Ten years ago, a spate of suicides prompted LGBTQ+ journalist Dan Savage and his partner, Terry Miller, to record a YouTube video promising queer teens that life would get better. Today, that mantra has been turned into an international movement and a nonprofit.
That’s one of dozens of organizations working toward improving life for queer youth. Research shows that more young people — 20 percent according to GLAAD — identify as queer than ever before.
Despite all of that progress, a new study from the Center for American Progress, progressive think tank, and the research group NORC at the University of Chicago, reports that young queer adults face staggering rates of discrimination.
“I was honestly shocked by the findings in the survey, just how widespread discrimination was,” said Sharita Gruberg, one of the study’s authors.
The survey, conducted in June, captured responses from 1,528 self-identified LGBTQ+ adults 18 and older.
Discrimination forced 54 percent of queer people to hide personal relationships, the report says. Fifty-five percent of transgender people reported avoiding public places for the same reason.
More than one in three LGBTQ+ Americans (36 percent) said they were discriminated against over the past year, and 69 percent of nonbinary people reported facing discrimination in the same timeframe. Among transgender Americans, the rate was three out of five.
As stark as those numbers are, it’s the data among young adults that truly floored Gruberg: 67 percent of young adults surveyed in the study reported being discriminated against in the past year.
The findings are a marked jump from a similar survey that the Center for American Progress conducted in 2017 that found one in four “LGBT” adults reported discrimination.
Over half of those responding to this year’s survey said they were discriminated against in public while trying to use a bathroom, take public transit or go shopping, the report notes.
“This is just people going about their daily lives,” said Gruberg. She is unsure why the numbers have increased so dramatically.
Conducted at the height of the pandemic, the survey sheds light on troubling realities facing LGBTQ+ people as the virus ravages communities. Discrimination took a toll on the mental health of 52 percent of those surveyed. For Black LGBTQ+ people, that figure skyrocketed 77 percent.
The findings, however, do align with other research on the community during the pandemic. A poll released by the LGBTQ+ suicide prevention organization The Trevor Project found depression skyrocketing among queer youth as many face isolation in unsupportive homes.
“This year has been difficult for everyone, but it has been especially challenging for LGBTQ youth, and particularly Black LGBTQ youth, who have found themselves at the crossroads of multiple mounting tragedies,” said Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of The Trevor Project, in a statement.
That Trevor Project poll reported that over 40 percent of LGBTQ+ youth said that the pandemic had hampered their ability to express their gender or sexual orientation; 55 percent of those surveyed said they had anxiety and 53 percent said they were suffering from depression.
One glimmer of hope?
“That is that the Affordable Care Act is working,” said Gruberg, adding that 88 percent of queer people said they had health insurance.