Between the hormones, sexual urges, social pressures and classes, high school can prove a stressful for any young person, but even moreso if you’re LGBTQ. A 2014 study by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) found that 74% of LGBTQ students experienced some form of verbal harassment for their sexual orientation and 33% had been physically harassed for the same reason. These experiences cause LGBTQ students to have lower GPAs, lower self-esteem and higher levels of depression.
To survive, LGBTQ students develop coping mechanisms for dealing with being a minority in a potentially hostile environment, but not all coping methods are equally effective, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Homosexuality.
The study “examined 245 lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) young adult’s (ages 21–25) retrospective reports of coping in response to LGB minority stress during adolescence (ages 13–19)“ and found the best coping strategies involved “LGB-specific strategies” like connecting with LGBTQ organizations (a local queer youth group or a school’s gay-straight alliance).
Students who connected with others like themselves were most likely to make better psychosocial adjustments and have the greatest likelihood of performing well in high school.
Meanwhile, students who used alternative-seeking strategies (like changing schools or finding new friends) or cognitive strategies (like imagining a better future or trying to focus on other distractions) had lower levels of psychosocial adjustment and performed more poorly in school.
One gay blog interpreted these findings as suggesting that “‘It Gets Better’ is bad advice for gay kids,” but acknowledged that cognitive and alternative-seeking strategies may be the only ones available, especially for rural teenagers who may not have access to a LGBTQ youth group or gay-straight alliance.
GLSEN found that schools can also help improve academic life for LGBTQ students by implementing faculty training, school policies, student support initiatives and inclusive curriculum that take LGBTQ student needs into account.
(Featured image by FatCamera via iStock Photography)