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The holidays aren’t all bright lights and ornaments. For many Americans, the winter season brings stress and anxiety over money and family, even in the best of times. With the coronavirus pandemic entering a third wave, this certainly isn’t the best of times.
LGBTQ+ Americans have been hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic — especially Black, Hispanic and Indigenous members of the community — and youth have been cut off from vital resources and safe spaces.
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“With COVID-19, many LGBTQ young people no longer have access to spaces that they rely on for affirmation, such as school and the homes of friends, romantic partners, and chosen family. In places where in-person activities are prohibited, it remains imperative that support and affirmation continue through virtual means. Physical distance does not mean social isolation,” Amy Green, vice president of research at The Trevor Project, said in a statement.
Even before the pandemic, LGBTQ+ youth were at greater risk of suicide than their heterosexual peers. But LGBTQ+ youth who reported having at least one LGBTQ-affirming space — especially schools — had a 35 percent less chance of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year, according to a new report by the Trever Project, a nonprofit suicide prevention organization.
While just 36 percent of employed LGBTQ+ youth said their workplace was LGBTQ+ affirming, 43 percent of all LGBTQ+ youth said the same about their homes. Sixty-two percent said that their schools were also affirming. An important note, however, was that 55 percent, comparatively less, of transgender and nonbinary youth, who are at higher risk of suicide or identity-based violence, said their schools were gender-affirming.
“All LGBTQ youth deserve access to safe spaces — including homes, schools, and workplaces — that positively affirm their LGBTQ identity. This research reaffirms that LGBTQ-affirming environments are essential to LGBTQ youth mental health as they are strongly associated with reduced risk for suicide,” said Green in a statement.
What does it mean to be “affirming” of all sexualities and genders? The distinction from acceptance is that affirming spaces go a step further in defending, supporting and encouraging the unique needs of LGBTQ+ youth. For those who might lack that affirmation or even acceptance from their families, safe and welcoming spaces are more important than ever this holiday season.
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