Survey reveals how Pennsylvania can improve for LGBTQ+ residents

By Ashley Adams

June 14, 2024

Pennsylvanians in LGBTQ+ communities reported what it’s like to live here based on access to mental health services, discrimination, and acceptance.

How does it feel to be young and LGBTQ+ in Pennsylvania? Is our state a good ally? What could we do better?

A survey from The Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among the LGBTQ+ community, sheds light on the topic.

Why it’s important: It’s an important topic for many reasons — most of them dealing with basic human rights. But there’s another reason that may not be often considered when looking at this kind of data: Population growth. Roughly 17% of young adults (ages 18-24) in Pennsylvania identify as LGBTQ+. If we want our population to grow, we’ll need to consider how to make our commonwealth more inclusive.

By the numbers: Compared to the US overall (5.5%), Pennsylvania has a higher percentage of adult residents who identify as LGBTQ+ (5.8%). Here’s the percentage of residents reporting that they’re LGBTQ+ by age: 18-24: 16.8% (197,900 people), 25-34: 9.8% (163,800 people), 35-49: 4.5% (104,400 people), 50-64: 2.9% (77,000 people), 65+: 1.9% (43,500 people). These stats come from an analysis of the adult LGBTQ+ population in the US by the Williams Institute, a research group in UCLA’s School of Law.

The findings: The Trevor Project survey provides insights into the suicide risk faced by LGBTQ+ youth, top barriers to mental health care, the prevalance of anti-LGBTQ+ victimization, and the negative impacts of recent politics. 

It’s important to note: LGBTQ+ youth are not necessarily prone to suicide risk just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Instead, they have higher suicide risks because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society.

Let’s take a look at what Pennsylvania’s LGBTQ+ youth had to say.

Suicide risk: 

  • 44% seriously considered suicide in the past year
  • 14% attempted suicide in the past year

Anxiety and depression:

  • 74% reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety
  • 57% reported experiencing symptoms of depression

Access to mental health care:

  • 56% of youth who wanted mental health care in the past year were not able to get it
  • They cited the following top five reasons as to why they were unable to get mental health care:
    • I was afraid to talk about my mental health concerns with someone else
    • I did not want to have to get my parent’s/caregiver’s permission
    • I was afraid I wouldn’t be taken seriously
    • I was afraid it wouldn’t work
    • I could not afford it

Discrimination and harm:

  • 34% experienced threat or harm based on sexual orientation or gender identity
  • 71% experienced discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity

Conversion therapy:

  • 5% were subject to conversion therapy
  • 11% were threatened with it

Politics:

  • 39% reported that recent politics negatively impacted their well-being a lot

Acceptance:

  • 31% felt their community was very unaccepting
  • 11% felt accepted in the community they lived in
  • 42% identified their school as an LGBTQ+-affirming space
  • 38% identified their home as an LGBTQ+-affirming space

What could be going on: Given the political landscape recently in Pennsylvania, it’s understandable that LGBTQ+ youth might not feel at home. Over the past several years, Republicans and other right-wing groups in Pennsylvania have been pushing for anti-LGBTQ+ policies in schools. Last year, Republican lawmakers introduced House Bill 319, also known as the Parental Rights in Education bill, which mimics similar legislation passed in Florida in 2022 (which critics quickly dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill). 

What’s more, the US Department of Education began investigating Pennsylvania’s fourth largest school district in 2022, after allegations of a “toxic educational environment” for LGBTQ+ students were made by the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

Then, there are the book bans — 644 of them in Pennsylvania public school districts between July 2021 and June 2023. Right-wing groups often target material that depicts LGBTQ+ individuals and relationships in these attempts at censorship, as if they are attempting to scrub these groups’ identities from school libraries.

Democrats, on the other hand, have advocated for the LGBTQ+ community, introducing and passing in the state House the Fairness Act in 2023 a bill that would cement non-discrimination protections for members of the LGBTQ+ community into state law. The bill, however, remains stalled in the Republican-majority state Senate.

Author

  • Ashley Adams

    In her 16 years in the communications industry, Ashley Adams has worn many hats, including news reporter, public relations writer, marketing specialist, copy editor and technical writer. Ashley grew up in Berks County and has since returned to her roots to raise her three children.

CATEGORIES: LGBTQ
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