Who are today’s LGBTQ Students?

A Population Overview:


·        Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ) student enrollment has roughly doubled.

·        In a Fall 2012 nationwide survey of 90,000 students by the American College Health Association (ACHA), 8.4% identified as gay/lesbian (2.6%), bisexual(3.8%), or unsure (2.0%), which is almost twice as many as the 4.4% who identified as gay/lesbian (1.4%), bisexual(1.5%), or unsure(1.5%) in the ACHA Spring 2000 survey.

·        The percentage of students who identified as transgender similarly doubled from 0.1% in spring 2000 to 0.2% in fall 2012 (ACHA, 2000; ACHA, 2012).

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Understanding LGBTQ Terminology

·        Ally- Someone who confronts heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, heterosexual and gender straight privilege in themselves and others

·        Asexual- Person who is not sexually attracted to anyone or does not have a sexual orientation.

·        Biological Sex- The biological attributes such as anatomy, chromosomes, and hormones that inform whether a person is male, female, or intersex. Where sex refers to biology, gender refers to the cultural and social understandings that are layered on top of biology.

·        Bisexual- A person emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to males/men and females/women.

·        Cisgender- describes someone who feels comfortable with the gender identity and gender expression expectations assigned to them based on their physical sex. (Normally associated with people are not Transgender)

·        Cisgender Privilege- "set of unearned advantages that individuals who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth accrue solely due to having a cisgender identity

·        Coming Out- May refer to the process by which one accepts one’s own sexuality, gender identity, or status as an intersexed person (to “come out” to oneself). May also refer to the process by which one shares one’s sexuality, gender identity, or intersexed status with others (to “come out” to friends, etc.). This can be a continual, life-long process for homosexual, bisexual, transgendered, and intersexed individuals.

·        Gay- Term used in some cultural settings to represent males who are attracted to males in a romantic, erotic and/or emotional sense. Term used to refer to the LGBTQI community as a whole, or as an individual identity label for anyone who does not identify as heterosexual.

·        Gender Binary-  A system of classifying sex and gender into two distinct and disconnected forms; dividing people into masculine and feminine bodies, identities, roles, and attributes; and policing people to make sure they don’t digress from the system in appearance, anatomy, or behavior

·        Gender Expression- The ways in which a person identifies and/or expresses their gender, including self-image, appearance, and embodiment of gender roles. One’s sex (e.g., male, female, intersex, etc.) is usually assigned at birth based on one’s physical biology. One’s gender (e.g., man, woman, gender queer, etc.) is one's internal sense of self and identity. One’s gender expression (e.g., masculine, feminine, androgynous, etc.) is how one embodies gender attributes, presentations, roles, and more.

·        Gender Identity- An individual’s internal sense of being a man, a woman, neither of these, both, and so on—it is one’s inner sense of being and one’s own understanding of how one relates to the gender binary. Everyone has a gender identity

·        Heterosexism- The presumption that everyone is straight and/or the belief that heterosexuality is a superior expression of sexuality. Often includes the use of power of the majority (heterosexuals) to reinforce this belief and forgetting the privileges of being straight in our society.

·        Heterosexual Privilege- Those benefits derived automatically by being heterosexual that are denied to homosexuals and bisexuals. Also, the benefits homosexuals and bisexuals receive as a result of claiming heterosexual identity or denying homosexual or bisexual identity

·        Intersex- A person whose combination of chromosomes, gonads, hormones, internal sex organs, gonads, and/or genitals differs from one of the two expected patterns

·        Lesbian- Term used to describe female-identified people attracted romantically, erotically, and/or emotionally to other female-identified people.

·        Pansexual- A person who is sexually attracted to all or many gender expressions.

·        Queer- An umbrella term which embraces a matrix of sexual preferences, orientations, and habits of the not-exclusively- heterosexual-and-monogamous majority.

·        Sexual Orientation-Describes to whom a person is sexually attracted. Some people are attracted to people of a particular gender; others are attracted to more than one gender. Some are not attracted to anyone. Affectional orientation is a term that describes to whom a person is romantically attracted, acknowledging that for many people there are more components to attraction than just sexual desire. Example: Gay, Straight, Bisexual, Lesbian, etc.

