Research and Data

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LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in many systems of care. In order to successfully work with LGBTQ youth and families, it is vital to understand the vocabulary of the LGBTQ community and the nuances of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE). An understanding of the term SOGIE is an important lens through which to view this work. All people, not just LGBTQ people, have a sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. To learn more about the vocabulary used by the LGBTQ community, please visit the resources below:

LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care

Research has consistently shown that nearly 1 in 5 foster care youth identify as LGBTQ. In many circumstances, being LGBTQ is a part of the reason that they are in foster care. Once in care, LGBTQ foster youth experience high rates of disruptive placements and many choose to hide their identity from their foster family in order to protect themselves.

For more research on LGBTQ youth in foster care, visit the resources below:

LGBTQ Youth in Schools

For many LGBTQ youth, choosing to go to school also means choosing to be in danger. LGBTQ youth face school violence at a higher rate than their non-LGBTQ peers. They are often subjected to verbal harassment, emotional neglect, and/or physical violence. Nearly 60% of LGBTQ youth feel unsafe in school due to their sexual orientation, and 35% for their gender identity. Over 95% of LGBTQ youth have heard homophobic or transphobic slurs used in school, with 56% of homophobic remarks and 71% of transphobic remarks coming from school staff. For many of these reasons, LGBTQ youth are more likely to miss school and are less likely to graduate from high school.

To learn more about the school experience for LGBTQ youth, visit the resources below:

Runaway and Homeless LGBTQ Youth

LGBTQ youth are also disproportionately represented in runaway and homeless youth shelters. Research has shown that while only 4.5% of the general population identified as LGBTQ, as many as 40% of the homeless youth population identify as LGBTQ, nearly ten times higher. LGBTQ youth homelessness often follows aging out of the foster care system. Once homeless, many LGBTQ youth are coerced into sex trafficking in exchange for shelter or food. According to a study published by the National Institute of Health, “LGBTQ minors who are homeless are at the highest risk for sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.” Trafficking also increases the LGBTQ youth’s risk of: physical or sexual assault, drug and alcohol use/abuse and STI/HIV transmission.

To learn more about the effects of homelessness on LGBTQ youth, visit the resources below:

LGBTQ Youth in Juvenile Justice Settings

National research has shown LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in juvenile justice settings by nearly three times, making up approximately 20% of the juvenile justice population. However, when accounting for gender, the data have shown a disparity between boys and girls; approximately 14% of boys in juvenile justice settings identify as LGBTQ, while nearly 40% of all girls in juvenile justice settings identify as LGBTQ. Research has also shown that the behaviors an LGBTQ youth may express, especially in rejecting home environments, can be similar to the behaviors that are commonly associated with delinquency, which can lead to justice-system involvement. Some examples include truancy from school, running away from home, participating in the street economy, the use of illicit substances and/or alcohol, and choosing street homelessness over non-LGBTQ specific shelters.

To learn more about LGBTQ youth in juvenile justice settings, visit the resources below:

LGBTQ Youth and Mental Health

LGBTQ youth are more at risk for depression, anxiety and suicide than their non-LGBTQ peers. Often isolation or a lack of family acceptance can increase those risks. In 2019, The Trevor Project, a hotline for LGBTQ youth experiencing suicidal thoughts, found that 71% of LGBTQ youth experience discrimination due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, 39% of LGBTQ youth have seriously considered attempting suicide in the past twelve months, and 71% of LGBTQ youth felt hopeless for at least two weeks in the past year. However, The Trevor Project also found that one affirming adult in the life of an LGBTQ child can reduce the risk of suicide by 40%.

To learn more about LGBTQ youth and mental health, visit the resources below: