Extensive research has demonstrated that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) youth are disproportionally affected by a variety of traumatic experiences including verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. This paper will review common traumatic experiences and their negative sequelae among LGBTQ youth including victimization directly related to youths’ gender identity and expression or sexual orientation. We will also discuss research regarding factors such as parental acceptance that may mitigate negative psychological impacts of this abuse. Guidelines for assessing and treating LGBTQ youth who have experienced trauma will be reviewed. A case example of a queer-identified youth with a history of trauma prior to and while in government care will be provided to illustrate the complexity of the impact of trauma on multiple domains of functioning and how this is exacerbated for LGBTQ youth who often face further discrimination and victimization based on their status.
Key Take Away Points
- LGBTQ youth are disproportionately affected by trauma.
- Some experiences of trauma are because of youth's sexual orientation or gender identity.
- There are protective factors that may mitigate the impacts of trauma.
- Professionals should utilize accepted guidelines for working with LGBTQ youth and trauma.
Megan A. Mooney, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist who specializes in working with children and families. Dr. Mooney’s undergraduate degree is from Vanderbilt University and her doctorate degree is from the University of Arkansas. She completed her internship in professional psychology with the Baylor College of Medicine Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Dr. Mooney is currently an Assistant Professor in the Trauma and Grief Center for Youth at Texas Children’s Hospital in the Baylor College of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics. She also serves as adjunct faculty for Baylor College of Medicine’s Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Dr. Mooney has been part of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network for 14 years and has been trained in a variety of evidence-based models of treatment of symptoms related to traumatic experiences of children and adolescents. She is also interested in the disproportionate rates of trauma in LGBTQ youth and partners with local and national colleagues to educate providers on the unique experiences of these youth and recommendations for appropriate treatment. Dr. Mooney provides evidence-based assessment and interventions to traumatized and bereaved children and families while emphasizing the importance of supportive relationships.
The author would like to thank Mr. Currey Cook from Lambda Legal for his collaboration on this work as well as Drs. Julie Kaplow and Amanda Venta for their assistance in reviewing this manuscript. The author would like to acknowledge the courageous young person who has allowed her story to be shared as a part of this article in hopes that it will help other youth like her and the treatment providers that work with LGBTQ youth. This manuscript is based, in part, on a presentation originally given by the author along with Mr. Currey Cook at the Gender Infinity conference in Houston, Texas in September 2016.
"Recognizing, Treating, and Preventing Trauma in LGBTQ Youth,"
Journal of Family Strengths: Vol. 17:
2, Article 16.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.library.tmc.edu/jfs/vol17/iss2/16