As if dealing with the many challenges of being a teenager were not enough, a teen who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender may have those challenges multiplied exponentially. LGBT teens often deal with bullying in the form of harassment, threats and even real physical violence on a daily basis. Studies show that LGBT teens are twice as likely to be physically assaulted, verbally harassed or to be called names at school as compared to non-LGBT teenagers. The school bullying of LGBT youth can affect their education, their physical well-being, and their mental health. Statistics show that:
- Even though the teen years are typically angst-filled, while 67 percent of non-LGBT teens say they are mostly happy, only about 37 percent of LGBT teens say they are happy.
- The majority of LGBT teens who admit to being unhappy feel that would change—they would be happier—if they were to leave the town they currently reside in.
- The suicide rate for LGBT teens is a staggering four times that of their heterosexual peers.
- LGBT teens who suffer verbal and/or physical harassment are about two and a half times more likely to engage in self-harm than non-LGBT teens.
- Substance abuse is considerably higher among LGBT teenagers, mostly due to the bullying they experience at school, and their resulting unhappiness.
The bullying experienced by many LGBT teenagers in schools across the nation can result in the inability for these teens to receive an adequate education. While non-LGBT teens typically worry most about classes, grades and tests, LGBT teens consider bullying the second-most serious problem in their lives, with the first being families who do not accept these teens for who they are. So many LGBT teens feel unsafe at school that they often miss school. Even worse, these teens feel like they have nowhere to turn, and no one they can trust to talk to about the bullying. The LGBT teens who did attempt to report bullying incidents to school staff mostly found nothing was done in response to their report.
A rash of suicides more than seven years ago triggered more widespread public discussion regarding the level of bullying faced by LGBT teens, however since that time the bullying has actually increased instead of decreasing. A 2017 report compiled by a North Carolina research firm, RTI International, tracked school bullying for a full two decades. While many adults assumed today’s teens were more welcoming and accepting of LGBT teens, in fact, bullying faced by these teens has not improved at all since the early 1990’s, and instead have reached unprecedented highs.
Further Reading: How to “Bully-Proof” Your Child
Victimization at school doubles, and even quadruples the likelihood an LGBT teen will attempt to take his or her own life. A 2015 National School Climate Survey found that 55 percent of LGBT youth felt unsafe in their school, and three-quarters of transgender teens felt anxiety or fear about going to school. Not only are LGBT teens much more likely to suffer bullying or harassment than non-LGBT teens, they are three times as likely to be sexually assaulted
It appears the 2016 election has made things even worse for LGBT teens—and adults. The Human Rights Campaign conducted a survey soon after the election and found that of the 50,000 students polled, a full 70 percent said they had personally witnessed bullying and harassment of LGBT students within the first 30 days after the election. Earlier in 2018, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education stated they would be abandoning Obama administration guidance which identified the best practices for schools on how their LGBT teens should be treated. By negating these guidelines, the new administration has left LGBT teens even more vulnerable to school bullying, and all the adverse effects related to that bullying.