Research came out this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicating that GLBTQ young people are shockingly underserved, and facing health risks on every front.
Across the nine sites that assessed sexual identity, the prevalence among gay or lesbian students was higher than the prevalence among heterosexual students for a median of 63.8% of all the risk behaviors measured, and the prevalence among bisexual students was higher than the prevalence among heterosexual students for a median of 76.0% of all the risk behaviors measured.
Breaking it down to just a few of the numbers, that means gay and lesbian youth are more likely to:
- Have been injured in a physical fight (5 times more likely)
- Have experienced dating violence (3 times more likely)
- Have been raped (3 times more likely)
- Have been threatened or injured with a weapon at school (3 times more likely)
- Have missed school because they feared for their safety (4 times more likely)
- Have considered suicide (3 times more likely)
- Have attempted suicide (4 times more likely)
- Have used heavy drugs (5-7 times more likely)
- Have injected drugs (10 times more likely)
- Had sex before age 13 (4 times more likely)
- Have had sex without a condom (just under twice as likely)
Our youth are also less likely to eat their vegetables and more likely to smoke. More likely to take diet pills. Less likely to wear their seatbelts.
Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.
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In essence, the report says: we are treating an entire generation of GLBTQ young people as if they don’t matter. Sex education programs ignore these youth, or at best, at worst, vilify them. They’re told their very existence is so vile that teachers can’t talk about them. Presidential candidates build support by saying our culture must be protected from them. Meanwhile, only thirteen states even asked about sexual identity or sexual contact on the Youth Risk Behavior survey. The others consider the topic too challenging, too….risky.
These youth are assaulted at school and molested at home. They fear school. They have unprotected sex and inject drugs. They are homeless. They try to kill themselves (they succeed).
You know the saying: Measure a society by how it treats its most vulnerable? Our society is failing.
It’s more than marriage equality, ending bullying, ending hate speech. Those are all worthy goals. Those are basic rights denied to GLBTQ people. But what this report makes clear is that on a fundamental level our GLBTQ youth are being devalued. We do not care enough to protect them from violence, suffering, and danger. And knowing they are devalued, they devalue themselves and their health and lives.
Undoubtedly conservatives will take this information and use it to point out to GLBTQ youth (again) that they’re the problem – they’re flawed, they need fixing. But you know and I know that it’s not true. Adults in power, and a hateful culture, are the ones at fault here, and also the only ones who can fix it.
Will we find the will, to change our schools, communities, homes, churches, leaders?
Or will we continue to allow malevolent neglect to rule these young people’s lives?