All Black Lives Matter: Mental Health of Black LGBTQ Youth

 *A version of this post will appear in the BCALA Newsletter. 

Mental Health is not getting the attention it deserves. It is being overshadowed by COVID-19 and many other disparities in this country.  Mental health is a vital conversation that needs to be addressed even before the pandemic. It is misdiagnosed and is not really referred to as a medical condition. When mental health is discussed, it is based on the context of adults, right? What about young people between the ages of 13-24? Young people’s mental health concerns are just as high as those of adults if not higher. How does this pertain to librarianship?  We are faced with many populations that walk through our doors that are struggling on a daily basis without realizing it. We serve a great population of youth that look happy and may be experiencing some form of trauma. This is important if you are involved with trauma-informed librarianship. These statistics mentioned in this report can be vital to research for anyone who needs it.

The Trevor Project took the discussion even further when they conducted a survey on LGBTQ+ youth and mental health.  They took it even further when discussing the intersectionality of African American LGBTQ+ youth and mental health.  The Trevor Project, based on an award winning short film, Trevor, is a national organization providing crisis intervention for the LGBTQ+ youth community. 

According to the Trevor Project:

Black LGBTQ youth report rates of mental health challenges comparable to or higher than the overall population of LGBTQ youth. These youth are confronted with risk factors that are not only similar to those of other LGBTQ youth but are also very different, such as racial discrimination. Black transgender and nonbinary youth are particularly susceptible. We must confront systemic barriers to Black LGBTQ mental health and well-being.

For youth-serving organizations to be inclusive of Black LGBTQ youth, they must approach their work with the dual lenses of LGBTQ inclusion and anti-racism. Further, organizations working to support youth well-being must acknowledge that efforts to improve mental health cannot be “one-size-fits-all,” and, rather, must fit the needs of Black LGBTQ youth, both those that are similar to all LGBTQ youth and those that are unique. This is particularly true for Black transgender and nonbinary youth. Researchers must do more to prioritize the experiences of Black LGBTQ youth in order to inform best practices.

Did You Know…

According to the Trevor Project, statistics are as follows:

Black LGBTQ+ identified as…

  • 31% of Black LGBTQ+ youth identified as gay or lesbian, 35 % as bisexual, 20% as pansexual, and 9% as queer
  • One in three Black LGBTQ+ youth identified as transgender or nonbinary
  • More than 1 in 4 Black LGBTQ+ youth use pronouns or pronoun combinations that fall outside of the binary construction of gender.

Black LGBTQ+ youth often report mental health challenges, including suicidal ideation.

  • 44% of Black LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered suicide in the past 12 months, including 59% of Black transgender and nonbinary youth
  • 55% of Black LGBTQ youth reported symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder in the past two weeks, including 70% of Black transgender and nonbinary youth
  • 63% of Black LGBTQ+ youth report symptoms of major depressive disorder including 71% of Black transgender and nonbinary youth
  • Self-harm was reported in 44% of Black LBGTQ+ youth, including 61% of Black transgender and nonbinary youth
  • 49% of Black LGBTQ+ youth reported wanting psychological or emotional counseling from a mental health professional in the past 12 months, but not being able to get it

Many risk factors for Black LGBTQ+ youth mental health.

  • 9% of Black LGBTQ+ youth reported having undergone conversion therapy, with 82% reporting it happened before age 18
  • 35% of Black LGBTQ+ youth have experienced homelessness, been kicked out, or run away
  • 38% of Black LGBTQ+ youth reported discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity
  • 52% of Black LGBTQ+ youth reported discrimination based on their race or ethnicity
  • 17% of Black LGBTQ+ youth reported that they had been physically threatened or harmed in their lifetime due to their LGBTQ+ identity
  • 25% of Black transgender and nonbinary youth reported that they had been physically threatened or harmed in their lifetime due to their gender identity.

Identified high impact protective factors for Black LGBTQ+ youth.

  • 82% of Black LGBTQ+ youth reported at least one supportive person in their life
  • Black transgender and nonbinary youth who reported high family support had lower rates of attempted suicide
  • 82% of Black LGBTQ+ youth report access to at least one in-person LGBTQ+ LGBTQ+-affirming space
  • Black youth who had access to at least one LGBTQ+-affirming space attempted suicide at 50% lower rates compared to Black LGBTQ+ youth without access”

This Research Report was published in 2020.  To access this report for more information, please click on the link .

Additional Support Resources:

GLSEN

“As GLSEN was founded by a group of teachers in 1990, we knew that educators play key roles in creating affirming learning environments for LGBTQ youth. But as well as activating supportive educators, we believe in centering and uplifting student-led movements, which have powered initiatives like the Day of Silence, Ally Week, and more.”

BEAM (Black Emotional and Mental Health)

“We are a collective of advocates, yoga teachers, artists, therapists, lawyers, religious leaders, teachers, psychologists and activists committed to the emotional/mental health and healing of Black communities”

WeRNative

“We are a comprehensive health resource for Native youth, by Native youth, providing content and stories about the topics that matter most to them. We strive to promote holistic health and positive growth in our local communities and nation at large.”

