Worried mostly about being accepted by their families and school bullying, only 37 percent of LGBT youth in the US consider themselves happy, according to a study released Thursday by the Human Rights Campaign.
HRC interviewed 10,000 self-identified LGBT youth ages 13-17 for its landmark ‘Growing Up LGBT in America’ survey.
Here is a sampling of some of the comments from those surveyed:
‘It makes me afraid to walk around knowing there are people in my hometown that hate me and people like me."
"I want to be able to go to school without being called a faggot and a dyke bitch."
"It’s hard. Very hard. My own best friend doesn’t know about the real me & I’m scared to tell her because it might ruin our friendship."
The poll marks the start of new HRC President Chad Griffin’s tenure as head of the largest civil rights organization in the US.
He calls the poll results ‘an urgent call to action.’
‘Growing up in small-town Arkansas, I remember what it’s like to not know a single other gay person,’ Griffin says. ‘Now I think about the LGBT youth that lie awake and stare at the ceiling for hours, dreading the next day at school or worrying that their parents will reject them.’
Griffin says that in addition to worries about the future, the pressure of school, and stress of peer relationships that all teens face, LGBT youth have the additional burden of being twice as likely to be harassed as their straight peers.
Among the report’s key findings:
* Over one-half of LGBT youth (54 percent) say they have been verbally harassed and called names involving anti-gay slurs.
* Nearly half of LGBT youth (47 percent) say they do not ‘fit in’ in their community while only 16 percent of non-LGBT youth feel that way.
* 67 percent of straight youth describe themselves as happy but this number drops to 37 percent among LGBT young people.
* 83 percent of LGBT youth believe they will be happy eventually, but only 49 percent believe they can be happy if they stay in the same city or town.
* 6 in 10 LGBT youth say their family is accepting of LGBT people, while a third say their family is not.
* 92 percent say they hear negative messages about being LGBT – 60 percent say those messages come from elected leaders.
Griffin says elected leaders need to see and understand the poll’s results and know how their words and actions are affecting kids. He is encouraging people to send the poll results to elected officials.
‘It doesn’t help when politicians drag their heels on important legislation or make uneducated comments about bullying – but our allies in Congress and statehouses around the country need these facts to bolster their case for progress, too,’ Griffin says.
HRC says the report is the first in a series of efforts to analyze the landscape for LGBT youth.
Over the next several months, HRC will be providing additional analysis that will provide a better understanding of the unique experiences of specific groups of youth such as transgender youth, different races, and religious traditions.