National Coming Out Day: New study highlights struggles of LGBTQ+ teens and youth

West Hollywood, California - Heartbreaking new data shows more than half of LGBTQ+ youth who came out before they were teenagers have "seriously considered suicide" in the past year.

The paint of a rainbow, often a symbol of the LGBTQ+ community, peels off a brick wall in downtown Laramie, Wyoming, where nearly 25 years ago, gay college student Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered, shaking the world.
The paint of a rainbow, often a symbol of the LGBTQ+ community, peels off a brick wall in downtown Laramie, Wyoming, where nearly 25 years ago, gay college student Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered, shaking the world.  © Patrick T. FALLON / AFP

The data — released on Monday ahead of the 34th annual National Coming Out Day on Tuesday — analyzed the correlation between the age at which LGBTQ+ people in the US decide to share their sexual orientation with others and the risk of suicide.

National Coming Out Day is a day when the LGBTQ+ community highlights the power of visibility in the continued fight for equality.

Researchers with The Trevor Project found that 56% of youth who came out before the age of 13 "had increased odds of suicide risk." The alarming rate is especially concerning as data suggests that US youth are coming out at younger ages, according to researchers.

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The Trevor Project — the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ and questioning youth — further analyzed data from its 2022 National Survey of LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, which was released in May, as World Mental Health Day was also marked this week.

After interviews with nearly 34,000 LGBTQ youth, aged 13 to 24, between September 20 and December 31, 2021, researchers found that 45% of them had considered suicide in the past year — a steady increase over the past three years.

National Coming Out Day: New data breaks down LGBTQ+ youth challenges

LGBTQ+ pride parades are held worldwide, yet the realities of American youth struggling after coming out have been highlighted in a new study.
LGBTQ+ pride parades are held worldwide, yet the realities of American youth struggling after coming out have been highlighted in a new study.  © ALFREDO ESTRELLA / AFP

According to the data released this week, youth between the ages of 13 and 17 came out, on average, at age 13 last year — with 35% of them coming out before they were 13 years old. The older group, between 18 and 24, came out on average at age 16, but only 8% of them came out before their teen years.

The data seems to follow an overall trend of more and more people in the US being comfortable about sharing their LGBTQ+ identities: Earlier this year, a Gallup poll showed that the number of US adults who identify as LGBTQ+ had doubled over the past 10 years, with 7.1% of them self-identifying as LGBTQ — up from 5.6% last year, and 3.5% from 2012, when the analytics giant started keeping the data.

Previous peer-reviewed studies have suggested that, while being out can be associated with better psychological well-being, it could also lead to potential rejection and/or peer victimization.

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According to The Trevor Project analysis, 8 in 10 kids (83%) who came out before age 13 said that they suffered discrimination after coming out, while almost half of them (46%) said that being open about their sexual orientation or gender identity has led to violence or physical threats.

But according to Dr. Myeshia Price, the organization’s director of research science, "these data should not discourage LGBTQ+ youth from coming out for fear of bullying or harassment."

Instead, it should serve as a "call to action for the people in their lives — parents, family members, teachers, doctors, and other direct service providers — to create safe, affirming environments where LGBTQ youth can feel seen and supported for who they are."

In fact, kids who came out before turning 13 and who currently have high support from their families reported half the rate of suicide attempts when compared to those who currently have low or moderate support, researchers said.

"Coming out in and of itself is not harmful to LGBTQ youth mental health," Price told the New York Daily News in a statement. 2It’s more about the level of support you have where and when you come out."

If you or someone you know need help, please contact the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for free and confidential support.

The Trevor Project also provides confidential and free connections with live crisis counselors anytime online, by texting "START" to 678-678, or by calling 1-866-488-7386.

Cover photo: Patrick T. FALLON / AFP

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