A new study found that an unsupportive family or school background is detrimental to the mental health of young LGBTQ+ people.
The Positive Futures report, conducted by the charity Just Like Us, found that young queer people who received adolescence support were almost twice as likely to be happy in early adulthood.
They were also twice as likely to feel good and four times less likely to be ashamed of being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.
The charity surveyed 3,695 people between the ages of 18 and 25 – including 1,736 young adults who identify as LGBTQ+.
This report comes at the start of Pride month and kicks off Metro.co.uk’s coverage of the stories, challenges and joys of the queer community.
Two young LGBTQ+ people told us how growing up in a supportive environment can really make a difference.
Wren Hills, a 20-year-old transgender man, said: “I was in foster care as a kid, from the age of five until I was 18.”
Pride month 2023
Pride month is here and members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies will celebrate their identities and achievements and reflect on the fight for equality throughout June.
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“My caregivers weren’t supportive in any way – if I had come out during my foster care it would have created even more problems and pain.”
“As far as school goes, it was pretty tough, LGBTQ+ people were bullied by other school kids and the teachers didn’t do anything about it.
“That affected me as an adult because I couldn’t trust anyone. Even when people asked about my identity, I felt the need to lie and hide it, even if the person’s intentions were real.”
Pippa Sterk, who identifies as a lesbian and uses the pronouns ‘she/they’, described a more positive experience to Metro.co.uk.
“My parents never assumed from a young age that I even wanted to get married and have children, let alone get married to a man and have children,” added the 25-year-old.
“They always raised me with the idea that I should be allowed to live my life in whatever way makes me happy, even if it means doing things differently than they did.”
“They also never lied to me or told me I was too young to ask any questions: when we saw transgender characters on TV, they simply explained to us that some people are a different gender than the world expects them to be , and when.” They would talk about their gay or lesbian friends, their orientation would never be covered up or seen as “inappropriate.”
“The honesty with me and the encouragement to ask questions really helped me feel like it wasn’t shameful or weird when I started dating a girl.”
The study found a strong association between a lack of inclusive support in childhood and poorer well-being outcomes in early adulthood.
Young queer people are also worried about their future: those who don’t have support are three times more likely to not feel confident about having a career they enjoy and are three times more likely to say they don’t have a career are pessimistic about their future is three times higher.
Also, they are half as likely to be confident of finding a life partner and having children even though they want to.
Worryingly, those who don’t feel supported are more than twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts and more than twice as likely to harm themselves.
They also experienced panic attacks and depression significantly more often than those who felt supported in their sexuality or gender.
Just Like Us is now calling for better support for young queer people, especially in schools.
Metro.co.uk has previously reported extensively that despite the repeal of section 28 of the Equality Act in 2003, which banned the ‘encouragement of homosexuality’, LGBTQ+ education in schools still needs to be improved.
Key statistics from the report
LGBTQ+ individuals who grew up in unsupportive and unsupportive environments include:
- Almost half of respondents say they will be happy in adulthood (43% vs. 85%).
- Adults are four times more likely to be ashamed of being LGBTQ+ (41% vs. 9%).
- Half as likely to feel good (41% vs. 89%).
- They are more than four times more likely to “never or rarely” feel close to other people (49% vs. 11%).
- More than three times as likely to be “never or rarely” optimistic about the future (42% vs. 12%).
- They are three times more likely to not be confident they will have a career they enjoy (48% vs. 17%)
- They are half as likely to find a life partner (34% vs. 70%).
- Half as likely to be confident of having children despite wanting to (25% vs. 49%)
- They are more than twice as likely to have had suicidal thoughts and feelings (85% vs. 39%).
- They are more than twice as likely to have hurt themselves (71% vs. 33%).
- They are more than twice as likely to have experienced panic attacks in the past year (60% vs. 28%).
- They are almost twice as likely to have experienced depression in the past year (82% vs. 42%).
When asked how to improve support, Pippa said: “What would really help would be to foster a culture where parents and carers are not seen as ‘owners’ of their children’s lives or futures.
“Yes, a young person’s identity can be confusing at first, and it seems very easy to avoid this confusion by being negative towards the young person themselves.”
“But what would help young people more is to understand that parents and caregivers are always learning how to be parents and caregivers, and that part of that learning is asking questions and figuring out how you and your child can communicate ‘instead of’ assuming parents and carers always know best.’
Wren added, “I think parents and carers need to step up their support for LGBTQ+ youth.”
“Parents and caregivers should love their child unconditionally, no matter what.” If a parent doesn’t understand, it always helps to investigate or ask the child about it. Schools can also provide more support by encouraging a child to be themselves and always be there to support them.”
Amy Ashenden, interim general manager of Just Like Us, said: “LGBTQ+ youth deserve to feel safe and supported both at home and at school, and it’s heartbreaking to see the lasting, devastating effects in early adulthood , if this is not the case.” .
“From their mental health, future hopes and career prospects, to their relationships with themselves and others, our Positive Futures report clearly shows that supporting LGBTQ+ children is vital to their chances of happiness and success as adults.”
“We invite anyone working with or caring for an LGBTQ+ youth to read the report and express their support.”
Reporting recommendations for schools
- Teachers should start speaking positively about LGBTQ+ people (e.g. by reading different books and talking about different family structures) from the very beginning and as early as possible.
- Create and lead a Pride group that provides a safe and welcoming place for LGBTQ+ individuals and allies
- Display visible signs of acceptance such as posters, rainbow ribbons, and lanyards
- Put an end to the legacy of Section 28 and help queer school staff come out
- Make sure LGBTQ+ people are spoken of positively on a regular basis, and not just during Pride month
- Ensure anti-LGBTQ+ language and bullying are not tolerated
- Show students that being LGBTQ+ doesn’t mean they can’t have a happy, successful, and fulfilling life
“Young people need to hear that the adults in their lives clearly believe that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender doesn’t make you inferior but is actually something to celebrate – otherwise we’ll be another one Witness a generation that faces the heart.” “The staggering results are detailed in the report.”
Teachers can take part in the charity’s School Diversity Week this June 26-30.
Amy added: “[It will] Show young people that there is nothing to be ashamed of being LGBTQ+ – a message young people still need to hear in their everyday lives.”
Professional services firm Deloitte assisted Just Like Us with the report, based on research by market research firm Cibyl.
The charity’s first report, Growing Up LGBT+, was published in 2021. Today’s full report from two years can be found here.
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