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Fact Sheet


Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) Youth
Three percent of high school students describe themselves as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, and over five percent report they are either lesbian, gay, bisexual, or have had sexual experiences with individuals of the same sex.[1] As a minority population in schools across the country, LGBTQ youth commonly experience high rates of discrimination and harassment, yet are often not protected under school policy. And even though most parents favor teaching about sexual orientation in schools, most sexuality education programs do not cover this topic and abstinence-only-until-marriage programs merely further negative sentiment toward these students. As a result, LGBTQ youth are more vulnerable to a variety of harmful behaviors, including skipping school and attempting suicide, than their heterosexual peers.
LGBTQ Youth Are More Vulnerable To Harmful Behavior
Homophobic remarks and harassment, lack of protection at school, and negative messages from abstinence-only-until-marriage programs all contribute to making LGBTQ youth more at risk for harmful behavior than heterosexual students.[2]
  • Over twice as many lesbian, gay, and bisexual students (19%) report being threatened or injured with a weapon at their public high school during the year than heterosexual students (8%).
  • Lesbian, gay, and bisexual students (16%) are twice as likely to have skipped school in the last month for safety concerns as other students (8%).
  • Attempted suicide rates are over four times higher for lesbian, gay, and bisexual students;33% report that they attempted to commit suicide during the past year, compared with only 9% of all other students.
LGBTQ Youth Experience Discrimination and Harassment At School

LGBTQ youth often hear homophobic remarks from both students and staff. Many of these students are verbally, physically, and sexually harassed because of their sexual orientation, and as a result, report feeling unsafe at school. [3]
  • 92% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students in middle and high school report that they frequently or often hear homophobic remarks, such as “faggot,” “dyke,” or the expression “that’s so gay” from their peers. Almost one in five of these students heard homophobic remarks from faculty or staff at their school. 
  • 84% of middle and high school aged lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth say they are verbally harassed at school, including name calling or threats, because of their sexual orientation.
  • 65% of these students report having been sexually harassed over the past school year, including sexual remarks or touching, because of their sexual orientation. 
  • 39% report having been physical harassed, including being shoved or pushed at school, because of their sexual orientation.
  • 64% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students in middle and high schools say they feel unsafe at school.
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender high school seniors who have experienced higher frequencies of verbal harassment at school (13%) are more likely to report they do not plan to attend college than lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender seniors who have never or rarely experienced verbal harassment (7%).  
Most LGBTQ Students Are Not Protected From Discrimination and Harassment
Most state policies do not provide protection for LGBTQ students. Currently, only eight states and the District of Columbia legally protect students based on their sexual orientation.[5] And, six states actually prohibit “advocacy of homosexuality” at school.

  • Over 75% of students in the United States attend schools in states where sexual orientation and identity are not protected classes under the law as religion, race and national origin are under federal law.[6]
  • Teachers cannot portray homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle in Arizona, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. In some of these states, students were reminded that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense despite the fact that in 2003 the United States Supreme Court ruled, in Lawrence v. Texas, that such laws were unconstitutional. 
Parents Support Teaching About Sexual Orientation At Schools
Three out of four parents feel comfortable speaking to their children about homosexuality, but are unlikely to raise this topic on their own.[7] To overcome bias against LGBTQ youth, sexuality education programs must consider and include sexual orientation.
  • 79% of parents want their children to learn about sexual orientation in sexuality education classes at school.[8]
  • 67% of parents believe their children should be taught that gay people are just like other people.[9]
Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs Further Isolate LGBTQ Youth
Abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula ignore the needs of LGBTQ youth. They either omit sexual orientation completely or show clear bias against homosexuality and as such are clearly not appropriate for American schools. [10]

  • Abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula ignore LGBTQ youth.

For example, Choosing The Best curriculum teaches students “one of the major purposes of dating is to understand members of the opposite sex.”

  • Abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula show clear bias against homosexuality.

CLUE 2000 equates homosexuality with clearly immoral and illegal behavior, such as incest or pedophilia. “Among Kinsey’s most outrageous and damaging claims are the beliefs that pedophilia, homosexuality, incest, and adult-child sex are normal.”

Sexual Orientation and Identity Defined
The understanding and identification of one’s sexual orientation may change over the course of a person’s life. And while many people identify themselves as having a certain sexual orientation based on whom they are attracted to or fall in love with, this is not always the case. For example, there are some people who have sexual thoughts and experiences with people of the same gender, but do not consider themselves to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual. And, there are people who have sexual thoughts and experiences with people of the other gender but do not consider themselves to be heterosexual.[11]
  • Heterosexual (or straight) refers to a person who is attracted to and falls in love with someone of another gender, and homosexual (or gay man or lesbian woman) refers to a person who is attracted to and falls in love with someone of the same gender. A bisexual person is attracted to and falls in love with someone of another or the same gender.
  • Questioning refers to a person who is unsure of his/her sexual orientation.
  •  Transgender refers to individuals whose internal feelings of being male or female differ from the sexual anatomy they were born with. Transgender refers to gender identity, not sexual orientation.
Updated April 2010

[1] Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey (Massachusetts Department of Education, 2001).
[2] Ibid.
[3] National School Climate Survey (New York: GLSEN, 2003)
[5] “42 States Receive Failing Grades in Inaugural Safe Schools Report,” GLSEN Press Release, June 28, 2004
[6] “42 States Receive Failing Grades.”
[7] What Does Gay Mean: How to Talk with Kids about Sexual Orientation (San Francisco, CA: Horizons Foundation, 2001).
[8] Sex Education in America: The View from Inside the Nation’s Classrooms (Menlo Park, CA: The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2000).
[9] What Does Gay Mean: How to Talk with Kids about Sexual Orientation
[10] Martha Kempner, Toward a Sexually Healthy America: Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs that Try to Keep Our Youth “Scared Chaste,” (New York, NY: SIECUS, 2001), 46-47.
[11] Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Kindergarten—12th Grade, 3rd edition (New York, NY: SIECUS, 2004).



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