Gay, bisexual, lesbian teens more likely to be punished

JUMPY::Homosexual adolescents are four times more likely to attempt suicide; a problem that came to the fore recently when a college student took his own life


Tue, Dec 07, 2010 - Page 7

Bisexual, gay and lesbian youth are more likely than their straight peers to be punished by their school or the criminal justice system for the same transgressions.

In an analysis of the US National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, teenagers attracted to people of the same sex were 41 percent more likely to be expelled from school and 42 percent more likely to be convicted of a crime as an adult, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics.

The study highlights the extent of bias and intimidation experienced by non-heterosexual teens, study author Kathryn Himmelstein said.


Some suicides of gay teenagers, including that of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, have been linked to peer bullying.

It appears that bias against gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers extends to adults as well, Himmelstein said.

“It’s not just kids who are bullying, adults are stacking the deck,” said Himmelstein, who is now a high school teacher in New York.

The paper was completed when she was an undergraduate at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

The differences weren’t explained by greater participation by gay and lesbian teenagers in illegal behaviors or actions that violated rules, the paper found.


The research also found that gay and lesbian teenagers were 38 percent more likely to be stopped by the police, compared with heterosexual teenagers, and 53 percent more likely if they identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Research has shown that gay and lesbian teenagers are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide. Suicides of students such as Clementi, who was a freshman at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, have sparked campaigns against bullying.

Clementi plunged from the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River on Sept. 22, three days after live video of a sexual encounter between him and -another man was transmitted on the Internet, according to Middlesex County, New Jersey, prosecutor Bruce Kaplan. Two people were charged with invasion of privacy in the incident.

In October, the US Department of Education said schools that don’t address the bullying of gay students may lose government funds for failing to enforce gender-discrimination laws.

Himmelstein and co-author Hannah Bruckner, a sociology professor at Yale, analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of 20,745 teenagers in grades 7 through 12 in the US from 1994 to 1995 and a follow-up, of 15,197 young adults, from 2001 to 2002.

People who work with adolescents need to be aware of the challenges that face gay teenagers, Himmelstein said.


“Institutions need to design policies for treating all youth fairly and equally,” she said.

In a separate report, San Francisco State University researchers found that an accepting family significantly lowered the risk of suicide attempts, substance abuse and depression in gay teenagers, according to a study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing.