Growing up in LGBTQ+ inclusive homes and schools has a profound impact on the mental health, wellbeing, and future prospects of young adults. Just Like Us, an organization focused on LGBTQ+ youth, recently released the groundbreaking Positive Futures report, which examines the connection between supportive upbringing and the outcomes for early adulthood. The findings are astonishing, highlighting the importance of embracing and celebrating LGBTQ+ young people for who they are.
The study reveals that LGBTQ+ young adults who lacked the necessary support during their formative years are four times more likely to feel ashamed of their identities and significantly less likely to experience overall happiness compared to those who were accepted and embraced. The significance of supporting and accepting LGBTQ+ youth cannot be overstated. Evidence shows that providing this support not only contributes to their happiness but also sets the stage for long-term success.
Language plays a crucial role in creating a safe environment for LGBTQ+ individuals. Negative slurs and derogatory comments are often the first indicators that a person may not be a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth. However, support goes beyond language alone. It encompasses the representation of LGBTQ+ realities in education, addressing bullying in schools, and challenging the expectations placed on LGBTQ+ identities by families.
The Positive Futures report further reveals that LGBTQ+ young adults face unique challenges, even beyond their early years. A significant portion of LGBTQ+ individuals feel compelled to conceal their identities upon entering the workforce, and there remains uncertainty regarding parental acceptance. Alarmingly, self-harm rates are twice as high among LGBTQ+ individuals compared to their non-LGBTQ+ peers. Additionally, disabled LGBTQ+ young people encounter additional mental health obstacles, while LGBTQ+ people of color often struggle to find a sense of belonging within the community.
The emergence of this generation of LGBTQ+ young adults coincided with the challenges of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, exacerbating an already pivotal period in their lives. As they navigate career development and self-discovery, they are confronted with the additional burdens of being LGBTQ+ in a world that prioritizes cisgender and heterosexual individuals. In the workplace, LGBTQ+ young employees face higher levels of bullying and earn less than their heterosexual counterparts, with half expressing uncertainty about their future career satisfaction.
Despite the progress made over the years, the Positive Futures report sheds light on the persistent and disproportionate challenges faced by LGBTQ+ youth. Trans and non-binary individuals, in particular, experience worsening conditions and encounter vocal opposition seeking to erase their identities and support systems. These circumstances are disheartening and alarming, emphasizing the urgent need for continued support and acceptance.
The report highlights distressing experiences faced by LGBTQ+ young people, including heightened levels of abuse, encompassing physical, sexual, and verbal mistreatment. Shockingly, 72% of trans young adults reported experiencing verbal abuse within the past year, often from individuals who should be providing support and care, such as teachers and family members.
Moreover, the study exposes the prevalence of shame surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity among LGBTQ+ young adults. Lesbians, in particular, struggled with shame, and they, along with asexual respondents, were among the lowest-paid individuals in the workplace. Disturbingly, thoughts of suicide were more prevalent among bisexual/pansexual, trans, and non-binary respondents. The struggles faced by LGBTQ+ youth are undeniable, and the challenges for trans young people are intensifying.
The report underscores the dire circumstances faced by trans young people, as only 6% of trans respondents reported feeling supported at school. As they transition into early adulthood, trans youth encounter a range of difficulties, including safety concerns, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, employment disparities, and strained family relationships. The current political, social, and media climates in the UK further exacerbate these challenges, necessitating positive and open conversations among parents, caregivers, and educators regarding support for LGBTQ+ individuals.
Amidst the challenges, there is some encouraging news. The report reveals that merely 3% of individuals unsupportive of trans people personally know someone who is trans. Conversely, when people have personal connections to trans individuals, they are twice as likely to become allies. Contrary to harmful stereotypes, lesbians displayed the highest level of support for trans people within the study.
Ultimately, the Positive Futures report provides clear evidence that supporting LGBTQ+ youth is vital for the thriving of the next generation. The average age of self-realization for LGBTQ+ individuals is 13.7 years old, making the actions and words expressed at home and in school impactful on their mental health, wellbeing, family relationships, career prospects, and their belief in a future where they can build their own happy families. Conversely, failing to support LGBTQ+ youth carries devastating consequences that extend well into adulthood.