28 Jun Affirming Spaces for LGBTQIA+ Youth

Title reads The Importance of Affirming Spaces for LGBTQIA+ Youth with a picture of hands holding pride flags

Affirming Spaces for LGBTQIA+ Youth

Affirming a person’s gender identity, sexuality, pronouns, and humanity are life-saving actions. According to data from the Trevor Project, LGBTQIA+ youth with access to at least one affirming space were 35% less likely to report a suicide attempt in the past year. The most common affirming spaces that youth reported having were schools, home, workplaces, and community events. 

We know that LGBTQIA+ youth experience higher rates of mental health concerns than their peers, including anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation, with BIPOC youth reporting the highest rates. We must have places that actively affirm their identities and provide opportunities where they are free to express their identities, grow, and thrive. As we continue to see attempts to deprive LGBTQIA+ individuals of affirming healthcare, inclusive school policies, and human rights, it is imperative to counter these attacks with advocacy, inclusivity, and the creation and defense of affirming spaces for youth. 

“We must recognize that LGBTQ young people face stressors simply for being who they are that their peers never have to worry about.”

– Amit Paley (he/him), CEO & Executive Director, The Trevor Project

Everyone plays a role in ensuring the rights and dignity of all youth are protected and respected. Many factors contribute to a person’s health and safety, and affirming spaces play an important role in keeping kids safe. Advocating for more mental health support inside and outside of school, LGBTQIA+ inclusive policies, and vocal support of LGBTQIA+ youth can increase the safety of school-aged youth. According to a survey conducted by The Trevor Project, 60% of LGBTQIA+ youth wanted mental health care but didn’t receive it. 

Schools, community-based organizations, and medical practices are especially important in protecting marginalized youth. If you work in any of the above spaces, we encourage you to read Advocates for Youth’s Creating Safer Spaces Toolkit. Creating safe spaces for youth to find support is crucial to ensuring safety and improved medical and mental health outcomes.

We would be remiss not to take a moment to highlight the resiliency, strength, and joy of LGBTQIA+ youth. The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health asked youth where they were finding joy, and the results emphasize the fact that there are so many opportunities for joy when youth feel supported and safe. 

Here are a few of their answers:
  • Gender affirming clothing
  • Queer role models
  • Family and parental support
  • Taking care of houseplants
  • Seeing LGBTQIA+ people of color represented in media
  • Athletics and exercise 
  • The gaming community
  • Protective laws/victories for LGBTQIA+ rights 
  • Drag shows

At ReadyKids, we have seen firsthand the power of affirming youth’s identities and giving them the space to be who they are. In October 2022, we started holding a monthly Youth Activities Group for transgender, non-binary, gender expansive, and questioning youth; facilitated by our Youth Counseling Program and Clinical Supervisor. This group offers a place for youth to connect with their peers in a safe, supportive environment.

We encourage you to take action to create more supportive, affirming spaces in your community, whether it be in school, in community spaces, or at your place of work. 
Here are some suggestions on how to show your support for LGBTQIA+ youth:
  • Advocate for expanded mental health services in schools
  • Hang up signs or posters that identify yourself as a safe person for LGBTQIA+ people
  • Advocate for anti-bullying and non-discrimination policies 
  • Always use inclusive language
  • Vote for representatives who are advocates for LGBTQIA+ rights 

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