National Survey Warns of Dire Outcomes for LGB Youth
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What single parents can do about it
As we solo parents send our children back to school, we have a lot to think about—gathering supplies, meeting teachers, and reintroducing our students to the school routine. According to a recent report released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), those who are raising lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) children have more worries to add to their lists.
For the first time, the federal agency’s biennial Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) included two questions about sexual identity, inviting analysis of the experiences of LGB youth. Confirming what smaller studies have suggested for years, the report indicates that LGB students experience substantially higher levels of physical and sexual violence and bullying than other students.
The statistics are nothing short of alarming.
Compared to their heterosexual peers, lesbian, gay, and bisexual students were more than three times more likely to have ever been physically forced to have sexual intercourse:
Compared to their heterosexual peers, lesbian, gay, and bisexual students were more than two times more likely to have experienced sexual dating violence:
Compared to their heterosexual peers, lesbian, gay, and bisexual high school students were more than three times more likely to have experienced physical dating violence:
Compared to their heterosexual peers, lesbian, gay, and bisexual students were nearly two times more likely to be bullied on school property:
Compared to their heterosexual peers, lesbian, gay, and bisexual students were nearly two times more likely to be electronically bullied:
“Unfortunately, the YRBS data don’t tell us why we see these disparities [between LGB youth and their heterosexual peers], but other research points to issues that may put youth at risk for sexual and physical abuse and other types of violence,” says Deb Houry, MD, MPH, director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “These include social isolation, lack of parental or caregiver support, or not being perceived as being masculine or feminine enough.”
While the statistics are enough to wake the protective instinct in any solo parent, the CDC reminds us that we have a powerful impact on the health and safety of our LGB children. The numbers are daunting, but let us remember that most lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth thrive during their adolescent years, especially when they are supported by a loving, accepting parent.
Though we may be solo in our parenting, we are not alone in our concerns for our children. “Quantifying these risks and negative outcomes on a national scale is critical to protect the health and well-being of more than one million lesbian, gay, and bisexual high school students,” says Jonathan Mermin, MD, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. “These tragic disparities call for accelerated action by public health and education agencies, communities, and families to protect the lives of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth.”
The CDC aims to reach out to and protect youth in school settings, providing tools, expertise, and support to education partners across the nation as they work to promote healthy environments. The CDC promotes programs that prohibit violence and bullying, ensure students have access to caring adults, and improve health and education services to meet the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and other vulnerable youth.
“Connectedness—or social bonds—to peers, teachers, schools, or community organizations is key to protecting the health of these adolescents,” says Mermin. “Students will succeed if they know they matter, and feel safe and supported socially, emotionally, and physically. Solutions may not be simple, but we can take action to build support for lesbian, gay and bisexual youth at multiple levels.”
Though it reads like a laundry list of a parent’s greatest fears, this study is actually a tool solo parents can use to introduce their children’s teachers and administrators to the national crisis faced by LGB youth and to advocate for services that help reverse these trends.
Says Laura Kann, chief of the School-Based Surveillance Branch within the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health, “This study documents the national scope of the problem and will open the door to the type of analyses, research, and programs needed to protect the next generation.”
“All of us can help to position lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth to survive and thrive in their environments,” says Houry. “It’s critical that we take action.”
Cheryl Dumesnil, ESME’s LGBTQ Resource Guide, is an author, educator, writing coach, all-around do-gooder, and one of two moms separately coparenting two amazing boys. You can follow her on Twitter at @cheryladumesnil.
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