International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia 2015
Global focus issue on LGBTI Youth
Background information and resources
The IDAHOT committee has chosen the focus issue of LGBTI Youth together with activists worldwide as a priority area of concern that deserves our full attention on the upcoming International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, May 17, 2015.
This document attempts to offer some elements of reflection on this issue, ideas for action and references key documents and declarations.
It is a document designed to be regularly updated and we invite all stakeholders to send us their suggestions for improvements and additions
Major issues faced by LGBTI youth
All young Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans* & Intersex, LGBTI, and other young people from gender and/or sexual minorities have the right to grow up in safe and welcoming environments, where they can develop their personalities and talents respectfully of their individualities.
This right is guaranteed under international human rights law, specifically by the Convention on the Rights of the Child
Unfortunately research leaves no doubts about the exposure of young people to homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia.
Young people are specifically at high risk of being exposed to homophobic, transphobic or biphobic attitudes and expressions within the family, educational institutions, the health system and social settings. Trans and Intersex young people face particular additional challenges
While the family’s responsibility is to create a safe and supportive environment for the child, it is in fact often the place where homo/transphobic violence is being exerted most. Under the flawed pretext that young people need to be “protected” from being exposed to “non-traditional” or “immoral” sexualities or expressions of gender, conservative forces actually promote the systematic abuse of young people’s fundamental rights. Families are seen as major channels to impose standardized sexual and gender norms, and to mandate homo/trans/biphobia rather than emancipation and protection.
Parents therefore often meet non-conformant gender expression or sexual orientation with rejection, allow or even support bullying by siblings, and even expel young people from the family home, exposing them to homelessness and all the dangers a young person is confronted to on the streets.
Families, especially those under the influence of radical religious movements, all too often turn towards so called ‘conversion therapies’, which not only constitute a human rights violation in themselves as they constitute forced treatment, but often include degrading and harmful practices, both psychologically (aversion therapies, humiliations, etc.) and physically (deprivation of food and sleep, electroshocks, etc.)
Families with progressive social values, while they will not display hostile attitudes often lack the necessary tools to discuss sexual and gender diversity. The silence surrounding the issue contributes to creating a climate of exclusion and, in any case, does nothing to alleviate stigma and discrimination endured outside of the family setting.
Everyone has the right to education, and it is important that this is as stated in the Yogyakarta principles without discrimination on the basis of, and taking into account, sexual orientation and gender identity. Research and observation show that this right is almost systematically violated.
European research on the impact of homophobic and transphobic bullying on education and employment in Europe paints alarming figures, as 47% of respondents experienced threats or intimidation in school.
These figures are confirmed by a recent survey on school climate in the USA, which indicates that more than half of LGBT youth continue to report unsafe or even dangerous school climates. This study also clearly demonstrates the impact of unsafe environments to educational outcomes, as in a reaction to homo/trans/bi-phobia in education, LGBT youth isolate themselves and lose motivation to learn.
Unfortunately, bullying and harassment does not only happen in schools. All recreational settings are places where LGBTI young people face violence and intimidation. Sports venues, while they should be places where values of solidarity and acceptance are developed, too often only mirror and reproduce the homo/transphobic discrimination present in mainstream society. This is all the more acute for young people whose gender expression differ from majority norms. As a matter of fact, young people with non-conforming gender expression, even if they self-identify as heterosexual, will often face more social disapproval than self-identified gays or lesbians who conform to gender norms of their countries or communities, for example ‘girly’ girls and macho boys)
In recent years, online bullying and hate speech has added to the plight of gender and sexually non-conforming youth. Even if the online world often provides spaces that are safe, friendly, where information can be found and shared, and contacts to others developed and nurtured, it also can become another vehicle to increase the homo/transphobic pressure on young people. Online hate speech experiences less censure or opposition than hate speech in the public sphere. It also benefits from the availability of online anonymity and transnational interactions. People can and will say hateful things online that they would never express in public, and its reach and consequences are wider. A recent USA study reveals that LGBTI youth experience nearly three times as much bullying and harassment online as non-LGBT youth. Luckily, the Internet does not serve to simply reinforce the negative dynamics found offline regarding bullying and harassment but also offers LGBT youth ways for coping, access to understanding and accepting friends, and critical health information.
