Gay Youth: The Straight Facts
For most people, adolescence is a difficult time of life filled with pressure from peers, parents, and school. For gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens, however, the stress of this period multiplies, especially for those living in societies which refuse to accept them.
Statistics on gay youth illustrate some of the pain and isolation they face. Because many are rejected or disowned1 by their families, gay and lesbian teens make up 42 percent of the homeless youth in America. They also attempt suicide at a rate two to three times higher than that of their heterosexual counterparts, and are at greater risk for drug and alcohol abuse.
Beyond an often hostile home environment, gay youth also lack allies2 and avenues for support at school. One study indicates that 97 percent of non-heterosexual youth reported hearing homophobic3 taunts at school, while roughly 22 percent said they have been threatened with physical violence because of their sexual orientation.
Attitudes may change, however, as schools are beginning to recognize such prejudice as a health and safety issue. Schools are searching for ways to ameliorate4 the situation, including setting up gay-straight alliance clubs and cracking down on harassment. At the same time, many nonprofit groups are reaching out to provide services to gay and lesbian teens. The support that such youth need the most, however, is that of their families and friends.