Today, President Biden signed an executive order that includes actions to protect LGBTQI+ youth from conversion therapy, expand LGBTQI+ access to comprehensive health care, support LGBTQI+ youth in schools, end suicide among LGBTQI+ youth, eliminate LGBTQI+ homelessness, address LGBTQ+ discrimination in foster care, strengthen support for older LGBTQI+ adults, promote increased federal data collection of sexual orientation and gender identity, and more.
President Biden stated that the main focus of the order is protecting LGBTQI+ youth who are increasingly targets of state legislation that limits access to health care and creates unsupportive school environments. According to the Williams Institute, approximately 2 million youth ages 13-17 in the U.S. identify as LGBT, including 300,000 who identify as transgender.
A recent Williams Institute study estimated that 350,000 LGBT adults were subjected to conversion therapy as minors. Thousands of LGBT youth remain vulnerable to conversion therapy in the states that have not banned the practice. Separate research found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people who experienced conversion therapy were almost twice as likely to think about and attempt suicide compared to their peers who hadn’t experienced conversion therapy.
LGBTQ+ youth often face challenges at school and home. Several Williams Institute studies have documented widespread harassment and bullying of LGBTQ+ students. Recent research finds that one-third of LGBTQ people at four-year colleges were bullied, harassed, or assaulted, compared to 19% of non-LGBTQ people.
Other studies have found high proportions of LGBTQ+ youth in foster care, juvenile detention, and among the homeless youth population. For example, one study found that 19% of youth in foster care in Los Angeles were LGBTQ—two to three times their proportion in the general population.
Supportive laws and policies have been linked to improved health and well-being for LGBTQ+ students. According to Williams Institute research, anti-bullying laws that protect youth based on sexual orientation are associated with fewer suicide attempts and stressful experiences, such as feeling unsafe at school, among students.
“President Biden’s plan signals a renewed dedication to protecting LGBTQ youth at a time when an unprecedented amount of anti-LGBTQ legislation has been introduced by states,” said Elana Redfield, Federal Policy Director at the Williams Institute. “When government agencies adopt and enforce policies that affirm LGBTQ and intersex people, it makes a concrete difference in the lives of our communities. ”
Key findings from Williams Institute research include
- Nearly 700,000 LGBT people have undergone conversion therapy. An estimated 350,000 of them were subjected to the practice as minors.
- LGB people who experienced conversion therapy were nearly twice as likely to think about and attempt suicide as their non-LGB peers. LGB people who experienced adverse childhood experiences, such as parental abuse, were more likely to have undergone conversion therapy.
Bullying and Harassment
- An analysis of high school students in four urban areas found that 22% of lesbian and gay youth and 11% of bisexual youth had missed school because they felt unsafe in the past month compared to 7% of non-LGB students. Gender non-conforming students reported higher levels of bullying and more school absences than other students.
- LGBT youth in California were two to three times as likely to say they missed school because they were sad, hopeless, or anxious or because they didn’t feel safe at school in the past month than non-LGBT students.
- One-third of LGBTQ people at four-year colleges were bullied, harassed, or assaulted, compared to 19% of non-LGBTQ people.
- More than half (55%) of transgender people say that their mental health was not good all or most of the time while they were in higher education programs
Foster care, juvenile detention, and homelessness
- 19% of youth in foster care in Los Angeles County identify as LGBTQ.
- In response to a 2014 survey, homeless youth service providers in the U.S. estimated that LGBTQ youth accounted for an average of 29% of all homeless youth
- LBQ girls, particularly girls of color, are overrepresented in foster care and the carceral system. The proportion of Black and American Indian LBQ girls in foster care is four times higher than in the general population.
- 58% of girls and 7% of boys in juvenile correctional facilities are sexual minorities. Sexual minority youth are two to three times more likely to be held in custody for more than a year compared to heterosexual youth.
- LGBTQ youth of color in the juvenile system remain longer and face greater risk of discrimination compared to their peers.
Today’s executive order goes even further, reinforcing the administration’s commitment to serving LGBTQ people of all ages and demographics. The order
- instructs the Department of Health and Human Services to partner with state child welfare agencies to build capacity and prevent discrimination of LGBTQI+ people. Williams Institute research finds same-sex couples are seven times more likely than different-sex couples to be raising a foster or adopted child.
- charges the Department of Housing and Urban Development to identify and address barriers to housing for LGBTQI+ people. LGBQ adults are twice as likely as the general population to have experienced homelessness in their lifetime. Transgender adults were six times more likely than cisgender straight people to have experienced homelessness in the past year.
- instructs HHS to identify and address barriers to accessing federal benefits and services that could help alleviate poverty and other needs among LGBT people and families. An estimated 22% of LGBT people live in poverty compared to 16% of non-LGBT people.
- tasks HHS with creating a Bill of Rights for LGBTQI+ Older Adults. Approximately 7% of the LGBT population is age 65+, including 171,000 people who identify as transgender.
- expands the federal government’s commitment to data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity.