Nonreligious LGBTQ youth face more discrimination than their cis, straight peers

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Young child with a rainbow painted on both hands
LGBTQ Youth image by Sharon McCutcheon

Increased family rejection correlated with decreased mental health

The nonreligious advocacy organizations American Atheists and the Secular Student Alliance, released The Tipping Point Generation: America’s Nonreligious Youth. The report, which draws on survey responses from nearly 34,000 nonreligious participants ages 18 and above, finds that LGBTQ nonreligious 18-24 year-olds face more discrimination than nonreligious cis, straight youth.

“With younger Americans more supportive than older Americans of LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections, we are at a tipping point in this country for greater inclusion. Nonetheless, LGBTQ nonreligious youth still face significantly more hardships than their cis, straight peers,” said Alison Gill, Vice President for Legal and Policy at American Atheists, who herself identifies as trans and lesbian.

The Tipping Point Generation report found that LGBTQ youth participants encountered a higher level of family rejection than other youth. LGBTQ youth were more likely to say their families are somewhat or very unsupportive (40.4%) of their nonreligious identity compared to heterosexual, cisgender youth (34.9%).

Increased family rejection correlated with decreased mental health. Youth participants with very unsupportive parents were 45.4% more likely to screen positive for depression than those with very supportive parents, and they scored 9.7% higher on loneliness. Overall, LGBTQ youth participants experienced 9.3% more stigma than cisgender and heterosexual nonreligious youth, who already experience a heightened level of stigma.

“LGBTQ organizations must take into account the dual identities of the nonreligious youth they serve—that they often face discrimination for being both LGBTQ and nonreligious,” said Kevin Bolling, Executive Director of the Secular Student Alliance, who identifies as gay. “In working with students across the country, I often hear it was ‘easier to come out as LGBTQ to my parents than it was to come out as an atheist’.”

Among multiple policy recommendations, The Tipping Point Generation report urges states, school districts, educational institutions, and advocates to work to prevent and repeal any school voucher programs that redirect funds to discriminatory private and religious schools. Voucher programs harm public schools and have a disproportionately negative impact on students that more often face religion-based discrimination, including LGBTQ youth, religious minority youth, and nonreligious youth. 86.7% of youth participants identified maintaining secular public schools as a “very important” priority.

“As a result of the Supreme Court’s recent Espinoza decision, any state that offers vouchers must also provide them for anti-LGBTQ religious schools. We must end school voucher programs in every state in the country. There’s no way around it. Until then, taxpayers will keep funding discrimination,” said Gill.

In addition to supporting secular schools, 81.7% of youth participants rated LGBTQ equality as a “very important” policy priority.

“With nearly half of LGBTQ Americans religiously unaffiliated, as well as the shared goal of ensuring equality, LGBTQ and secular organizations and activists need to strengthen cooperation. LGBTQ youth, religious minorities, and nonreligious youth have increasingly been the target of the same Christian nationalism and religious-based institutionalized discrimination for several decades. Together, we are stronger,” said Bolling.

Read The Tipping Point Generation: America’s Nonreligious Youth here.