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OJJDP News @ a Glance June 2024

From the Field: Seeking Justice and Equity for LGBTQ2S+ Youth

Image of a rainbow of colors arranged horizontally, like a flag

Each June, communities nationwide recognize Pride Month with rainbow flags, festivals, and parades proclaiming support for LGBTQ2S+ people.* Pride celebrations are safe spaces for LGBTQ2S+ youth—places where they can find acceptance and feel free to celebrate who they are. For many, these annual events are a respite from being targeted for their sexual orientation or for their gender identity. 

LGBTQ2S+ youth are more likely than their heterosexual peers to be bullied, for example, whether in school or online. They are also more likely to suffer sexual violence, skip school out of fear for their safety, experience persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, use illegal drugs and misuse opioids, and to seriously consider, plan out, and attempt suicide.

“LGBTQ2S+ young people are at higher risk for suicide, anxiety, and depression because of the trauma they endure,” OJJDP Administrator Liz Ryan said. "We remain steadfast in our commitment to achieve justice and equity for them.”

OJJDP funding supports the Pride Justice Research Center (PJRC), a collaboration by four OJJDP grantees: the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), National Center for Youth with Diverse Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity & Expression, Coalition for Juvenile Justice, and Gault Center. Launched in July 2023, the PJRC is a clearinghouse for youth justice and community-based practitioners who serve LGBTQ2S+ youth, providing training, technical assistance, and other resources to enhance practitioners’ efforts and strengthen youth outcomes.

An initial focus of the PJRC has been addressing the unique challenges faced by individuals who belong to multiple marginalized communities, such as LGBTQ2S+ youth of color, transgender individuals, and those with disabilities, said NCJFCJ Senior Program Manager Elisha Harris, who leads the PJRC. Practitioners are embracing holistic approaches to youth mental health and well-being—providing affirmative healthcare services, promoting self-care, and recognizing how discrimination and stigma affect mental health, he said. They need timely trainings and resources.

Other programming PJRC is developing will address the gaps in services for LGBTQ2S+ young people and highlight best practices for youth justice practitioners. In its second year, the PJRC will continue presenting webinars and events like the quarterly community-collaboration call, a networking opportunity for youth justice professionals who serve system-involved LGBTQ2S+ young people. The PJRC is also developing an animated video about the experiences of LGBTQ2S+ youth in the juvenile justice system, and an assessment tool to help organizations evaluate their attitudes, policies, and practices.

All youth-serving programs need to have the capacity to serve LGBTQ2S+ youth as an estimated one in four young people identifies as bisexual (11.9 percent), gay or lesbian (3.2 percent), or other/questioning (9.0 percent). OJJDP urges grantees to design and implement programs that routinely recognize and integrate the needs of LGBTQ2S+ and other marginalized youth populations—because youth needs are not always obvious.

"Most youth-serving programs include LGBTQI-GNC** youth, even if they may not know it,” said Mel English, Director of National Mentoring Resource Center (NMRC) Technical Assistance. The NMRC is OJJDP’s training and technical assistance provider for mentoring grantees. “It’s vitally important for all youth-serving programs to be well informed on how to provide support and positive experiences for the LGBTQI-GNC youth in their care,” they said. The NMRC website includes numerous resources to help youth-serving organizations align their programs with best practices for serving LGBTQI-GNC youth. “When youth are given the opportunity to have informed, caring adults in their life, they can thrive.” 


* LGBTQ2S+ refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, and Two Spirit. The + stands for all other sexual orientations and gender identities that are neither heterosexual nor cisgender.

** In the acronym LGBTQI-GNC, the “I” refers to intersex and the “GNC” to gender nonconforming.

Date Created: June 25, 2024