Rest for Resistance

“Rest for Resistance strives to uplift marginalized communities, those who rarely get access to adequate health care or social support. This includes Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Pacific Islander, Asian, Middle Eastern, and multiracial persons.

We also seek to create healing space for LGBTQIA+ individuals, namely trans & queer people of color, as well as other stigmatized groups such as sex workers, immigrants, persons with physical and/or mental disabilities, and those living at the intersections of all of the above.”

The Steve Fund

“The Steve Fund is the nation’s leading organization focused on supporting the mental health and emotional well-being of young people of color.  The Steve Fund works with colleges and universities, non-profits, researchers, mental health experts, families, and young people to promote programs and strategies that build understanding and assistance for the mental and emotional health of the nation’s young people of color.”

 

Guest post by Monica Porter, Public Services Librarian, University of Michigan, University Library

Who am I? Monica Porter, Access and Public Services Librarian, University of Michigan, University Library.  I live in Ypsilanti, Michigan and originally from Detroit, Michigan.  I was a more mature MLIS student and earned my degree in 2017.   I  received my B.S. degree from Eastern Michigan University in 2014.  My major was English Language and minor African American Studies.

 I have a specialized area of 14-26 young adult services at University of Michigan, University Library in Ann Arbor. I was promoted to Assistant Librarian in February 2020 after being an Access Services Supervisor for the majority of my career at the university.   My unit work is Library Operations with the focus on Access Services.  I have worked at the University of Michigan Libraries for 18 years.  I also worked for Detroit Public Library for 15 years as a Senior Library Clerk and was a Substitute Librarian for Ypsilanti District Library.  

One of my current responsibilities is to develop programming with our campus partners, local youth community advocates and schools for young people, especially young people of Color to make sure they have the resources needed for success.

March 9 Summit on LGBTQ youth homelessness

Every year in the United States, between 1.3 and 1.7 million youth, ages 12 to 24, experience homelessness. Up to 40% of these young people identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer/questioning (LGBTQ). The LAMBDA (Library Anchor Models Bridging Diversity Achievements) IMLS-funded pilot grant is now in its third and final year in working with public libraries on addressing LGBTQ youth homelessness. This grant has provided funds for training workshops, a website (LAMBDA.sis.utk.edu), a webinar (http://lambda.sis.utk.edu/node/36) and a Summit. Throughout these three years we’ve worked with San Francisco Public Library (SFPL), San Diego County Library (SDCL), Seattle Public Library (SPL) and two regional libraries in east Tennessee, Ocoee and Clinch River. The face-to-face trainings for library staff have included in-depth information about how to create welcoming and supportive library environments for these young people.

Building Bridges

We end our final grant year with a Summit at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville on March 9, 2016. This Summit will be live-streamed, so those who are unable to attend in person can still participate in the conversation. The Summit brings together service providers, library staff and all others who are interested in working together to address youth homelessness. There will be four keynote speakers, representing both social services and public libraries. These speakers are:

Jama Shelton, Deputy Executive Director, True Colors Fund, NYC

Pamela Sheffer, Program Director, Just Us, Nashville

Kristy Gale, Teen Librarian, Seattle Public Library

Hayden Bass, Outreach Program Manager, Seattle Public Library

The goal of the Summit to bring together practitioners in both fields, as well as any others who are interested in creating solutions to this critical issue.

Continue reading March 9 Summit on LGBTQ youth homelessness

The Roadtripping Librarian: On the Way to Austin

The road trip has begun! It is hard for me to write a ton while I am on the road because I only have my phone but here are my thoughts so far:

1. Texas is really hot. I was expecting the heat, and I was prepared because we just had an awful heat wave in Boston where I live, but Texas is something else entirely. It also didn’t help that I waited outside in the sun for three hours at Franklin’s BBQ for lunch. Although it was totally worth it. Now that I have eaten Texas BBQ I can never go back to what we eat in New England.

2. The libraries I visited on the way to Austin were very varied in their size, collection, set up etc. (no surprise there) but mostly really awesome in their own ways.

I’ve been to eight libraries with plans for a bunch more in the next week or so. All the libraries I’ve visited have had at least three novels on the shelf in their teen collection with LGBT characters and at least one nonfiction title discussing being gay in a positive way. Of those eight libraries, four have had at least ten titles and multiple nonfiction titles (either in a specific teen nonfiction section or in the regular adult nonfiction section.)

Laman Public Library in Little Rock Teen Space
Laman Public Library in Little Rock Teen Space
Continue reading The Roadtripping Librarian: On the Way to Austin

June Eureka Moments

All set for Annual? For this month’s Eureka Moments, I tried to tie some research and news to some of the sessions you might want to attend at the conference. And if you’re not able to attend, I hope these items will allow you to participate from afar and to still feel up to date on what’s happening.

