Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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Out now: Coming of age in the South survey report

Following a year where state legislatures targeted attacks at LGBTQ youth reached at unprecedented levels, a new survey report depicts coming-of-age experiences for LGBTQ people across the South. 

The Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE) and Campus Pride has released Coming of Age as an LGBTQ Southerner: Family, Faith, Education & Health, a report detailing the findings of the 2021 Survey of Southern LGBTQ Experiences, a survey of 4,186 LGBTQ people who live in the South. 

The report highlights the experiences of LGBTQ Southerners as they have come of age. A majority of respondents are 18-24 and offer new insights into the experience of young LGBTQ adults who came of age during a time of historical cultural and social progress paired with heightened and organized aggression aimed at queer and trans people.

Participants report rejection, bullying, and violence as a result of their gender identity or sexual orientation; have sought and been denied resources or support from parents, teachers, coaches, and faith leaders; are coping with experiencing pressure from a variety of authority figures to change or suppress their LGBTQ identity; and are simultaneously experiencing poor physical and mental health, including heightened suicidality.

Key findings include:
  • On a scale of 0 (Not At All Supportive) to 100 (Most Supportive), our participants gave their parents/caregivers an average score of 56.37 for support related to sexual orientation and an average score of 51.80 for support related to gender identity, with transgender participants reporting lower scores than cisgender participants and younger participants reporting lower scores than older participants.
  • Over half of all respondents (58.17%) reported experiencing efforts to repress or change their sexual orientation or gender identity by a parent or caregiver. Less than five percent (4.74%) of our respondents reported receiving support or resources related to their LGBTQ identity from a faith or spiritual leader. Of the participants who identified as spiritual or religious, 68.82% reported being alienated or discouraged from participating in their religious or faith community due to their LGBTQ identity.
  • Nearly half (47.77%) of all respondents reported missing days of school because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable related to their LGBTQ identity. More than half reported feeling unsafe at school because of their gender identity (58.08%), while near three-quarters reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation (73.06%).
  • More than half of all respondents reported experiencing suicidal ideation (56.21%), and 13.52% reported attempting suicide at least once.

Dr. Austin H. Johnson (he/him pronouns), Director of the Southern Equality Research & Policy Center (SERPC) at the Campaign for Southern Equality and Assistant Professor of Sociology at Kenyon College, said today:

“Unfortunately, the dominant narrative emerging from these data is that thousands of individuals throughout the South are not getting the social support they need and deserve at home, in schools, and in their communities. This lack of support and inclusion is disempowering and may cause detrimental harm to their mental and physical wellbeing, especially when that lack of support gets compounded with clear, state-sponsored discrimination such as the passage of anti-LGBTQ laws.”

Shane L. Windmeyer (he/they pronouns), founder and Executive Director of Campus Pride, said: “Right now the sad reality is that many young LGBTQ+ people are experiencing a lack of acceptance at home and in their faith communities – and it’s especially troubling that younger people are often perceiving and receiving less emotional, mental, and physical support and resources than older respondents.

“Young LGBTQ+ people are being forced to conjure immense strength and resilience to combat marginalization and isolation – and it’s vital that we do everything we can, on every level of society, to support and affirm them for being who they are.”

The self-administered online survey, developed in 2021 by a team of sociologists, political scientists, and community organizers, was completed by 4,146 LGBTQ Southerners between August 3 and December 20, 2021. The survey included demographic questions as well as questions related to home and family, faith and spirituality, school and education, and health and well-being. The survey was available in both English and Spanish. Recruitment took place online through targeted social media advertisements. The team also hired community research ambassadors to promote the survey to LGBTQ people in their networks throughout the region.

Coming of Age as an LGBTQ Southerner is available at www.southernequality.org/ComingofAgeSurvey.

Based in Asheville, NC, the Campaign for Southern Equality promotes full LGBTQ equality across the South. Our work is rooted in commitments to equity in race, gender and class.

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