Recent anti-LGBTQ battles taking toll on queer youth

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A poll by The Trevor Project released Thursday found that LGBTQ youth are being affected by the debates and laws that have been proposed or passed in many states.

The poll, conducted by Morning Consult between October 23 and November 2, 2022, among a national sample of 716 LGBTQ youth ages 13–24, also assessed emotional responses to these anti-LGBTQ policies, as well as which other social issues often give LGBTQ youth stress and anxiety. The full analysis can be found here.

The Trevor Project said in just the first three weeks of 2023, more than 150 anti-LGBTQ bills have been pre-filed or introduced across 23 states.

“Right now, we are witnessing the highest number on record of anti-LGBTQ bills introduced this early in any legislative session. We must consider the negative toll of these ugly public debates on youth mental health and well-being. LGBTQ young people are watching, and internalizing the anti-LGBTQ messages they see in the media and from their elected officials. And so are those that would do our community harm,” said Kasey Suffredini, the Project’s vice president of advocacy and government affairs.

Some of the key findings include:

  • 86% of transgender and nonbinary youth say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health. A majority of those trans youth (55%) said it impacted their mental health “very negatively.”
  • 71% of LGBTQ youth — including 86% of trans and nonbinary youth — say state laws restricting the rights of LGBTQ young people have negatively impacted their mental health.
  • 75% of LGBTQ youth — including 82% of transgender and nonbinary youth — say that threats of violence against LGBTQ spaces, such as community centers, pride events, drag shows, or hospitals/clinics that serve transgender people, often give them stress or anxiety. Nearly half (48%) of those LGBTQ youth reported it gives them stress or anxiety “very often.”

Many youth have experienced direct harm such as cyberbullying or online harassment (45%); stopped speaking to a family member or relative (42%); didn’t feel safe going to the doctor or hospital when I was sick or injured (29%); a friend stopped speaking to them (29%); bullying at school (24%); their school removed Pride flags or other LGBTQ-friendly symbols (15%); and physical assault (10%).

Among all LGBTQ youth, 1 in 3 reported cyberbullying or online harassment, 1 in 4 reported that they stopped speaking to a family member or relative, and 1 in 5 reported bullying.

Transgender youth have been particularly targeted with policies and bills banning gender-affirming care of youth, even with parental permission, or banning trans youth from school sports teams.

The battles in schools over materials, which is taking place in Illinois, are also taking a toll. More than halff of LGBTQ youth, including 71% of transgender and nonbinary youth, feel angry about new policies that ban teachers from discussing LGBTQ topics in the classroom. Among trans youth, 59% feel sad and 41% feel stressed. The numbers are even higher with book bans in school libraries.