LGBT Youth: Family Acceptance Key To Avoiding Interactions With Criminal Justice System

Watching football over the weekend, I was surprised to see Cadillac using openly-gay designer, Jason Wu, as the focus of their “Dare Greatly” campaign. But I was pleased. LGBT youth face so many challenges, it is a success story that highlights the importance of parental support and identity acceptance for LGBT youth.

“I admire my mother, despite what people said she bought me a sewing a machine and she let me play with dolls—She really dared to let me be different,” Wu says. Watch the ad here.

Unfortunately Wu’s success story is more the anomaly than the norm. Family rejection of LGBT youth is far more common according to research from the American Academy of Pediatrics. This rejection often triggers:

• Suicide attempts (LGBT youth are 8.4x more likely to report having attempted suicide)
• Depression (LGBT youth are 5.9x more likely to report high levels of depression)
• Illegal drug use (LGBT youth are 3.4X more likely to report illegal drug use)
• Homelessness (represent approximately 40% of homeless youth population)
• Engagement in survival sex

The criminal justice system is where LGBT youth often end up. A report by the Urban Institute makes plain the dangers LGBT youth face in their repeated interactions with law enforcement. Throughout the process of arrest, booking, and pre-arraignment detention, at least one-third report feeling unsafe. Verbal harassment, physical and sexual assault, denial of help, and destruction/theft of personal property were all reported forms of abuse at the hands of law enforcement.

Parents of LGBT youth might do well to take a page from Jason Wu’s mother and “dare to let them be different.”