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Report: Hardships of Black LGBTQ+ Youth Span School, Family, and Multiple Community Settings

Black LGBTQ+ youth face both racism and homophobia as a result of their intersectional identity. As a result, they also face hardships related to a number of facets in their lives, including school safety, religion, community support, and higher education, according to a new report from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation.Charleigh J. FlohrCharleigh J. Flohr

The "2024 Black LGBTQ+ Youth Report" – which the HRC Foundation created in partnership with the University of Connecticut – examines data from their 2022 survey of more than 12,000 LGBTQ+ teenagers, ages 13-17, and suggests ways in which parents and educators can help.

“Black LGBTQ+ youth need allyship, support and resources tailored to their Black LGBTQ+ identities,” said report co-author Charleigh Flohr, associate director of public education and research for the HRC Foundation. “Those two identities are not separate, and while information for LGBTQ+ people and Black people are important, the information and resources for people who live at the intersections of those two identities can look very different.”

For the purposes of the report, respondents who are transgender, non-binary, gender nonconforming, and other non-cisgender gender-expansive are referred to as transgender/gender-expansive youth.

“This report reinforces the unfortunate disposition of many Black LGBTQ+ students,” said Chauna C. Lawson, associate director for HRC’s HBCU Program. “They are challenged with navigating racism within LGBTQ+ spaces while simultaneously being met with homophobia and transphobia within the Black community.

“While the landscape of inclusion at HBCUs has improved significantly over the past 10-15 years, there is still far too much stigma around LGBTQ identities. These students find themselves targeted/alienated by faculty and staff just as much as by their peers, if not more so.”

In general, higher percentages of Black transgender/gender-expansive youth reported hardships than Black LGBTQ+ youth, in the realms of race, gender/sexuality, family, and school.

Within the LGBTQ+ community, approximately three in four Black LGBTQ+ and transgender/gender-expansive youth reported having faced at least one form of racism in the LGBTQ+ community and around seven out of ten said they have heard white LGBTQ+ people saying racist things.

Respondents reported feelings of distrust and being misunderstood by white LGBTQ+ people, with more than 60% of both Black LGBTQ+ and transgender/gender-expansive youth saying that they cannot trust their white counterparts.

The numbers are higher by a few percentage points for those who said they felt misunderstood. And they are even higher for Black LGBTQ+ and transgender/gender-expansive youth who said they have to educate white people about race, adding more burden to the experiences of these Black teenagers.

Black LGBTQ+ youth mentioned instances of homophobia, transphobia, lack of acceptance, and dismissive attitudes from other Black people. More than 80% of Black LGBTQ+ and transgender/gender-expansive youth reported having faced one or more forms of homophobia/transphobia in the Black community.

Many said they felt misunderstood (72-75%), invisible (61-67%), or not accepted (54-57%) by those in the Black community, with more Black transgender/gender-expansive youth reporting as such than Black LGBTQ+ youth.

Levels of awareness and acceptance at home and at school for these young people varied, according to the report.

While most Black LGBTQ+ youth (81.9%) are out to at least one member of their immediate family, more than half (56.1%) of respondents are out to none of their extended family. And less than a fifth (18.8%) said they were out to all members of their immediate family, a percentage that is lower than that of the overall LGBTQ+ youth population, 26.4%.

Awareness does not equate to acceptance or support, however. According to the report, similar percentages of Black LGBTQ+ youth responded that they have felt supported by their parents (56.5%) or that they experienced some degree of parental rejection (58.6%), whether it be through mocking, negative comments, or being made to feel bad for their LGBTQ+ identity.

Again, more of the trans and gender-expansive respondents than LGBTQ+ youth reported these negative experiences, and less of them reported that their parents said they liked them as they were. But notably, a good portion more of trans and gender-expansive youth reported that their parents expressed pride of their child’s LGBTQ+ identity – 48.2% compared to 33% for Black LGBTQ+ youth.

The report’s authors urged parents and caregivers to do research on the Black LGBTQ+ experience, local LGBTQ+ communities, and role models and mentors for their child.

Harassment and bullying remain prominent enough as issues for Black LGBTQ+ youth in school, the report noted, given that more than half of respondents reported having faced harassment, physical or verbal. More so than for their race/ethnicity (32%), Black LGBTQ+ and trans/gender-expansive youth said they were bullied at school because of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression (approx. 50%).

As these students progress through their schooling, more than 80% are thinking about college. Yet a good portion of them (28-32%) find themselves worried that them being LGBTQ+ could harm future college and higher ed opportunities.

Educators can take steps and create lesson plans to highlight Black LGBTQ+ figures and content that affirms Black LGBTQ+ experiences and identities, the report’s authors suggested.

Lawmakers can also contribute to support this demographic, Flohr wrote.

“Every policymaker should come out against any law or policy seeking to push LGBTQ+ people back into the closet,” said Flohr. “Across the United States, in state legislatures and elsewhere, laws and policies are being made to criminalize and dehumanize our community.”

Even when faced with all this hardship, 90% of Black LGBTQ+ youth expressed pride for being part of the LGBTQ+ community, though that’s not to say that this population does not feel sadness or self-criticism because of their LGBTQ+ identity, according to the report.

“The fact that so many Black LGBTQ+ youth are still proud of their identities in the face of adversity is a true testament to the resiliency and strength of Black LGBTQ+ youth,” said Flohr. “I ask everyone: If public officials and lawmakers were working to criminalize many of your identities, how would you feel?”

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