The V Word

Advocating to end sexual and domestic violence


Hate crime

The V Word: Stigma and its Impact on LGBTQ youth

Welcome to today’s edition of The V Word.

The V Word: Stigma Against LGBTQ Youth – radio spot


Today I have a question for you. When you were in school, how often did you hear, or did you participate in anti-gay comments, listen to or participate in protests against bullying policies that specifically included antigay harassment, listen to and not object to sermons at places or worship or from leaders of religious denominations demonize gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals, participate in or sit passively during campaigns against gay marriage, or laugh at gratuitous humor at the expense of LGBTQ individuals?

Did you participate in that or ignore it? You participated in perpetuating stigma against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals all of whom are our children, our adolescents, our siblings, our mothers, our fathers.

Today I am going to talk about stigma, specifically the hazards of stigma toward gay, lesbian and bisexual adolescents in the United States. People often ask me who is at a higher risk of sexual violence. Despite my urge to say “ well, everyone”, there are studies that suggest lesbian, gay, and bisexual teens are at a higher risk than their peers for violence experienced in the community, in the schools, and in their homes. What is perpetuating stigma? People are, only people can perpetuate stigma and it takes both active behavior and passive acceptance to keep stigma going.

In 2006, Elizabeth Saewayc published a study in the Child Welfare League of America. She examined the proliferance of negative messages toward sexual minority groups across North America.
Stigma hurts more than just words. Stigma and discrimination based on sexual orientation contributes to health disparities for LGBTQ persons. Another risk factor, other than coming out in an unwelcome environment is gender expression. Waldo’s study found that gender-atypical youth, youth that do not display stereotypical extremes of masculinity or femininity are at risk of violence from their families, or experience a lack of protection from their families when they are bullied and victimized. This can happen in families, school and community setting to youth even before themselves recognize or self-identify as gay or lesbian or bisexual. So what does this mean? It means that some as-yet unmeasured trait of gay or bisexual orientation that event the youth does not recognize will put them at risk of violence or a lack of protection toward violence. People do not even know what they are seeing and they will abuse and violate because they cannot identify it or it does not fit within their worldview.

So once we get past the appalling and horrifying feelings toward that… do you know why this is important to talk about and address? Because this risk for violence among stigmatized groups like LGBTQ children and teens are a potent predictor of youth risk behaviors such as substance abuse, suicide attempts, running away, and teen pregnancy. Teens who are abused and victimized often turn to drugs, truancy, and suicide to cope with the violence that is happening to them and the lack of protection they experience.

Are you ready and willing to help? You can help, understand and communicate that emotional pressure or corporal punishment, or violence will not change a child’s natural gender expression or their sexual orientation. If you have been a bystander who didn’t know what to do, you can intervene with information, help and support.

You add your voice to the community at large discussion to eliminate stigma, violence, and it’s impact against the youth of our community. There are many things you can do.

For help or information? Here are some options…
If you have been assaulted, call 911. Local rape crisis centers have advocates they can send to help support you and provide information.

For information on how to report an assault in the Richmond, Virginia, USA are, you can call the non-emergency line at 804-646-5100, that is 804-646-5100 or go by a local police station office. The main Richmond office is located at 200 West Grace Street.

To get a forensic exam to collect evidence and receive medical care, the local hospitals in the Richmond area with Forensic Nurse Examiners are at Medical College of Virginia and St. Mary’s Hospital.

Are you a youth who identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender? There are organizations that can help you. In the Richmond area, you can contact ROSMY – the Richmond Office for Sexual Minority Youth at- 644-4800 – centers like theirs offer support groups. Sensitivity training for professionals, and youth leadership initiatives.

For help with counseling and advocacy, local rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters can provide services. To find a center closest to you… you can call the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238. That is the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238.

Want to share a story or ask a question? Email me at or tweet me at my twitter account: @preventviolence. You can read the transcript for this show and past shows on my blog at

The V Word is recorded in the studios of WRIR-LP 97.3, read and produced by me, Carol Olson.

Music composed by Richard Schellenberg and John Chambers of The Etching Tin


Why doesn’t Virginia consider violence related to sexuality and gender identity a hate crime?

Recently there was a brutal attack against a transgender woman in Fredericksburg, Virginia that occurred on May 21, 2011.  It appears there was an interaction with her earlier, she was then followed or spotted at a local 711 and then attacked.  One excellent bystander intervened by putting himself between her and the attackers. 

It’s appalling that these crimes happen and yet they happen frequently.  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender identified individuals continue to be an invisible minority, yet have a higher rate of crime targeted to them.  While there are scholarly articles being written, studies being done, and programs striving to address violence against the LGBTQ community, there is much to be done to address continued homophobia in our society, the perseverance of myths about sexuality, and the amount of violence directed against those who are marginalized.  The impact of societal neglect and the lack of support have great consequences not only for LGBTQ on health, social and educational issues but for the greater community as well.  How do we continue to live with each other with such walls between us?  How do we continue to justify the cost of crime, which can be prevented?  As a therapist, I watch my own field continue to come up with ways to use diagnosis and treatment as a means to address gender identity and sexuality and see it only a means to further segregate a group from the mainstream.  I see this use of labeling being used to move members of our community further out on the fringe where they are in fact more at risk for violence, health consequences, developmental delays, and shortened life-spans. 

I feel the two-sided impact of cultural homophobia every day.  I feel the division between myself and my peers every day.  I suffer the aloneness that comes from not being able to have a full conversation with someone because I am seen as heterosexual and white and therefore an enemy from the privileged mass.  I feel that wall of fear and suspicion every day of who I really am and what I really mean.  I feel engulfed by the barriers that keep me from people I love, people I work with, and communities I work in and live in, and people I serve. 

While I run an anti-violence agency that focuses on sexually violent crimes, I stand with my community to put a voice out against violence toward anyone.  Violence in our community effects us greatly; all of us; every day.  It costs us in all spectrums of our lives: interpersonally, socially, spiritually, and financially.  I hope more people in my communities will stand with me and add your voice to ending violence.

 Please contact the Virginia Anti-Violence Project and check out their website for information and services for LGBTQ in Virginia. 


 articles regarding the assault

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