For Gay and Transgender Teens, Will It Get Better?
It’s easy to assume that now must be a better time than ever to be a lesbian, gay or bisexual teenager. We recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. Our culture has grown more accepting, too; one of the most anticipated albums of the year, Frank Ocean’s, embraces his desire for men. These factors work together to create the illusion that as a society we are barreling toward a world of complete liberation, where everyone is truly free to be whoever they are.
A major study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed that, for high schoolers, that narrative simply isn’t true. In August, the C.D.C. released the results of a national survey of about 15,600 students, grades nine through 12, to better understand high-risk behaviors among that demographic. It is one of the most comprehensive studies of gay and lesbian teenagers’ well-being to date. (The survey does not yet include an option to identify as transgender or nonbinary.) It confirmed what had long been suspected but was perhaps lost in all the excitement over the gains being made: that sexual-minority youth still face challenges their straight peers do not. Teenagers who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual — they make up about 8 percent of the high-school population, or roughly 1.3 million students — suffer from substantially higher levels of harassment and physical and sexual abuse than those who identify as straight.