The Need for LGBTQ and Gender-Affirming Spaces

A new study by The Trevor Project finds that welcoming environments can reduce suicide risk.

According to data from The Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, increased acceptance and affirmation of LGBTQ youth in spaces such as homes, schools, and workplaces can reduce risk of suicide.1

“All LGBTQ youth deserve access to safe spaces—including homes, schools, and workplaces—that positively affirm their LGBTQ identity. This research reaffirms that LGBTQ-affirming environments are essential to LGBTQ youth mental health as they are strongly associated with reduced risk for suicide,” Amy Green, PhD, vice president of research at The Trevor Project, said in a statement to the press. “With COVID-19, many LGBTQ young people no longer have access to spaces that they rely on for affirmation, such as school and the homes of friends, romantic partners, and chosen family. In places where in-person activities are prohibited, it remains imperative that support and affirmation continue through virtual means. Physical distance does not mean social isolation.”

The study found that LGBTQ youth who reported having at least 1 LGBTQ-affirming space—specifically a school—were 35% less likely to report a suicide attempt in the past year.

Additionally, 62% of LGBTQ youth reported their school was affirming, 43% reported an affirming home, and 36% reported that their workplace was affirming. The next top responses for affirming spaces were their community, a friend or romantic partner’s home, therapy, bars/clubs, and theatre.

Transgender and nonbinary youth in particular are at increased risk for attempting suicide. However, if they reported having at least 1 gender-affirming space, there was a 25% lower chance of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year. School as an affirming space had the strongest association with reduced suicide attempts, and 55% reported that their school was already gender-affirming.

The Trevor Project’s data consistently confirms the need for school as an affirming space; however, with the COVID-19 pandemic, there is reduced access to this space. Support and affirmation must continue virtually in places where physical health risks prohibit in-person activities and events, especially for those who may be confined to an unsupportive environment.2 

References

1. The Trevor Project. Research Brief: LGBTQ & Gender-Affirming Spaces. December 3, 2020. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/2020/12/03/research-brief-lgbtq-gender-affirming-spaces/

2. The Trevor Project. Implications of COVID-19 for LGBTQ Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. April 3, 2020. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/2020/04/03/implications-of-covid-19-for-lgbtq-youth-mental-health-and-suicide-prevention/