Being gay is hard. But being a young gay person is even harder. Not only must you face homework-filled nights and awkward stages, but you’re also forced to grapple with a difference that could cost you everything: your family, your friends, your education, your job. Oh, and let’s not forget about those good Christian pastors who want to watch you perish behind an electric fence.
The many issues affecting these teens have garnered national attention in recent years, and now, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has released statistics showing us a glimpse of just how difficult life can be when you’re growing up LGBT. The HRC is the largest gay advocacy group in the country, and the survey’s release coincides with the introduction of Chad Griffin as president of the organization.
Titled “Growing Up LGBT in America”, survey conductors questioned 10,030 LGBT and queer-identified youths between the ages of 13 and 17 on major issues affecting their lives. Sadly, 92 percent–almost every one of those participating teens–have heard anti-gay messages. The majority are aware of the politicians who harbor homophobic sentiments.
More than half of the surveyed LGBT teens have experienced verbal abuse due to their sexuality or gender identity. And gay children are twice as likely as their straight counterparts to face physical attacks at the hands of school bullies.
With the recent string of gay teen suicides that have shaken the nation, it’s clear that bullying plays a significant role in heartbreaking decision that these children made to take their lives. One recent case that comes to mind is that of a 14-year-old gay teen in Iowa named Kenneth Weishuhn, who committed suicide after receiving death threats from classmates and being the target of a hate-filled Facebook group. His loved ones created a tribute video for the boy, which went viral.
On a much more positive note, however, three-quarters of LGBT youths report that their peers are accepting of their identities. And 77 percent of those surveyed say they know their lives will eventually improve, though only 37 percent of them claim to be happy now.
These findings seem to reflect shifting public attitudes toward the LGBT community. For example, a new survey by CNN found that 54 percent of Americans back same-sex marriage, with close to two-thirds of those under 50 years of age expressing their support.
Though we undoubtedly have a long way to go before LGBT teens feel safe in schools, the HRC’s survey sheds light on how pervasive these problems really are. And that’s an undeniably great step forward.
(Image via HRC)