Is life getting better for gay teens?

The answer, it seems, is yes and no. According to Joseph Kahn of the Boston Globe: “While physical assaults on gay teens may be declining overall — thanks to many factors, including tougher antibullying laws and more support systems for high schoolers who choose to “come out’’ — there’s ample evidence, too, that bullying and intolerance remain part of their daily lives.”

One of the many efforts to reach out to at-risk gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (known as GLBT) youth is a project known as the It Gets Better Initiative (found on the web at http://www.itgetsbetter.org/) in which concerned adults, including President Obama, have been posting messages telling GLBT youth that they are not alone in their struggles.

This and many other efforts have been in response to recent suicides and violence towards GLBT youth across the country, particularly the suicide of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi who jumped off the George Washington Bridge earlier this year after two classmates posted a recording of an intimate encounter with another male online. These incidents have prompted both soul-searching and outrage among the GLBT community, in turn promoting new actions to promote unity in schools and elsewhere.

While these incidents are tragic, in many ways they have caused a greater degree of both awareness and acceptance of homosexuality. Yet issues such as bullying and harassment due to sexual orientation remain strong. In preparation for this article from the Boston Globe, nearly two dozen GLBT teens were interviewed about their experiences in school. Amazingly, not one of them reported having been physically assaulted for their sexual orientations, but all said that they had “been exposed to some degree of harassment.” Among those interviewed, too, there was an overwhelming consensus that without a support system in their schools, they would be much worse off.

Many of the teens interviewed also reported that their school environment is “much less alienating than home life, where religious or cultural prejudices against homosexuality can make their lives uncomfortable.” Specialists agree that parental support is often the biggest and most important factor in helping a GLBT teen make it through the adolescent years with minimal trauma.

In addition to the teens themselves, parents of gay teens often experience a great deal of anxiety due to the plight of their children. According to one parent: “If I felt any grief when Cory came out two years ago, it was relizing that I’d have a level of fear above and beyond what other parents have – that he’d have an element of risk in his life, physical and social, that others don’t. And that’s just wrong.”

article written by Chris Lloyd

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