Imagine living a life where being discriminated against for one’s identity is normal, living a life in fear of being attacked, harassed, or disliked you for being who they are.
This is the daily life of many LGBTQ youth. LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and all the many other identities of the community. LGBTQ+ youth worldwide are treated differently than their straight, cisgender, peers, they are harassed, bullied, and isolated just because of their identity. This has a major impact on many LGBTQ+ youth, only 37 percent of LGBTQ+ youth report being happy (Human Rights Campaign, 2013), but acceptance and kindness can help make their lives easier. LGBTQ+ youth often suffer issues based on the prejudice and bullying they may receive from friends and peers, which can negatively affect an individual’s well-being, but they can also be positively impacted if accepted by family and peers, and their support can have lasting effects on an individual’s self esteem and overall happiness. This research essay will analyze the effects of acceptance and rejection on LGBTQ+ youth and their psychological health. To begin, rejection from an individual’s family has a huge impact on the identity and views of life of LGBTQ+ youth. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 33 percent of LGBTQ+ youth are rejected by their family and 46 percent say that their family is where they most often hear negative messages about the LGBTQ+ community.
First and foremost, rejection from one’s family can have a negative impact on LGBTQ+ youth’s self esteem and self acceptance. Family rejection can lead to an adolescent to doubt their self worth and to doubt their identity. Furthermore, depending on one’s relationship with their parents they will be affected differently by such rejection; if an individual has a close relationship with their parents the rejection will affect them a lot more than if they did not have a close relationship, and will make them question their self-worth (Katz-Wise, Rosario, & Tsappis, 2016). Also, an individual may repress their identity/sexuality in order to please their family (Field, 2016). Moreover, family rejection can cause an increase in anxiety in LGBTQ+ youth. Not all LGBTQ+ youth experience rejection from their family, but there is an overwhelming amount of research that shows that individuals who do are more likely to experience higher levels of anxiety (Russel & Fish, 2016). Only 32 percent of LGBTQ+ youth list their family as a place in which they hear positive messages about being LGBTQ+ (Human Rights Campaign), this can cause anxiety on how their family truly feels about them.
Furthermore, family rejection can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts in LGBTQ+ youth. If one’s family rejects an individual, it can cause a spike in depression and suicidal thoughts. Suicide is second leading cause of death in youth ages 15-24, and in the case of LGBTQ+ youth this percentage will spike if family members reject them (CDC, 2012).
LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers (Egale). Overall, it is clear that there is a strong correlation between familial rejection of LGBTQ+ youth and how their lives will play out; if rejected by their family LGBTQ+ youth’s self esteem will be negatively impacted, it will cause an increase in anxiety, and depression and suicidal thoughts. In continuation, one’s peers have a large influence on their daily life, if their peers reject and bully them it will have a major impact on their daily lives.
20 percent of LGBTQ+ youth have reported being physically harassed due to their identity. In 2011, 49 percent of transgender students, 33 percent of lesbian students, and 40 percent of gay male students report some sort of physical harassment at school due to their identity (Egale). To begin, peer rejection and bullying can lead to low self-esteem. Daily harassment without anyone to stop it, in many schools there was no LGBTQ+ anti-bullying policy until recently, so students would have to suffer through daily suffering.
Young children who experience bullying due to how they present themselves may have lasting effects, in one case a girl had been bullied because she dressed like a “tom boy”. Her peers starting calling her names like “fag” and “dyke”. Due to this bullying, she began trying to dress differently and picking her skin (Katz-Wise, Rosario, & Tsappis, 2016).
Moreover, bullying and peer rejection can lead to increased rates of anxiety in LGBTQ+ youth. If peers of an individual bully them due to their identity, it can cause an increase in anxiety. Especially in young children, bullying due to their identity can give them anxiety.
Youth will constantly anxious about what their bully will do next, and will be unable to focus on more important things, such as their school work. Research shows that LGBTQ+ youth have a harder time adjusting while being bullied, in comparison to their straight peers (Russel & Fish, 2016). In continuation, bullying and peer rejection can lead to depression, suicidal thoughts and actions. Bullying and social rejection of LGBTQ+ youth can lead to increased feelings of depression, isolation, and thoughts of suicide; the relationship between bullying and suicide is stronger for LGBTQ+ youth in comparison to their heterosexual peers (Egale). With each instance of verbal or physical harassment, the risk of self harm among LGBTQ+ youth is 2.5 times higher than their straight peers (Mental Health America). In summary, it is clear that rejection and bullying from peers will have negative effects on the psychological health of LGBTQ+ youth, this is shown through low self esteem, higher rates of anxiety, and higher chances of depression. Furthermore, acceptance from family and peers has a huge impact on LGBTQ+ youth.
Over the past few years, it has become more acceptable to be LGBTQ+ causing higher rates of acceptance. 6 out of 10 LGBTQ+ youth say they are accepted by their family (Human Rights Campaign). Also, 75 percent of LGBTQ+ youth say their peers do not have a problem with their identity (Human Rights Campaign). To begin, family acceptance will have a positive impact on individual’s self esteem. If a family accepts an individual it will have lasting effects on the individual’s self-esteem and self-acceptance. With a family’s support, an individual will be able to recognize that their identity is real and not something they are making up.
Due to their family’s acceptance, they will not repress their sexuality/identity. (Field, 2016). Similarly, supportive family and peers can decrease anxiety. Support from family and peers can cause a decrease in anxiety. Many studies have shown the positive affects of family acceptance on LGBTQ+ youth. With the support of peers and family, LGBTQ+ youth will not be constantly worrying about what their friends and family think about them. (Russel & Fish, 2016). Finally, supportive peers and family can decrease chances of depression and suicidal thoughts.
A supportive and open family can lead to less feelings of depression. One’s family can help a lgbtq individual feel less overwhelmed and in turn make them happier in the end. Through continued support, medical attention (therapy, antidepressants etc), an individual will be able to learn to live a happier life. Youth who are out to their family report being happier, if their family is accepting (Family & Youth Services Bureau). Overall, it is apparent that acceptance on LGBT youth will have a positive impact, it will improve their self esteem, decrease anxiety, and help and decrease depression.