December 2020




  • 3.5% of the population identify as LGBTQ+
  • 71% of LGBTQ+ youth self-report feelings of depression 
  • 2 out of 3 LGBTQ+ youth report that someone has tried to convince them to change their sexual orientation
  • 76% of LGBTQ+ youth report that the social-political climate influences their mental health

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Raising Healthy LGBTQ+ Youth

 By: Melissa Donadio, M.A.

Approximately 3.5 percent of the adult population identify as LGBTQ+, a number assumed to apply to youth as well (Gates, 2011). To best support LGBTQ+ youth, one must first understand terminology basics. For instance, gender identity refers to an individual’s sense of being male, female, or another gender (e.g., transgender, gender queer, nonbinary). Gender expression refers to how one expresses their gender identity through external appearances (e.g. behavior, clothing, voice). (Human Rights Campaign [HRC], n.d.) Gender expression may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors usually associated with being either masculine or feminine (HRC, n.d.). Transgender is an umbrella term used for people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from the sex they were assigned at birth (HRC, n.d.)..

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    Moreover, sexual orientation describes who an individual is sexually attracted to (American Psychological Association [APA], 2015). Asexual describes an individual who does not experience sexual attraction. However, people who identify as asexual may be romantically attracted to others. Lesbian refers to a woman who is sexually attracted to another woman, while gay generally refers to a man who is sexually attracted to another man (APA, 2015). Bisexual refers to individuals who are sexually attracted to people of their own gender as well as other genders. Lastly, queer is an umbrella term that embraces multiple sexual orientations and gender identities (APA, 2015). Collectively, the term LGBTQ+ is used to describe people who compromise these groups (sexual and gender minorities), yet it is important to recognize that these groups are not homogenous (Aldebot-Green et al., 2014)

    While all children and adolescents endure challenges in the process of entering adulthood, LGBTQ+ youth encounter additional stressors related to the social stigma of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. These stressors are highlighted in The Trevor’s Project National Survey on LGBTQ Mental Health (2019), which surveyed over 34,000 youth in the United States. According to this survey, LGBTQ+ youth are at greater risk for depression, suicide, substance use. For instance, 39% of LGBTQ youth respondents seriously considered attempting suicide in the past twelve months, with more than half of transgender and non-binary youth having seriously considered (The Trevor Project, 2019). Likewise, 71% of LGBTQ youth reported feeling sad or hopeless for at least two weeks in the past year, while 2 out of 3 LGBTQ youth reported that someone tried to convince them to change their sexual orientation or gender identity within the last year (The Trevor Project, 2019). In addition, LGBTQ+ youth reported drinking alcohol at a rate 25% higher than their heterosexual peers and using marijuana at a rate 62% higher than their heterosexual peers (The Trevor Project, 2019). Moreover, 71% of LGBTQ youth in our study reported discrimination due to either their sexual orientation or gender identity and 76% of LGBTQ youth felt that the recent political climate impacted their mental health or sense of self (The Trevor Project, 2019).

    Being aware of these challenges can assist parents and other caregivers in best supporting LGBTQ+ youth. Support can be shown in a variety of ways, including the following:

    • Talk and Listen. Provide a safe space for youth to discuss their sexual orientation in a nonjudgmental manner.
    • Accept and love youth as they are to promote resilience and validation in their identity.
    • Provide support. Respond calmly and use respectful language. Help youth develop goals, such as maintaining health and doing well in school.
    • Stay Involved. Youth are likely to feel safe and cared about when their parents show concern for their well-being.
    • Be proactive. Parents can show support for youth by accessing LGBTQ+ organizations and learning more about resources for this population.
    • Do not engage in slurs or jokes based on gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation are not tolerated.



     Aldebot-Green, A., Rojas, A., Oster, M., Hickman, S., Gooze, R. A., & Brown, E. (September 11, 2014). 5 Things to know about LGBTQ youth.

    American Psychological Association. (2015). APA dictionary of psychology (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

    Gates, G. J. (April, 2011). How Many People are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender? The Williams Institute.

    Human Rights Campaign. (n.d.). Glossary of terms. The Trevor Project. (2019). The trevor project national survey on LGBTQ mental health.