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Queer Teens Facing 'Unacceptable' Levels of Physical and Sexual Violence

A survey released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that teens who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual are significantly more at risk for violence and depression than their straight peers.

by Kimberly Lawson
Aug 12 2016, 4:23pm

Image by Courtney Rust via Stocksy

A survey released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed what LGBT activists have said all along: High school students who identify gay, lesbian, or bisexual are more at risk for violence and depression than straight students.

It's the first time the federal government has included questions pertaining to sexual identity in its biennial Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

The study, which included more than 15,000 participants, found LGB students were three times as likely to have been raped than straight students; 23 percent said they had experienced sexual dating violence—compared to nine percent of their straight peers.

"Nations are judged by the health and well-being of their children," Dr. Jonathan Mermin, a senior official at the CDC, told the New York Times. "Many would find these levels of physical and sexual violence unacceptable and something we should act on quickly."

Read more: Girl Suspended for Wearing Lesbian Shirt to School Now Helping Other Queer Teens

The CDC also found that 60 percent of LGB students reported having been "so sad or hopeless they stopped doing some of their usual activities." More than 40 percent said they seriously considered taking their own life, and 29 percent said they had actually attempted to do so in the past year.

Rodney Tucker, executive director of the LGBT-youth advocacy center Time Out Youth in North Carolina, tells Broadly he's not surprised by these findings. Of the kids he works with, most of them "report feeling like they're just by themselves, that they're alone in this world."

They don't always want to tell their story when the parents are paying.

"It's hard for gay kids; they don't always want to tell their story when the parents are paying," Tucker says. Having someone they can talk to, and for free, helps them get to the heart of their issues. "It's not always about coming out or being gay."

One way to better these statistics, Tucker says, is to make the school environment more inclusive. Time Out Youth offers workshops for teachers and administrators to help them make sure LGBT students are safe and successful in school. He reports that a majority of its requested trainings last year had to do with working with transgender students. Not surprising, considering the recent attention given to the transgender community's fight to use the bathroom based on their gender identity.

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Tucker also says he hopes the national attention will lead to things like easier access to services for LGBT people, including housing. "Our inquiries into housing programs is at an all-time high," he says. Time Out Youth offers a Host Home Program for LGBT homeless youth who've run away or been kicked out because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; it's the only program of its kind in North Carolina. In 2014, they received 57 calls inquiring about housing; last year, that jumped to 111. "We're not seeing any decrease in demand for our services here."