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New Survey Confirms Acceptance of LGBTQ Identities Could Mean Life or Death

The Trevor Project released its 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health this week, revealing insights into LGBTQ individuals and how their identity and others’ perceptions of it directly impacts their mental health in life-altering ways.

Approximately nine million Americans identify as LGBTQ. In general, this group is over two times as likely to struggle with a mental health disorder in their lifetime and to self-medicate using substances or alcohol for said disorder(s). Those who are both LGBTQ and people of color are at an even higher risk both physically and mentally. Over 40 percent of survey participants said that they have seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. Over half of that percentage were individuals who identified as transgender or nonbinary.

Why are these numbers so high? Many researchers believe that it’s because those who appear outside the societal expectation are often socially isolated and therefore lack a sense of community and belonging. These experiences can manifest into depression, anxiety, self-harm and a myriad of other challenges. Lack of acceptance at home or in educational environments for LGBTQ minors leaves these young adults without access to much needed psychological or physical care.

Most LGBTQ persons grow up in their formative environments as a minority, forcing them to generate their self-identity independently with often a significant lack of acceptance needed for a healthy mental and physical state. In some cases, acceptance of their sexuality and gender identity means the difference between life and death.

While a Gallup poll in 2019 found that approximately 63 percent of the U.S. population accepts individuals in the LGBTQ community, these persons still face lack of accessible healthcare, housing instability, familial abandonment and abuse, discrimination, and often face pressures from parents, friends and other family members to change their identity through some kind of means. Six out of every 10 participants in the survey said that at least one person in their social circle attempted to convince them to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. Of those participants, 19 percent attempted suicide.

One of these identity-changing tactics often forced on LGBTQ minors is conversion therapy, a pseudoscientific practice which attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation and or gender identity using religious shaming exercises as well as psychological and physical abuse tactics.

Twenty-eight states and four of the five U.S. owned territories currently have no state law or policy banning conversion therapy. Half of all LGBTQ Americans live in these states. Until laws or a national ban is passed to protect minors dwelling in these states, every LGBTQ youth is at risk.

With the upcoming election, the LGBTQ community is significantly concerned with who will have their interest in mind. A Human Rights Campaign study published in June that analyzed the Trump-Pence administration’s attacks on LGBTQ rights revealed that there have been at least 33 major political actions taken against the community. These actions have looked opposition to the Equality Act, the banning of transgender individuals from serving in the military, enacting the “Deploy or Get Out” policy which removed all military personnel with HIV from all branches of the military, removing protections of LGBTQ people in healthcare programs, generating a Religious Discrimination Division of the Health and Human Services department in order to defend medical professionals who opted to refuse care to LGBTQ people, and more. The ongoing, comprehensive look at the administrations actions since taking office can be found at www.HRC.org/Trump.

Democratic candidate Joe Biden has claimed on his campaign website that, should he be elected, he plans prioritize enacting the Equality Act within his first 100 days as president. This act that will dramatically increase protections of LGBTQ youth, reduce LGBTQ youth homelessness, affirm their identities by increasing their educational protection through anti-harassment policies and the Safe Schools Act, etc.

Please consider voting for protections for LGBTQ youth which will significantly save lives of those who deserve the love and protections their heterosexual counterparts receive. Check your voting status in under 30 seconds at www.vote.org.

Photo by Delia Giandeini on Unsplash