HRC Blog

While Resilient and Optimistic, LGBT Students Face Challenges as the School Year Begins

As students head back to school in Mississippi and Alabama this fall, HRC reminds those within the education community that LGBT youth are incredibly resilient and very optimistic about their futures. However, they face difficulties growing up within their communities and schools. A survey commissioned by HRC shows tremendous disparities between LGBT-identified young people when compared with non-LGBT teens.

“Every young person should feel secure and accepted when they go to school each morning. LGBT youth are no different,” said HRC Mississippi director Rob Hill and HRC Alabama director Ashley Jackson. “School leaders and teachers must ensure all of our children thrive.”

HRC surveyed more than 10,000 LGBT youth ages 13-17 across the country. The results show LGBT youth are enthusiastic about their futures and believe things will get better in Mississippi and in Alabama. In Mississippi, 56 percent say it is likely they will find a good job if they stay in the city where they are living now; 66 percent say it is highly likely they will be active in their current communities, and 69 percent say it is highly likely they will establish a lifelong partnership with someone. In Alabama, 48 percent say it is likely they will find a good job if they stay in the city where they are living now; 56 percent say it is highly likely they will be active in their current communities; and 64 percent say it is highly likely they will establish a lifelong partnership with someone.

 However, the findings also show the deck is stacked against LGBT young people in Mississippi and Alabama. Below are key findings from the survey:

  • In Mississippi, 80 percent of LGBT youth surveyed in Mississippi feel they do not fit in; while only 16 percent of non-LGBT youth surveyed nationally feel that way.
  • In Mississippi, just 37 percent of LGBT youth surveyed in Mississippi describe themselves as happy compared to 67 percent of non-LGBT youth surveyed nationally.  
  • In Mississippi, 59 percent of LGBT youth surveyed in Mississippi say they have been excluded by their peers because they are different compared to only 26 percent of non-LGBT youth surveyed nationally.
  • In Mississippi, 60 percent of LGBT youth surveyed in Mississippi say they have been verbally harassed and called names at school; while 25 percent of non-LGBT youth surveyed nationally have a similar experience.
  • In Alabama, 64 percent of LGBT youth surveyed in Alabama feel they do not fit in; while only 16 percent of non-LGBT youth surveyed nationally feel that way.
  • In Alabama, just 39 percent of LGBT youth surveyed in Alabama describe themselves as happy compared to 67 percent of non-LGBT youth surveyed nationally.
  • In Alabama, 63 percent of LGBT youth surveyed in Alabama say they have been excluded by their peers because they are different compared to only 26 percent of non-LGBT youth surveyed nationally.
  • In Alabama, 61 percent of LGBT youth surveyed in Alabama say they have been verbally harassed and called names at school; while just 25 percent of non-LGBT youth surveyed nationally have a similar experience.

When we asked participants in the survey to list their biggest concerns, non-LGBT youth answered overwhelmingly with: "getting good grades," "finding a job," and "getting into college." However, for LGBT young people, all those things are still concerns, but they're trumped by, "bullying," "not getting rejected by their families for coming out," and "the struggle to find acceptance." That's an enormous burden that LGBT youth are forced to shoulder alone.

The results are a call to action for adults to encourage all students to succeed. The survey also shows how critical the work of achieving equality is for future generations.

“We must use these findings to ensure resources are available to provide a safe and nurturing environment for our LGBT youth,” said Hill. “It is important we improve the climate within our schools.”

With this data, HRC Mississippi and HRC Alabama are working to support LGBT youth in schools and their communities. HRC Mississippi and Alabama are pushing to change hearts and minds, advance enduring legal protections, and build more inclusive institution from the church pew to the workplace. The state has no statewide or local protections in housing, workplace or public accommodations.

The HRC Foundation has a number of programs that work daily to improve the lives of youth and families in schools, the child welfare system, and communities. For more information on HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools Program, click here.

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