Being a teenager can be rough. But the Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) latest report is a wake-up call to just how much harder it can be for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teens.
One of the most sobering statistics in the national study, which surveyed 10,000 LGBT-identified youth ages 13-17, is while 67 percent of straight teens say they are happy, only 37 percent of LGBT teens say they are.
Life for LGBT teens in California, however, appears to be a bit sunnier, HRC spokesperson Michael Cole-Schwartz told The Huffington Post. Forty percent of LGBT youth -- 3 percent more than LGBT teens nationally -- in the state described themselves as happy. The difference is even greater with the question of fitting in. Fifty-three percent of LGBT teens nationally said they feel like they fit in -- compared to 61 percent of LGBT teens in California.
Of course, California also has a long way to go towards inclusion as well -- a much higher 84 percent of straight teens nationally said they feel like they fit in.
When the organization asked LGBT teens if they thought their state government was accepting of them, California, again, stood out. While 29 percent of LGBT teens nationally thought their state government was accepting, 40 percent of California LGBT teens thought so.
While straight teens answered that their biggest problems were typical teen matters -- classes/exams/grades, college/career and finances, LGBT teens answered that their biggest problems were non-accepting families, school/bullying problems and fear of being out or open.
LGBT youth are also more than twice as likely to experiment with alcohol and drugs, and 73 percent of them (as compared to 43 percent of straight teens) say they are more honest about themselves online than in the real world, the report says.
Even though the study found LGBT teens are much more likely to experience harassment and exclusion, it also found that they are able to find safe havens and are optimistic about their futures. Both nationally and in California, LGBT teens believe that their futures will include happiness, a good job, a long-term partnership or marriage, and children -- not unlike their straight counterparts.
The striking difference is that only 49 percent of LGBT youth believe this happy future can be had if they stay in the same city or town, as compared to 75 percent of straight teens. Because of this perception -- and likely reality -- that certain regions are safer and happier for LGBT youth than others, HRC will follow up this initial study with a closer region-by-region comparison, Cole-Schwartz told HuffPost. Aside from California, the only other specific regions the study examined were Arkansas, Utah and Nebraska.
In the meantime, the organization is sharing the report, called "Growing Up LGBT In America," with state and federal policymakers to advocate for student non-discrimination, anti-bullying and marriage equality legislation.
But outside of politics, family and friends should use the data to increase their own level of support, Cole-Schwartz said.
"It's easy for adults to not understand how difficult it can be for LGBT young people. This should be a call to action for teachers, administrators in schools, coaches and parents to make sure kids are accepted," he said. "Think about the kind of changes they can make in their own life to send a more positive message to LGBT young people."
Click through a selection of statistics from the report below:
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