I recently talked with the folks at the Texas GSA Network, a program of Austin’s Out Youth. The GSA Network helps students around the state start and strengthen Gay Straight Alliance clubs in their high schools, and when necessary, helps bring them the tools to fight parents and administrations who want to shut those clubs down.
Together with the American Civil Liberties Union, the Texas GSA Network conducts a school survey each year to gauge the experiences of students in grades 6-12 in Texas schools. While the results of the 2012 survey aren’t ready yet, OutYouth Executive Director Aubrey Wilkerson said it’s likely they will mirror the results of the Human Rights Campaign’s nationwide school survey – although Wilkerson cautioned that some results may be bleaker, because of Texas’ tendency to lean conservative on social issues.
I’ll skip to the chase and highlight some of the key findings in the nationwide HRC survey: LGBT youth are more than two times as likely to experiment with alcohol and drugs; are more likely than non-LGBT youth to report they do not have an adult to talk to about personal problems; and nearly a quarter of LGBT youth surveyed said their biggest problem is non-accepting families.
On the bright side, 77 percent of LGBT youth surveyed said they know things will get better for them personally. Forty-nine percent of LGBT youth in the survey said they believe things are getting much better or somewhat better in their communities. While LGBT youth are more than 2 times as likely as non-LGBT peers to face physical and verbal harassment and ostracism, three-quarters of LGBT youth say that most of their peers do not have a problem with their identity as LGBT.
So things are changing, and as we’ve seen from the cases before the Supreme Court, attitudes are shifting for the better too. It’s clear from the survey, however, that there’s still a long way to go.