and find a safe and supportive environment. The lack of family support leads to increasing rates of homelessness amongst LGBTQ+ youth and is often the primary reason of homelessness as well. Minorities may also have the added pressure of being unable to tell their families how they identify and can find themselves trapped in a gender identity that they do not actually identify with. It can be even harder talking to peers out of fear that somehow the information will get back to their parents.
Homelessness can be a result of the combination of harassment at school and family rejection. According to the National Coalition of the Homeless, between 20 percent and 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ+ meaning that hundreds of thousands of children and young adults are living on the streets each year. Not only does this severely impact mental and physical health, but also puts them at greater risk for sexual exploitation or falling into sex work as a means to survive.
There are resources for LGBTQ+ youth that can help tackle the issue of homelessness such as the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, which has existed since 1974 attempting to provide services and interventions for out of home youth. However, it is also up to the other children and adults to understand the importance of creating a safe space for all children in and out of the home and school environment.
The Trevor Project is a very useful resource to become a better ally for LGBTQ+ youth. The Trevor Project offers crisis services 24/7, 365 days a year. They offer public education that helps allies and educators understand the news of the LGBTQ+ young people and have created a safe and international community for youth. LGBTQ+ youth can also use The Trevor Project to connect with an affirming international community.
New York City also has mental health resources for New Yorkers in the LGBTQ+ community. If you or someone you know needs help or support in terms of counseling/therapy, peer support groups, or gender affirming care please use the refer them to the resources available: https://mentalhealth.cityofnewyork.us/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/121420-LGBTQ-Guide-FINAL.pdf