Facing and filling the gap LGBT students face

Haley Smith | Jul 12, 2012

Growing up in a small East Texas town you tend to have somewhat of a shaded view of diversity. Diversity was having a new girl in our 5th grade class from California. She was clearly a foreigner.

Moving into middle school and high school I remember having a friend who was different than most boys. He dressed differently and cared about different things than the regular guys at school. What I hate to remember is how differently everyone treated him. How differently I treated him. I could say that I didnt know any better, but I did.

Later when we were in college he came out as a homosexual and completely separated himself from his community at home. I cant say I blame him.

What would it have looked like if Paul had simply felt loved by his community at home? If he had simply felt like he belonged somewhere. After all, isnt that what we are all looking for?

The Human Rights Campaign conducted a survey with more than 10,000 recognized LGBT youth ranging in age from 13-17. They found stark results as they highlighted the immense personal and emotional difficulties that these teenagers go through.

In comparing LGBT youth with Non-LGBT youth they found:

  • Non-LGBT Youth (67%) are nearly twice as likely as LGBT teenagers (37%) to say that they are happy.
  • LGBT Youth are two times as likely to experiment with alcohol and drugs (52%)
  • 73% of LGBT Youth say they are more honest about themselves online than in person.
  • 54% of LGBT Youth say they have been verbally harassed with anti-gay slurs
  • 48% of LGBT Youth say they have been excluded by their peers
  • Nearly half (47%) of LGBT Youth say they do not fit in their community

The needs of LGBT teenagers are significant. Over a third of these students don't feel like they have an adult in their lives who they can turn to. The average LGBT teenager is most fearful of a non-accepting family (compared to the average non-LGBT teenager, whose greatest fears tend to be about grades.

There is clearly a gap here between the reality of LGBT-identifying adolescents and those who identify as heterosexuals.

This study re-emphasizes the need for adult presence and investment in students' lives. They are not only looking for guidance, but also for acceptance and safety from the people who surround them.

No matter our particular stance on homosexuality, our love and compassion for hurting kids should be united. We need to start looking for the gaps in the way we love and surround the teenagers in our communities. This is one particular group who experiences a significant gap.

What are some of the gaps that you see in your own community?

Haley Smith

Haley Smith is a first year student at Fuller Seminary from Dallas, Texas working to earn her Masters in Theology and Ministry. She graduated from Baylor University with a BA in Journalism and has worked the past four years in fundraising for ministries and social justice organizations. Haley is one of our incredible FYI interns.

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