Black LGBTQ+ youth need spaces that embrace them fully, researchers say

Gay Power And Pride Wristband At LGBT Protest
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Two recent reports from The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ+ youth crisis organization, and Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, detail a plethora of challenges faced by Black LGBTQ+ youth and interrogate how best to acknowledge and support the intersecting identities of Black queer and trans people.

According to these two studies, 21% of Black trans, nonbinary and questioning youth have made a suicide attempt in the last year, nearly half said they felt unsafe at school and 64% said they had encountered transphobia. This data should, advocates assert, signal action is needed to support these youth in all LGBTQ+ communities. 

The studies found that Black LGBTQ+ youth (and LGBTQ+ youth of color in general) may have negative experiences within the broader LGBTQ+ community because of racism and anti-Blackness. In addition, Black LGBTQ+ youth may also face homophobia or transphobia from non-LGBTQ+ people within their racial/ethnic communities — and often at the same time.

Last month, The Trevor Project released new data on the mental health of Black LGBTQ+ youth. The report — “Discrimination among Black LGBTQ+ Young People and Suicide Risk”— analyzed survey responses from over 28,000 LGBTQ teens and young adults in the U.S. That report reveals that Black LGBTQ+ youth experience “elevated rates of discrimination related to both their race and ethnicity and their LGBTQ identities.” The responses are culled from the organization’s massive 2023 survey that examined mental health among LGBTQ+ youth. 

HRC published separate data in their 28-page 2024 Black LGBTQ+ Youth Report on how LGBTQ+ Black youth “face compounding challenges and have unique experiences because they exist at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities as they come out.” In their analysis, HRC Foundation examined survey responses from about 1,200 Black LGBTQ+ youth (aged 13-17) from all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

The data is startling. More than two-thirds, or 70%, of Black cisgender LGBQ young people reported experiencing at least one form of discrimination related to their race, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression in the past year while 83% of Black transgender, nonbinary or questioning youth reported the same.

More than 72% of Black trans youth surveyed by The Trevor Project reported experiencing two or more types of discrimination in the past year, as did 58% of Black cisgender LGBQ respondents.

Factored into this data is that anti-LGBTQ+ bills in state legislatures have created a climate of harassment and bullying on many middle school and high school campuses. FBI data shows a surge in school hate crimes linked to restrictive LGBTQ+ laws.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says it is tracking at least 475 anti-LGBTQ+ bills filed so far this year. 

Suicidal Ideation and Multiple Types of Discrimination
What the report exposed was that Black trans youth who reported experiencing discrimination related to their gender identity or expression in the past year were nearly twice as likely to report a suicide attempt in the past year.

Key among The Trevor Project findings was how the intersection of racial discrimination and other discrimination impacted these young Black people. While racial discrimination per se was not associated with suicide attempts, the impact of multiple types of discrimination exponentially increased the possibility of suicide attempts in the past year, particularly among Black trans, nonbinary and questioning young people.

In a statement to The Hill, Derrick Matthews — director of research science at The Trevor Project — called the group’s findings “sobering.” Matthews said that this data highlights how critically important it is to view mental health challenges and suicide prevention through an intersectional lens.

Matthews said, “Being an LGBTQ+ young person comes with its own set of systemic challenges, but we must not silo efforts to address those challenges among young people who hold multiple marginalized identities.” 

Matthews added, “It is imperative to include the racial discrimination experienced by Black LGBTQ+ youth in this work as well.”

Human Rights Campaign Data
HRC’s data supported, enhanced and expanded on that of The Trevor Project. Among the key points in the report were that many Black LGBTQ+ youth have experienced at least one form of racism from within the LGBTQ+ community and also say they do not feel like they are able to trust white LGBTQ+ people. The report shows 74.8% of Black LGBTQ+ youth and 78.2% of Black transgender and gender-expansive youth have experienced racism in the LGBTQ+ community and 60.3% of Black LGBTQ+ youth and 64.7% of Black transgender and gender-expansive youth say they are not able to trust white LGBTQ+ people.

In addition, most Black LGBTQ+ youth say they have experienced anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry in the Black community, while half say they do not feel accepted by other Black people because of their LGBTQ+ identity: 80.9% of Black LGBTQ+ youth and 83.5% of Black transgender/gender-expansive youth say they have experienced homophobia or transphobia in the Black community and 54.1% of Black LGBTQ+ youth and 57% of Black transgender/gender-expansive youth do not feel accepted by other Black people because of their LGBTQ+ identity.

The HRC study showed that while most young people have LGBTQ+ supportive friends, many lack supportive adults. While 82% reported they were out to at least someone in their immediate family, 59% said they had experienced some form of rejection from their parents. Only 58% of students were out to their teachers or school staff. 

Nearly half (49%) of Black trans youth said they felt unsafe at school. Fifty-eight percent reported experiencing racism, and 64% said they had encountered transphobia. Over half (55.9%) of Black LGBTQ+ youth overall, including reported being physically or verbally harassed at school in the past 30 days, as well as 58.8% of Black transgender and gender-expansive youth.

The HRC report also investigated the impact of religion, faith and spirituality and asked numerous questions about the mental health of respondents as well as their hopes for the future.

Positive Signs for Black LGBTQ+ Youth
There were also positive signs in these reports. More than half of Black LGBTQ+ young people who told The Trevor Project they had experienced discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity said they had received support from friends, family members, a mental health professional or a romantic partner.

And the report itself states “adults working with Black LBGTQ+ [sic] young people should ensure that they are prepared to support all aspects of Black LGBTQ+ young people’s identities as they navigate the combined effects of racism, anti-LGBTQ bigotry, and other forms of bias.”

Strong support systems and identity-affirming environments can act as key protective factors against depression, anxiety and suicidality among LGBTQ+ young people, prior research has shown. The HRC report states that “Support or rejection from parents plays an important role in LGBTQ+ youth well-being. Parents have a critical role to play in creating open environments that foster positive self-esteem, mental health and well-being. Parental rejection can lead to worsening mental and physical well-being of children, while parental support serves as a protective factor.”

Roughly half of transgender and nonbinary 13- to 24-year-olds surveyed by The Trevor Project in 2023 said their gender identity was affirmed at school with more than a third asserting that their homes were gender-affirming. Among respondents who reported access to affirming spaces, including those online, had lower rates of suicide attempts than those who did not. But more than 50% of LGBTQ+ youth said it would be helpful for the people in their lives to know more about racism, and 455 said they’d like their family and friends to learn more about intersectionality.

Matthews told The 19th, “I know a lot of folks are really stepping up to the plate to work with Black LGBTQ+ youth, and I really hope, if it wasn’t already, this puts on their radar screen the importance of helping people deal with the effects of multiple types of discrimination.” 

Matthews added, “We live in a very racialized society. Folks largely grow up around people of a similar race to them. But we can’t necessarily say the same is true for folks who are not heterosexual, or are transgender or nonbinary or questioning.”

If you or someone you know are having thoughts of suicide, resources are available to help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides 24/7 free and confidential support for people in distress. Trans Lifeline, designed for transgender and gender-nonconforming people, can be reached at (877) 565-8860. The Trevor Project’s 24/7 hotline for LGBTQ+ youth can be reached at (866) 488-7386. Chat services are available at or by texting START to 678-678.

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