Challenges LGBTQ+ Students Experience in School

Growing up is hard for just about every kid, especially the awkward and turbulent teen years. But it can be particularly hard if you're a part of the LGBTQ+ community. School, a place where kids should feel safe to focus on their education, can be especially tricky to navigate, as these youths can face very unique, difficult, and even hostile situations.

What Challenges do LGBTQ+ Students Face?


Did you know that kids who identify as LGBTQ+ are far more likely to be the targets of bullying? And with the advent of the Internet, this type of abuse is no longer limited to the schoolyard. On any given day LGBTQ+ students may face name calling, threats, or even acts of physical violence both at school and through social media. And perhaps the worst part is, these may come from other students as well as teachers and staff. I clearly remember being bullied in front of bus drivers and teachers who stood by idly as my self-esteem tanked with every emotional and physical attack I suffered at the hands of several junior high bullies.


Imagine trying to learn algebra, history -- or any subject for that matter -- when you're in a toxic and hostile environment. School can be hard enough, but when gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, nonbinary, transgender, or other gender non-conforming youth face harassment for simply being themselves, trying to focus on school that much more difficult. Harassing someone for their sexual orientation or gender identity is actually an illegal act, but one that's hardly ever enforced.


At the time of this publishing, discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community is at an all-time high and their rights are being slashed in many states across the country. Even though discrimination based on someone's gender identity or sexual orientation is prohibited by federal law, LGBTQ+ youth report being disciplined for things their peers are not. For instance, two same-sex students showing affection in the hallway may be disciplined when heterosexual couples showing the same type of affection are treated differently.


Given the stigma many LGBTQ+ youth feel, it's no wonder that they may tend to feel lonely and isolated in school. This can be especially true for those students who live in conservative or rural areas. This is particularly concerning during the tween and teen years, when the goals of this developmental stage include developing a healthy identity, feeling a sense belonging, and connecting with peers.

Mental Health

It should come as no surprise that when faced with these challenges at such a vulnerable age, kids and teens who identify as LGBTQ+ are more at risk of developing mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. According to the CDC, nearly 70 percent of LGBTQ+ youth report chronic feelings of sadness and hopelessness. This is compared to 35 percent of their heterosexual counterparts. Studies have shown that of youth who have died by suicide, LGBTQ+ kids were bullied at a rate of five times that of cisgender and heterosexual kids. The LGBTQ+ community as a whole is at a greater risk for suicide; more than half of youth report suicidal ideation. An alarming one third of transgender youth report attempting suicide.

Help for LGBTQ+ Youth

Education is a very big part of the adolescent experience, and days spent in school are some of the most formative of their lives. If you or someone you know is an LGBTQ+ student and facing these types of issues and you’d like to speak to someone, please reach out to us. Deepwater Counseling is an inclusive practice and many of our therapists specialize in work with members of the LGBTQ+ community to help them navigate the unique challenges they face in the world today. 

Contact us here to learn more or schedule an appointment.