Health Considerations for LGBTQ Youth

A group of five smiling diverse outside of a school

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) youth are part of every community, come from all walks of life, and are present in every racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and geographical group. While many LGBTQ youth transition from childhood to adulthood successfully and become healthy and productive adults, others are negatively impacted as a result of many factors; for LGBTQ youth, social stigma about their sexual choices or identities can be particularly difficult. Stigma comes in many forms, such as discrimination, harassment, family disapproval, social rejection, and violence. This puts LGBTQ youth at increased risk for certain negative health outcomes. For example, young gay and bisexual males have disproportionately high rates of HIV, syphilis, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs); adolescent lesbian and bisexual females are more likely to have ever been pregnant than their heterosexual peers; and transgender youth are more likely to have attempted suicide than their cisgender peers.1-3

There are many terms used to describe LGBTQ sexual and gender identity. On this site DASH uses LGBTQ to refer to the broad population of youth who identify with a sexual or gender identity other than cisgender or heterosexual. When specific studies or surveillance data are discussed, a narrower acronym may be used to be consistent with the populations in data being discussed.

View the Terms

YRBS Transgender Report

In 2017, ten states (Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin) and nine large urban school districts (Boston, Cleveland, District of Columbia, Detroit, Broward County, Los Angeles, New York City, San Diego, San Francisco) piloted a question to measure the proportion of high school students who identify as transgender.

Survey data from population-based samples of selected state and urban school districts (n=19 sites) indicate that an average of 1.8% of high school students identify as transgender. Transgender students are more likely than cisgender students to report violence victimization, substance use, and suicide risk, and although generally more likely to report sexual risk behaviors, were also more likely to report being tested for HIV.

Follow the links below to examine differences in health behaviors among transgender and cisgender students, in select U.S. states and large urban school districts.

Related CDC Reports
  1. Institute of Medicine. The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2011.
  2. Coker TR, Austin SB, Schuster MA. The Health and Health Care of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Adolescents. Annu Rev Public Health 2010;31:457–77.
  3. Mayer KH, Bradford JB, Makadon HJ, Stall R, Goldhammer H, Landers S. Sexual and Gender Minority Health: What We Know and What Needs to Be Done. Am J Public Health 2008; 98:989–95.