LGBTQ+ youth persevere

From bigotry in schools to inadequate healthcare services, LGBTQ+ young people in America face a laundry list of threats to their mental and physical wellbeing. But no amount of “anti-woke” legislation can suppress the unconquerable zeal of youth.

April 2023, Topeka, Kansas. Protesters stand resolute at the March for Queer and Trans Youth Autonomy. PHOTO: Sherman Smith / Kansas Reflector (
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Queer youth today are fortunate to live in a time when more and more people are comfortable identifying as something other than heterosexual. But this tide of unashamed self-acceptance is inconvenient to capitalism’s inflexible structure.

To the ruling class, LGBTQ+ folk’s resistance to binary gender roles represents a threat to the systems of oppression rooted in capitalism’s need for classes of people they can pay less or keep unemployed. A tight grip on the “normal” nuclear family is more important to corporations’ bottom lines than the wellbeing of all.

A matter of life and death

For this reason, trans and queer youth face a deadly mental health crisis. Troubling statistics from The Trevor Project, a nonprofit focused on suicide prevention efforts for LGBTQ+ young people, show a large percentage, about 36%, of those aged 13 to 24 felt it was unlikely they would live to age 35.

The 2023 mental health survey found that half had experienced symptoms of depression, and over 60% said the same of anxiety. Suicide risk is also at an all-time high, with 41% of those polled having seriously considered suicide within the last year. And transgender youth are six times more likely to attempt self-harm.

Compounding these issues is the poor state of U.S. healthcare, both mental and physical. LGBTQ+ youth are often reluctant to access healthcare services for fear of rejection or bigotry. Young people who face a lack of acceptance from their family have an even greater barrier, having to seek clandestine care. From the same Trevor Project survey, among the queer and trans youth who indicated wanting mental healthcare, 56% of them were not able to get it due to fear or utter lack of access.

What’s important to note from these hair-raising statistics is not that LGBTQ+ youth are inherently predisposed to mental health struggles. Though homophobic authorities may insist otherwise, there is nothing “wrong” with or “broken” inside these young people. Their struggles come from extreme frustration and hopelessness caused by attacks from the capitalist system and its right-wing shock troops.

The reasons for this crisis are not mysterious. Across the country, fearmongering politicians and right-wing parent groups are proposing invasive rules out of delusional paranoia. According to the ACLU a record 484 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been proposed or enacted in the last year. Book banning, restroom policing, and barring transgender girls from sports, are only a few. Two in three polled by The Trevor Project cited this as a major factor in worsening their mental health, on top of issues like climate change, police brutality, poverty, and student loan debt. Almost 50% of Black trans youth said they felt unsafe at school due to a combination of racism and/or transphobia.

Valuable time is spent on censoring sex education and restricting access to gender-affirming care, while sensible inclusive practices like respecting pronouns are mocked and resisted. Trans youth in particular face unbelievable legislative assaults. At least 23 states have banned puberty-blockers or gender-affirming care for minors. The gruesome nature of this ugly public debate is felt intensely.

Trans folks and nonbinary students also experience disproportionate physical violence in schools. For some, the negative attention is fatal. Nex Benedict, a non-binary 16-year-old from Oklahoma who committed suicide after being brutally beaten by peers in February, is just one example of a young person bullied to death for their gender identity. “Anti-woke” education officials, like some in Oklahoma, encourage an environment where hatred and violence surge unchecked.

Bigots claim to “protect” young people, and if kids die along the way they don’t seem to mind. To them each death is an opportunity to twist the narrative by shifting the blame onto the victim.

Fighting for a world worth inheriting

There’s another big reason why LGBTQ+ youth are targeted so severely: they are a powerful unstoppable force. They identify and condemn injustice, are highly organized and informed through social media, and after years of exhausting assaults, refuse to give up any gained ground or be crushed into capitalism’s mold.

They recognize the need for solidarity, stand up for other oppressed groups, and understand that urgent action is required to face down fascism. Youthful energy and eagerness to build a better world are critical to achieving working class liberation. In recent years, queer youth took to the streets with Black Lives Matter to demand cop accountability. Today, their determined activism adds fuel to the protests against Israel’s genocide of Palestinians. It is for LGBTQ+ youth and with them that we strive for a necessary and inevitable socialist feminist revolution.

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Photo reprinted by permission from the Kansas Reflector.

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