Another area of major concern for young LGBTI people is healthcare. The provision of sexual health services often only takes into consideration normative sexual practices (penis-vaginal intercourse) and therefore might ignore the needs of LGBTI people.
Not being financially or socially independent, young people can be ignored or treated in inappropriate ways by healthcare professionals who are not properly educated in specific aspects of treating and working with young LGBTQI people. The requirement of parental consent often blocks young people who are not out with their families to seek health care advice.
Assumptions from healthcare professionals that patients are heterosexual and information that is not inclusive of different sexual orientations or gender identities can exclude LGBTQI youth and deny them access to the information and support they require to maintain health and wellbeing and access appropriate treatment.
In addition to the above, Transgender and Intersex people suffer from specific from stigmatization and harmful treatments in a binary shaped medical system.
Like all Trans people, Trans youth’s identities are not being respected. A social climate study from 2013 reports that in the USA, 42% of transgender students had been prevented from using their preferred name and/or pronoun.
In most countries in the world where medical support for Transgender people and change of identity papers is possible, it is conditioned to a ‘Gender identity disorder’ diagnosis, which particularly impacts young LGBTI people’s construction of positive identities, as it forces them to equate their condition to a”mental health” issue. Young Trans people’s anxiety, depression, negative self-esteem and social isolation in the face of Transphobia are being used by medical institutions as a basis for the diagnosis, which is not only medically nonsensical but also harmful in itself. Indeed, from a human rights perspective it is not necessary for a mental illness to be diagnosed in order to give full access to health care and trans specific treatment. Forced sterilization, institutionalization and medicalization on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation are often still not considered medical abuse and are written into the national health protocols.
Furthermore, the cost of access to hormone treatments, reassignment or other needed surgeries, or other essential treatments, which is hardly ever covered by national health insurance systems, makes young people specifically vulnerable, as they have to delay the full transitioning towards their prefered gender.
Intersex children are particularly vulnerable to Human Rights abuses The right of intersex children (and their parents) to receive information about their condition that is fully understandable and complete, including information about the possible risks and benefits of the recommended treatment and to be told about possible alternative treatments, including non-treatment, is breached by almost all medical systems.. Instead, infant genital surgery is conducted without consent by the medical system to “cure” the infant of intersex differences. The aim of this surgery is cosmetic and political, a very few infants have health problems because of their intersex anatomical differences. Genital surgeries occur despite “particular concern” about later sexual function and sensation; there is no medical consensus about their conduct, and standards of “normality” are subjective. In addition, Intersex young people suffer from the scarcity of research, and nearly no access to well-studied and appropriate medications.
The stresses created by stigma, inequality and harassment can cause LGBTQI people to be at a heightened risk of psychological distress. This is often referred to as minority stress, a term used to describe the mental health consequences of stigmatisation, social exclusion, discrimination and harassment of minority groups.
These consequences include lifelong trauma, self-stigma, low self-esteem and depression, substance abuse, self-harm, and a series of health impacts related to the absence or the inappropriateness of prevention and/or treatments.
In some all too frequent cases, self-harm goes as far as suicide. Research in the US has revealed that LGB youth are four times more likely, and questioning youth are three times more likely, to attempt suicide as their straight peers. The figures for Trans* youth are even higher as nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives, and one quarter report having made a suicide attempt. Forced diagnosis of ‘gender identity disorder’ for Trans people, and the secrecy surrounding their condition for Intersex people put an additional stress on concerned individuals.
For LGBTQI youth, a lack of information or people to talk to about sexual health can contribute to unsafe sexual behaviors and attitudes. Along with self-stigma and discrimination, it can also lead to unwillingness to have regular check-ups. Stigma and discrimination leaves young LGBTI people outside of national HIV prevention policies, when these are targeting young people at all.
Information website are censored or blocked, even in context with relative acceptance of sexual and gender diversities, due to the fact that LGBT or HIV-related content is blocked as being pornographic. Other prevention tools and strategies, along with condom use, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis, serosorting, strategic positioning, etc. are still being demonised in many places due to stigma against HIV, people living with HIV, and sex in general.
As a result some data shows that in the US, the rate of new HIV diagnoses among MSM is more than 44 times that of other men, while the rate of primary and secondary syphilis among MSM is more than 46 times that of other men.
