Families Find Ways to Protect Their LGBTQ Kids

From Scientific American comes this in-depth, research-packed article by Marla Broadfoot on the mental health challenges of LBTQ+ youth—as well as their parents—in the face of threats and legislation across the country putting them at risk: 

“Tamara had not been sleeping well. Some days she woke up at four o’clock in the morning in tears and overwhelmed by a feeling of helplessness. She had moved her family three times over the past six years. Her house in New Hampshire was shot at—possibly by someone aiming at the rainbow signs in her front yard. In 2022 she fled to Massachusetts, which seemed to be safer for her child, Grey, who is transgender. But whenever she hears the words ‘safe state,’ a thought pops into her head: ‘Austria felt like a safe place in World War II, too.’

For the time being, Grey feels like they are in a good place mentally. (For their personal safety, the names of young people and their parents in this story have been changed.) They have found a community that sees them for who they are and a state that allows them to receive the gender-affirming care they need. But they have seen dark times before, and the familiar drumbeat of anxiety never quite goes away. ‘I am always a little concerned in the back of my head that things are getting kind of bad in some places, and maybe that’ll happen to me,’ Grey says. 

For many families with LGBTQ kids, the dark times are now. More than 500 anti-LGBTQ bills were considered in state legislatures in 2023, and 84 passed. (The term “LGBTQ” refers to lesbian, gay, and other people with minority sexual orientations and gender identities.) These bills restrict discussions of LGBTQ people or history in schools, limit legal protections for queer and transgender youth, and prohibit transgender health care for minors and even adults.

The sheer volume of these bills, and the sentiment behind them, is doing harm. An estimated 71 percent of LGBTQ youths—including 86 percent of transgender and nonbinary kids—say that laws concerning LGBTQ people have had a negative impact on their mental health. Nearly half of LGBTQ kids seriously considered suicide in the previous year, according to a survey conducted in 2022 by the Trevor Project, a nonprofit group that offers crisis services.

Discrimination against LGBTQ kids is also taking a toll on parents’ mental health, and the added family stress can make things even worse for their children. Studies show that family support is critical to the psychological resilience of queer and trans kids. But many parents are filled with fear, grief and anxiety, and the strain makes it harder for them to shield their children from the harshness of an often hostile world.”

Article →***

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