The acronym LGBT is often used to describe the collective group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Previous studies, however, documented that the development of sexual orientation for males and females is quite different (Saewyc, 2011). Therefore, this paper will focus primarily on the experience of males even though female and transgender adolescents may have similar experiences. Today, research shows adolescents question their sexuality at an earlier age than previously thought (Saewyc, 2011). Regardless of when a young male begins to explore his sexuality, a lack of friend and family support, bullying, and homelessness are some factors, which could negatively affect the health trajectory of gay teens (Collier, Bos, & Sandfort, 2013; Hatzenbuehler, 2011; Mitchell, Ybarra, & Korchmaros, 2013; Rosario, Schrimshaw, & Hunter, 2012).
For adolescent gay males, studies showed that a close connection with family protects against negative health outcomes, such as depression and substance abuse (Needham & Austin, 2010). Evidence suggested parental support is especially crucial for young teens and men transitioning to adulthood (Needham et. al., 2010). Despite the protective quality of familial relationships, earlier studies found that sexual minority youth consistently reported lower levels of parent support (Needham et. al., 2010). Reported data also showed a connection between parent and peer disapproval of a young male’s sexual orientation and symptoms of anxiety, depression, confused emotions, and rage (Needham et. al, 2010; Hatzenbuehler, 2011). Despite other protective factors against poor mental health among young gay males, connectedness with their family was the strongest (Needham et. al, 2010).
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth aged 15 to 24 years, and gay youth are more likely to attempt suicide compared to their heterosexual peers (Hatzenbuehler, 2011). In addition to family support, feeling connected to and safe at school are factors that protect against poor mental health and suicide for gay teens (Hatzenbuehler, 2011). Hatzenbuehler's (2011) study showed that self-identified gay or lesbian youth reported an attempted suicide about five more times than self-identified heterosexual youth. Furthermore, after adjusting his data for other negative factors, like victimization and physical abuse, Hatzenbuehler (2011) demonstrated that poor relationships with friends and family remained strongly connected with suicide attempts among this population.
Beyond the family, male teens reported experiencing bullying based on both real and perceived gay orientation during high school (Collier, Bos, & Sandfort, 2013). Collier et. al. (2013) reported a link between bullying during adolescence and depression, loneliness, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Typically, the bullying, such as teasing and name-calling, experienced by gay teens perpetuates the hierarchy between heterosexual and homosexual youth (Collier et. al.,...