  • A 2010 case study in The Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy concluded that “educators cannot expect students to separate their identities from literacy practices” through interviews and observations with two gay teens. The researcher noted how a multigenre research project, rather than the more traditional paper, allowed the teens to explore themselves more fully and integrate their academic study of history and literature with their sexual orientation. The article ends with the researcher imploring schools and educators to become more sensitive to LGBTQ issues and to explore ways to allow students identifying in the spectrum to feel included in traditional classroom topics and texts and to respectfully invite all students to participate together.
    Vetter, A.M. (2010). “‘Cause I’m a G”: Identity Work of a Lesbian Teen in Language Arts. The Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54(2), 98-108.
    Related session: Stonewall Awards Presentation, Monday 10:30am’  Continue reading June Eureka Moments

Research Roundup

I’m back with another month’s worth of interesting research and writing on scholarly and popular topics related to teen culture, literacy, and library services. I’ve decided to expand from just summarizing research to also linking you to fascinating articles, blog posts, or other more easily-accessed tidbits that might spark meaningful conversation, programming, or reference/advisory transactions. As always, if you have a topic you’d like to know about, or if there’s a journal you miss having access to, comment here and I’ll do some digging for you.

  • The Lilith blog, an online supplement to the Jewish feminist magazine, reports on a “freedom ride” in Jerusalem protesting the ultra-Orthodox custom of requiring women to board and sit in the rear of the public bus only. Sound familiar? If you’re looking for a way to allow your diverse patrons to connect with each other, try bringing this up as a topic and talking about the similarities with the freedom rides in the American South.
  • Continue reading Research Roundup

    YA Lit Symposium: Some Post-Conference Reflections

    There’ve been some great summaries of sessions at the 2010 YA Lit Symposium here, and I’ve written in detail about all of the sessions I attended on my own blog, but now that I’ve had some time to process everything I heard and talked about over the weekend and what I’ve read about the symposium since then, I thought I’d share some of my overall impressions from the entire conference here to continue the discussion.

    One of of the themes I saw come up across multiple sessions was that reading allows us to vicariously experience things that are not part of our own lived experience, so reading books about people who are different from us helps educate us, allows us to test our values, and de-Others people like the character. In “Beyond Good Intentions and Chicken Soup: YA Lit and Disability Diversity: How Far Have We Come?” the presenters mentioned that for a lot of teens, reading a book about a person with disabilities may be their first experience with disability. Making sure that portrayal is balanced rather than stereotypical and that the character’s disability isn’t the primary problem in the story gives teens a more accurate portrayal of what people with disabilities can be like–that is, that people with disabilities are people, too. Continue reading YA Lit Symposium: Some Post-Conference Reflections

    YA Lit Symposium: A Side Trip…

    As I was unable to make it to the YA Lit Symposium’s Pre-Conference Session: On Beyond Stonewall, I decided to head to a local bookstore Friday night for an intimate and informal discussion about LGBT issues in teen literature.’  Present were authors Malinda Lo (Ash), Lauren Bjorkman (My Invented Life), Megan Frazer (Secrets of Truth and Beauty), Alexandra Diaz (Of all the Stupid Things) and Kirstin Cronn-Mills (The Sky always hears me and the hills don’t mind), all of whose books feature characters dealing with LGBT issues. Continue reading YA Lit Symposium: A Side Trip…

    YA Lit Symposium Pre-Conference: On Beyond Stonewall

    The morning began with Michael Cart giving an overview of some of the important social and political events related to LGBTQ issues. Next, Cart and Christine Jenkins presenting a list of all of the books with LGBTQ content from 1969 to 2010. They booktalked many of these, highlighting some trends (resolution by automobile crash, melodrama, impossibly good looking gay men and the women who love them), the breakthrough books, and the real dingers. It was like being back in library school, taking a class on LGBTQ YA Lit, but it was compressed. If you want to spend more time with these books and these issues, check out Cart and Jenkins’ book from Scarecrow Press, The Heart Has It’s Reasons.

    If you get your hands on their bibliography and were not in attendance, please note that this is not a list of recommended books. Some are good and some are not so good. During introductions, we each chose books from the list to highlight. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan and Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and Levithan got the most nods, along with the graphic novel Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki. Please add your own recommendations in the comments. Continue reading YA Lit Symposium Pre-Conference: On Beyond Stonewall

    New to Me: Annie on My Mind

    Once upon a time, being homosexual in a YA novel meant you were the sidekick, if you were lucky.’  If you were the main character, you could be abused, raped, beaten, or even killed.’  Homosexual characters didn’t get happy endings–until Annie on My Mind.

    Annie on My Mind
    Nancy Garden
    Published 1982
    Continue reading New to Me: Annie on My Mind

    Stan Lee and Perry Moore Announce Partnership

    According to Newsarama, Stan Lee made a surprise guest appearance at the San Diego Comic-Con’s “LGBT Portrayals in Comics” panel to announce a budding partnership with Perry Moore, the author of Hero. What that partnership actually entails is still up for spectulation (do I smell a movie?).

    Hero gained a great following for its epic portrayal of superheroics through the eyes of gay teenager Thom Creed. Thom must navigate both his budding sexuality and superpowers while under the watchful eye of his disapproving, ex-hero father–all while an unseen assailent is murdering the world’s superheroes. While plots and mysteries abounded, Perry Moore managed to keep the book grounded in the characters. It was an altogether exceptional debut. Continue reading Stan Lee and Perry Moore Announce Partnership