All children deserve to be safe and loved. But too often, LGBTQ children don’t get the support they need from their communities to be healthy and flourish.

Studies show that LGBTQ youth do best when they’re in affirmative environments. When they’re not, LGBTQ children struggle with abuse, homelessness, and even suicide.

Equality Utah is committed to protecting the rights of Utah’s most vulnerable communities, including children. In March 2017, we successfully repealed Utah’s anti-gay curriculum laws—also known as the “no promo homo” law. This discriminatory law banned teachers and educators from even mentioning LGBTQ individuals in positive or supportive ways. We’re thrilled that school children in Utah will now understand that LGBTQ people are no different from anyone else.

But we still have work to do. Equality Utah is fighting to:

  • protect LGBTQ minors in state custody through juvenile justice reform policies
  • prevent harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression in Utah’s public schools, foster care, and juvenile detention facilities
  • end the harmful practice of conversion therapy

LGBTQ Youth Statistics  

Intolerance is hard for anyone to deal with. But it’s harder for children to deal with discrimination, harassment, and criticism simply for being who they are. According to the Human Rights Campaign:

  • 42% of LGBTQ children say they live in a community that doesn’t accept them 
  • 92% of LGBTQ youth hear “negative messages about being LGBT”
  • Over 29% of LGB children and teens will attempt suicide, compared to 6.4% of non-LGB kids
  • Suicide rates for trans youth may be even higher

Our goal is to make sure no LGBTQ child ever feels they need to end their life.  The work ahead is to create a culture of belonging and hope for LGBTQ youth. We have no illusions that the work ahead is going to be considerably more challenging. There are steps we can take to get there.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all states collect data about teens’ sexual orientation to help prevent suicide. Fortunately, many states follow these recommendations by giving high school students a national survey that asks about their sexual orientation.

But strangely, Utah doesn’t collect data on LGBTQ teens. Between 2011 and 2016, teen suicides in Utah almost doubled. To solve a problem, we first must understand it. Sadly, Utah’s officials are in the dark when it comes to understanding teen suicides and taking steps to prevent them. Our state’s health and school programs can’t intervene when they don’t know how many LGBTQ children live in Utah’s communities.

Bullying & LGBTQ Youth  

Bullying is a serious problem. But it’s even more serious for children who identify as LGBTQ. Research shows that LGBTQ youth are two times more likely to say they’ve been kicked, shoved, or physically assaulted than other children. According to the 2015 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a national survey that asks high school students about health behaviors, 34% of LGB children are bullied on school property. Another 28% of LGB students are bullied online.

In 2008 and again in 2011, Equality Utah worked to pass bullying and hazing bills that define what behaviors make up “bullying” and “hazing.” These bills create minimum standards that local public and charter schools must follow to prevent hazing and bullying. In 2011, Equality Utah added cyber bullying and verbal harassment to the list of behaviors that shouldn’t be tolerated in schools.

But there’s a deeper problem. Most school districts in Utah don’t list the characteristics of children who are bullied most often. These characteristics include race, skin color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, and religion. This means most schools leave our most vulnerable children unprotected. In fact, the Salt Lake and Park City School Districts are the only school districts that have policies that recognize when LGBTQ children are bullied just for being LGBTQ.

Similar to hate crime laws, we believe school policies against bullying are strongest when schools recognize that LGBTQ children are bullied simply for being who they are.

LGBTQ Homeless Youth in Utah 

According to the Outreach Resource Center in Salt Lake City, more than 50% of the homeless youth they serve are LGBTQ. Around the country, the National Conference of State Legislatures estimates that 20% to 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ.

Once a child becomes homeless, it’s harder for her to finish school, stay healthy, and find a job when she grows up. These barriers contribute to economic inequalities that LGBTQ youth face when they become adults.

LGBTQ youth also face a higher risk of becoming homeless when they’re kicked out of their homes or when they run away. That’s why we’re fighting for policies that would prevent harassment and discrimination against LGBTQ youth in foster care and juvenile detention facilities.

We’re also fighting for juvenile justice reform policies that would protect LGBTQ minors in state custody. We will continue to fight so all children can be safe and happy—regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Additional Resources

All young people deserve a safe and affirming environment where they can learn and grow – regardless of their orientation or gender identity. 

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