Story at a glance
- Poor mental health among LGBTQ youths in the South is rampant compared to that of young LGBTQ individuals elsewhere in the U.S., according to new research from the Trevor Project.
- LGBTQ youth in the South had 9 percent greater odds of a past-year suicide attempt compared to those in other regions of the U.S., according to a national survey.
- Southern LGBTQ youths were also more likely to report less access to gender affirming spaces, which are associated with a lowered risk of suicide.
LGBTQ youth in the South reported poorer mental health compared to young LGBTQ people in other regions of the U.S., primarily because Southern youths lack access to affirming spaces and community acceptance, according to new research.
The largest proportion of LGBTQ people live in the South, according to the Trevor Project, which estimates that roughly 35 percent of the nation’s LGBTQ youth population resides in the 17 states (including the District of Columbia) in the Census Bureau’s southern region.
Even so, most states in the U.S. that have enacted harmful anti-LGBTQ laws or that lack LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws are located in the South, according to the Movement Advance Project.
According to a Trevor Project survey of more than 35,000 individuals, LGBTQ youth in the South had 9 percent greater odds of a past-year suicide attempt compared to those in other regions of the U.S.
Nearly half of LGBTQ youth in the South said their community was either somewhat or very unaccepting, compared to just under a third of LGBTQ youth in other regions. Southern LGBTQ youths were also more likely to report less access to gender affirming spaces, which are associated with a lowered risk of suicide.
“Our findings emphasize the need to uplift and support the mental health of LGBTQ youth living in the South by creating more welcoming and inclusive environments,” Myeshia Price, a senior research scientist at the Trevor Project, told Changing America in a statement.
“This is especially relevant as many Southern states have passed anti-LGBTQ legislation, particularly targeting transgender and nonbinary youth, over the past year,” she added.
The Human Rights Campaign in May announced that 2021 had officially become the worst year for anti-LGBTQ legislation in recent history, surpassing 2015, when 15 anti-LGBTQ bills were enacted into law.
LGBTQ people in the U.S., particularly transgender people, also face alarming levels of violence and discrimination. At least 50 trans or gender non-conforming Americans have been fatally shot or killed by other violent means this year, according to the HRC, making 2021 the deadliest year on record for the trans community.
Price said more affirming spaces and inclusive education efforts were needed to support LGBTQ youth everywhere, but particularly in the South.
“Increasing the number of LGBTQ-affirming schools, workplaces, and community spaces, as well as educating parents, teachers, and youth-serving professionals on how to best support LGBTQ youth, would significantly help mitigate suicide risk among this marginalized population,” she said.
“We know that this increased suicide risk among LGBTQ youth stems from the stigma and mistreatment they face in society.”
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