Abstract

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth (LGBT) continue to face extreme discrimination within the school environment. Existing literature suggests that LGBT youth are at high risk for a number of health problems, including suicide ideation and attempts, harassment, substance abuse, homelessness, and declining school performance. This exploratory study consists of face-to-face interviews with 12 male and female participants, 18-21 years old, who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. The purpose of the study is to determine the types of social support (emotional, appraisal, instrumental and informational) available to these young adults in high school. In addition, the study examines the connection between social support and sexual identity development. Participants found non-family members, which included peers and non-family adults, to be more supportive than family members. More specifically, participants perceived heterosexual and LGBT-identified friends and non-family adults as providing emotional and instrumental support. However, participants perceived limitations to the emotional support they received from heterosexual peers to whom they disclosed their orientation. In addition to providing emotional support, peers and adults who also identified as LGBT provided valuable informational and appraisal, support. Finally, most participants did not disclose to their parents during high school and perceived their parents and family members as offering limited emotional, appraisal and informational support. Confronted with their own sense of alienation and confusion, as well as the overwhelmingly negative messages about homosexuality in their home and school environments, respondents described their sexual identity formation as a process characterized by varying degrees of denial and acceptance. The need for multiple resources emerged as a major theme from participant responses to questions about what types of services and support they would have valued from their high school.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5157
Print ISSN
0018-1498
Pages
pp. 52-63
Launched on MUSE
2002-04-01
Open Access
No
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