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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 15, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 24
HRC releases LGBT youth survey
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HRC releases LGBT youth survey

by James Whitely - SGN Staff Writer

Last week, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released what it called a 'landmark' survey of LGBT youth. The survey, titled 'Growing Up LGBT in America,' interviewed more than 10,000 young people between the ages of 13 and 17, measuring factors that impact their daily lives. These included their sense of acceptance by family, peers, and community; their negative experiences such as verbal harassment, bullying, and exclusion; and their level of optimism about the future.

The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has long produced the National School Climate Survey, which goes in-depth on life at school for LGBT youth. Although not as comprehensive in some regards as the GLSEN survey, HRC's survey looks at LGBT youth in a much broader way, including their home life and community life.

The HRC report focuses on the disparities between LGBT-identified youth and straight-identified youth. It reveals that compared with their straight peers, LGBT youth feel a greater sense of isolation or separation from their community, and that in general, LGBT youth believe to a greater extent than their peers that they must someday leave their community if they wish to better their lives.

Some of the report's key findings are:

o 47% of LGBT youth say they do not 'fit in' to their community while only 16% of non-LGBT youth feel that way.

o 37% of LGBT youth describe themselves as happy, compared to 67% of straight youth.

o 6 in 10 LGBT youth say their family is accepting of LGBT people.

o 92% of LGBT youth say they hear negative messages about being LGBT - 60% say those messages come from elected officials.

o 56% of LGBT youth say they are out to their immediate family; 25% are out to their extended family.

o 77% of LGBT youth say they 'know things will get better.'

o 42% of LGBT youth say the community in which they live is not accepting of LGBT people.

o 75% of LGBT youth say that most of their peers don't have a problem with their LGBT identity.

When relevant findings from HRC's new survey are compared to findings from GLSEN's 2009 National School Climate Survey, they indicate that while disparities between LGBT and straight youth are still at unacceptable levels, things may be getting better.

In HRC's survey, slightly over one-half of LGBT youth (54%) say they have been verbally harassed and called names such as 'fag.' Three years earlier, GLSEN found 84.6% reported verbal harassment (name-calling or threats) due to their sexual orientation, and 63.7% reported verbal harassment because of their gender expression.

LGBT youth, according to the HRC survey, are nearly twice as likely as their peers to say they have been physically assaulted, kicked, or shoved at school. Seventeen percent of LGBT teens said they often have been physically attacked, while 10% of their straight peers said the same. In the GLSEN survey, 40.1% of LGBT youth said they had been physically harassed (e.g., pushed or shoved) at school in the past year due to their sexual orientation and 27.2% because of their gender expression, with 18.8% saying they had been physically assaulted (e.g., punched, kicked, or injured with a weapon) because of their sexual orientation and 12.5% due to their gender expression.

Like those in GLSEN's survey, HRC's respondents were from a variety of backgrounds including urban, suburban, and rural communities, as well as a variety of social, cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds.

HRC says its report is the first in a series of efforts to analyze the landscape for LGBT youth. Over the next several months, the group plans to further analyze already-collected data to provide a better understanding of the unique experiences of specific groups of young people, such as Transgender youth and those living in 'conservative' states. Additionally, HRC plans to look at race- and religion-specific data. For more information, visit www.hrc.org/youth.

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