·        Transgender- A person who lives as a member of a gender other than that expected based on anatomical sex. Sexual orientation varies and is not dependent on gender identity. First coined to distinguish gender benders with no desire for surgery or hormones from transsexuals, those who desired to legally and medically change their sex, more recently transgender, trans, and/or trans* have become umbrella terms popularly used to refer to all people who transgress dominant conceptions of gender, or at least all people who identify themselves as doing so. The definition continues to evolve.

·        Transition refers to the complex process of authentically living into one’s gender identity, often but not always including leaving behind one’s assigned birth sex. A transition may include coming out to one's family, friends, and/or co-workers; changing one’s name and/or gender markers on legal documents; hormone therapy; and possibly (though not always) some form of surgery. Not all trans people identify with the word transition and it should furthermore never be assumed that transition is a process to be “completed.” Some people who have transitioned no longer consider themselves to be transsexual or transgender and rather identify only as a man or a woman (occasionally “of transgender experience”). Others identify as a trans man or a trans woman.

·        Two-Spirit- Native persons who have attributes of both genders, have distinct gender and social roles in their tribes, and are often involved with mystical rituals (shamans). Their dress is usually mixture of male and female articles and they are seen as a separate or third gender. The term ‘two-spirit’ is usually considered too specific to the Zuni tribe. Similar identity labels vary by tribe and include ‘one-spirit’ and ‘wintke’.

Population Specific Challenges:

·        LGBTQ individuals face discrimination and oppression socially, physically, emotionally, politically, religiously, and educationally.  The stressors they face seem to exceed those experienced by the regular student population.

·        The Suicide Prevention Resource Center synthesized previous studies and estimated that between 30 and 40% of LGBT youth, depending on age and sex groups, have attempted suicide. 

·        LGTBQ youth are 4 times more likely, and questioning youth are 3 times more likely, to attempt suicide as their straight peers.  Each episode of LGTBQ victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.

·        LGTBQ students report current alcohol use (60% v. 45%) and binge drinking (44% v. 26%).

·        Stigmatization and peer acceptance is another factor: In a recent survey of 10,000 youth, LGBTQ youth were nearly twice as likely as non-LGBTQ youth to report having been excluded by peers at school, twice as likely to have been verbally harassed at school, three times as likely to feel that they do not fit in, and one-third less likely to report having an adult they can turn to for help (Human Rights Campaign, 2012). Such stigmatization can lead to psychological distress and school failure.

·        Hostile school climates and family rejection are common: Both are associated with increases in rates of homelessness, substance abuse, suicide, and unsafe sexual behavior among LGBTQ youth (Toomey et al, 2010). Being bullied at school doubles the risk of suicide and is associated with increased depression, decreased self-esteem, increased substance use, and increased school dropout (Fedewa & Ahn, 2011; Russell et al, 2010; Toomey et al, 2011). Being rejected at home increases the risk of depression more than six times and increases the risk of suicide more than eight times (Ryan et al, 2009).

·        28% of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth drop out of school because of verbal or physical harassment by other students.

FACTS about Suicide among the LGTBQ Community*

·        LGBTQ youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide, and questioning youth are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide, as compared to their straight peers. 

·        Suicide attempts by LGBQ youth are 4 to 6 times more likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose that requires treatment from a doctor or nurse, compared to their straight peers. 

·        Nearly 50% of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives, and 25% report having made a suicide attempt. 

·        LGBTQ youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to attempt suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.

·        1 out of 6 LGBTQ students nationwide (grades 9-12) have seriously considered suicide in the past year.

·        Suicide attempts are nearly two times higher among Black and Hispanic youth than White youth.

·        40% of suicide victims are part of the LGBT community

·        Around 40% of LGBTQ Youth are Homeless in LA

*Source: Trevor Project and L.A. LGBT Center

- Last Updated: 1/8/16