The LGBT Health & Development Program

Family Blog–How Parents Can Help LGBTQ Youth Deal with Bullying

Posted on April 15th, 2016 by Maggie in Families Blog, Featured. No Comments

People standing, looking at viewer, with tape over their mouths

Bryan, “Day of Silence,” April 8, 2008

In honor of the Day of Silence on April 15th, we are sharing ways parents can help lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth deal with bullying. Research shows that LGBTQ youth are at greater risk for bullying, aggression, and violence victimization than non-LGBTQ youth [1].

A survey of LGBTQ youth showed that:

  • Because of their sexual orientation, 74.1% were called names or threatened, 36.2% were pushed or shoved, and 16.5% were punched, kicked, or injured with a weapon in the past year
  • Because of their gender expression, 55.2% were called names or threatened, 22.7% were pushed or shoved, and 11.4% were punched, kicked, or injured with a weapon in the past year
  • In the past year, 49.0% of LGBTQ youth experienced cyberbullying [2].

For LGBTQ youth, victimization is associated with greater likelihood of substance use problems [3], STI/HIV risk behaviors [4], poor mental health outcomes, and suicide ideation [4, 5]. Many LGBTQ students do not report bullying. In one study, 56.7% of the LGBT students who were assaulted or harassed at school in the past year did not report it to school personnel [2].

What can parents do to help?

In addition to modeling how to treat others with respect, parents play an important role in preventing and responding to bullying by talking about what bullying is and checking in often with their child about daily life. Learning how to talk about bullying before it happens makes it easier for youth to go to their parents with concerns or problems. For tips on how to have these conversations, see: How to Talk about Bullying.

It’s also helpful for parents to be aware of signs their child might be a victim of bullying or is bullying others. Some warning signs include:

  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost or destroyed personal items
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
  • For more warning signs, see Warning Signs

Parents can also help by working with school personnel to respond immediately if bullying is suspected [6]. Learn more about how to respond to situations where your child is being bullied or bullying others here: Support the Kids Involved. Some youth will not feel comfortable speaking up if they are being bullied, especially if they are afraid of others finding out they are LGBTQ. If you suspect your child is being bullied, consider contacting a therapist who is experienced working with LGBTQ youth for extra support. If you’re concerned your child is at risk of harming themselves, one resource available for immediate help is The Trevor Project, which has a 24-hour crisis and suicide prevention hotline for LGBTQ youth.

How can schools help?

School personnel also play an important role in putting an end to the bullying by taking steps to ensure schools provide a safe and supportive environment for LGBTQ youth. Parents can get involved by:

  • Forming or joining a school safety committee focused on issues related to bullying prevention
  • Support involvement in gay-straight alliances in schools
  • Advocate for LGBTQ inclusive anti-bullying policies

Like this article? Read more on our Youth Blog and Family Blog.
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[1] Olsen, E. O. M., Kann, L., Vivolo-Kantor, A., Kinchen, S., & McManus, T. (2014). School violence and bullying among sexual minority high school students, 2009–2011. Journal of Adolescent Health, 55(3), 432-438. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2014.03.002

[2] Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Palmer, N. A., & Boesen, M. J. (2014). The 2013 National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in our nation’s schools. New York: GLSEN. Retrieved from

[3] Russell, S. T., & Fish, J. (2016). Mental Health in LGBT Youth. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 12(1). doi: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-021815-093153

[4] Russell, S. T., Ryan, C., Toomey, R. B., Diaz, R. M., & Sanchez, J. (2011). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescent school victimization: Implications for young adult health and adjustment. Journal of School Health, 81(5), 223-230. doi: 10.1111/j.1746-1561.2011.00583.x

[5] Ybarra, M. L., Mitchell, K. J., Kosciw, J. G., & Korchmaros, J. D. (2015). Understanding linkages between bullying and suicidal ideation in a national sample of LGB and heterosexual youth in the United States. Prevention Science, 16(3), 451-462. doi: 10.1007/s11121-014-0510-2

[6] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014). LGBT Youth. Retrieved from

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