Beyond HIV, homo/transphobia has a devastating impact on LGBTI young people’s sexual health. Discrimination or the perception of discrimination in healthcare settings leads to alienation of LGBTQI young people and an inability to ask for treatment and support which in turn can have devastating consequences, leaving LGBTQI youth extremely vulnerable. Minority stress may lead to a need to self-medicate and/or reach for drugs, alcohol and tobacco in order to feel better or ‘escape’.
Additional health related consequences for Trans people are the risks that come with self-administering illegally bought hormones without medical supervision, due to lack of access or mistrust against the medical system, and the lack of information on compatible HIV treatment with hormone treatment, which can be a barrier to HIV treatment, care and support.
The absence of a peer support network and in many cases the impossibility to call on the judicial leaves many young people homeless in case of severe family rejection. In Research from 2011-12 in the US reveals that homeless young LGBT people represent up to an estimated 40 percent of the nation’s young adult homeless population
Homeless LGBTI persons suffer, in addition to all the consequences of homelessness, of particular harassment and extortion by law-enforcement officers, sexual harassment, and discrimination from health care facilities and humanitarian shelters against LGBT street children.
In many countries where legal discrimination and state persecution adds to social stigma, young people are forced to migrate in search for a safe haven. This forced migration subjects LGBTQI youth to poverty, violence, and exploitation. For LGBTQI people, forced migration exacerbates isolation and loneliness and can eventually lead to debilitating mental health conditions. All the more so as living conditions in migrants’ shelter homes are particularly challenging for LGBTI youth, who face the same homophobic and transphobic social climate they had to escape from.
Similarly, in conflict, disaster and humanitarian situations, Internally Displaced Persons, are placed in camps, which are highly gender-segregated making it extra challenging for sexually and gender non-conforming persons to navigate through this space.
Advocacy agendas and additional resources
On each of the issues summarized above, organisations have developed context-specific advocacy agendas, research documents and policy briefs, which constitute a rich and inspiring collection to develop further material.
The list below is necessarily very partial, given the breadth of the issues covered, and needs to be developed further continuously
UNICEF’s position paper on LGBTI children and youth is an indispensable advocacy document
IGLYO is the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Youth and Student Organisation. IGLYO is a network gathering LGBTQ youth and student organisations in Europe and beyond. It is run for and by young people.
Youth voices count
YVC is a youth initiative led by young men who have sex with men and transgender women.
The International gay and lesbian human rights commission (IGLHRC) has edited a report on the situation of LGBT people in Asia, which includes a chapter on Youth
The regional network of LGBTI youth in Latin America links young people from the region via a FB page and a twitter account
The Queer African Youth Network
QAYN is a virtual network that gathers and provides accurate and relevant information on sexual orientation and identity to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) West African youth.
Campaign kit on the IDAHOT global focus issue 2012 on homophobic bullying
IGLYO’s policy recommendations on Homo/transphobic bullying:
- The impact of homophobic and transphobic bullying on education and employment
- IGLYO on bullying
- Minimum standards against homophobic bullying
Unesco: “Education sector response to homophobic bullying”
IGLYO: Health and well-being of LGBT Youth
Social exclusion and Citizenship
IGLYO Social exclusion of young LGBT people in Europe
On Hate speech
Campaign kit of the IDAHOT Global focus issue 2014 on Freedom of Expression
Article 19: Prohibiting incitement to discrimination, hostility, violence – Policy Brief
On Transgender Youth
In Europe, the Fundamental Rights Agency released a report analysing the situation of Trans people, which specifically highlights the problems for young Trans people
is the regional network of Trans organisations. Offers insights into Transgender Youth in Africa, e.g.
Resources for US trans youth, mainly on education
Resource on integration of transgender student athletes within high school and collegiate athletic programs. It provides comprehensive model policies and a framework for athletic leaders to ensure equal access to school athletics for transgender students.
GLSEN and the ACLU have edited a guide on the legal rights of LGBTI youth in the USA
On Intersex Youth
Organisation Intersex International is one of the very few information sources on intersex matters : http://oiiinternational.com/
OOI’s Morgan Carpenter’s address on 2014 Intersex awareness day :
On forced migration
ORAM-IGLYO joint statement on International Youth Day