Education | Gay Youth | Human Rights Campaign

HRC Publishes Largest-Ever Study On Lives Of Gay Teens: VIDEO

On Thursday, the Human Rights Campaign released the results of the most inclusive, farthest-reaching study ever conducted on the home, social, and scholastic lives of LGBT youth. Over 10,000 13-17 year-old LGBTfolk participated, from all over the country. Rebecca Trounson, of the LA Times, describes the study's methodology:

HRCTeenStudyThe survey was conducted online from April 16 through May 20. It was advertised through social media, as well as through LGBT youth centers across the country. The researchers said the survey method is not unusual for targeting hard-to-reach populations but may not represent a truly random sample.

As a control group, the study used a sample of 500 self-identified straight teens.

The results are about what you'd expect. Half of all LGBT teens are "happy"; half aren't. Most are out to their very close friends, but only 63% are out to their families. Just over a quarter of LGBT teens say their "biggest problems" are feeling unaccapted by their families or peers, or else worries about coming out; 22% of their straight peers say their "biggest problems" involve scholastics. 73% of LGBT youth feel they're at their most genuine in their online lives, and must to some extent conceal their natures in real-world interactions. Half of all LGBT teens, but only a quarter of all straight teens, have been physically attacked in school. Nevertheless, LGBT teens are optimistic: three quarters say they believe their situations will improve as they get older.

To this reader, the study's most troubling statistic has to do with geography. As explained by Trounson:

Fewer than half of gay teenagers said they believe their community is accepting of people like them, and 63 percent said they would need to move to another town or part of the country to find acceptance.

The seemingly unavoidable implication is that there are great swaths of America in which it's unwise to spawn.

The best place to spawn, it seems, is California: 62% of LGBT teens in California say their communities are gay-friendly, while an average of only 49% of gay teens elsewhere say the same.

Dig into all the survey data here. There's lots more to see, presented in an attractive and accessible PDF.

Incidentally, the study was released during the first week of Chad Griffin's tenure as the president of HRC. He kicked off his presidency speaking in Salt Lake City about the plight of LGBT youth. See the local FOX affiliate's coverage AFTER THE JUMP ...


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  1. Interesting. But I don't think the word "spawn" means what you think it means.

    Posted by: Matt | Jun 10, 2012 9:52:30 AM

  2. Brandon, what you call the most troubling statistic actually gives me hope. The kids know (correctly) that they need to leave for where the LGBT people are. It's not acceptance they won't find at home anymore so much as romantic love they'll never find in those large swathes of the country where there's 200 people in town, and the only other LGBT person is 60 and of the "wrong" gender.

    No matter how accepted they feel in their home communities, it does nothing to improve their dating pool size. For that, they need to leave home. We're a tiny minority. It's not sad, just true. I worry more about the ones who want to stay home. They end up on the Internet sad and single, reaching out to other LGBT too far away to have anything but an "internet relationship" with.

    Posted by: Ron | Jun 10, 2012 9:56:18 AM

  3. Ron, you're spot-on. It isn't about the fact that a lot of them are still living in parts of the country where everyone hates you if you're gay, it's because all of these teenagers are already tired of the bar scenes in their little backwater townships. Because you know, such a massive percentage of the kids polled here probably come from towns with populations of 200 or fewer.

    Posted by: ohno | Jun 10, 2012 10:03:56 AM

  4. Personally, I'm thrilled that 63% declared themselves as "out" to their families.

    At 17, I don't think I was "out" to anyone, including my secret boyfriend.

    Whatever else, this is fantastic news.

    Posted by: Pete N SFO | Jun 10, 2012 10:24:34 AM

  5. The reality is, though, that kids/teens/young adults can't just up and move to San Fran, WEHO or NYC. That is a simple fact. It's good to see around 2/3s are out but the fact 1/3 are not is a very bad thing. The best aspect of the story for me is that most do truly see things improving as they get older; they don't feel hopelessness. But as Brandon said, most of the country is anti-gay. And to ensure the safety and happiness of our LGBTQ youth, we have to do our part to change hearts and minds in more conservative, bigoted areas. Fleeing is not the only answer. And I won't even get into whatever Ron is trying to imply.

    Posted by: Francis | Jun 10, 2012 11:19:38 AM

  6. The U.S. many very large metro areas and big cities, but even with 315 million people, we're still an under-populated sparsely populated nation. Aside from the highly urbanized and densely populated northeast, coastal west coast big cities, south Florida, Houston-Dallas areas, parts of the urbanized midwest, most people in America come from and live in the boonies. I 've always said to Americans and non-Americans alike that if you want to understand what makes the typical average American tick, understand first that most were born and raised in small suburban and small town rural areas. And what do people in these places do when they need to continue going to school at universities, get a job, go to an international airport, a big hospital, etc.? They go to a city or big metro area. And if you want to increase your chances at getting laid [gay, bi or straight] you go to where a lot of people live.

    These gay and bi kids problems are probably mostly the same daily hassles and problems other kids [and adults] have. And as they age, for most, their most pressing problems will probably be the same as everyone else: making a decent living, having a place to live, food, finding someone to love, etc.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Jun 10, 2012 11:25:38 AM

  7. It's been the case since at least World War II that gays have had to move to urban areas to achieve happiness or acceptance, or at least to find other gays. I don't see why that's a surprise.

    Posted by: Paul R | Jun 10, 2012 12:17:20 PM

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