Addressing Trauma Among Gay, Bisexual, and Queer Boys of Color

by Kevin L. Nadel

Sep 1, 2016

A growing body of research reveals that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people experience a disproportionate amount of mental health challenges when compared with those who are heterosexual and cisgender. LGBTQ people, in general, have a higher prevalence of suicidal thoughts, attempts, and completions (Hatzenbuehler, 2011); depression and anxiety (Cochran, Sullivan, & Mays, 2003), and substance use and abuse (Marshal et al., 2008). LGBTQ people are more likely than heterosexual or cisgender people to have histories of childhood sexual abuse (Balsam, Lehavot, Beadnell, & Circo, 2010) and are more likely to be homeless (Rosario, Schrimshaw, & Hunter, 2012).

This is true of young LGBTQ people as well. Studies find that young adults under 24 years of age who identify as LGBTQ, have a higher likelihood of depression and suicide than heterosexual youth (Marshal et al., 2013), are more likely to engage in self-harming behaviors (Jiang et al., 2010), and have increased rates of being a victim of bullying (Berlan, Corliss, Field, Goodman, & Austin, 2010) than their heterosexual counterparts.

  • Multiple studies have found that childhood abuse was linked to trauma and other psychological symptoms.
  • One study showed that fewer than 2% of GBQ young Black men describe being open about their sexual orientations in all aspects of their lives.
  • In 2013, the National Coalition on Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) reported that nearly one-third of all hate crimes were directed toward LGBTQ people.
  • Previous research has found that participation in Gay-Straight Alliance (GSAs) are effective predictors of healthy identity development for LGBTQ youth.
  • Many patients feel a cultural mistrust of psychotherapy, due to the intersection of their racial backgrounds and sexual orientation identities.
  • Gay, bisexual, and queer boys and young men of color are often exposed to a myriad of traumatic events that trigger symptoms of PTSD and other kinds of stresses that influence their health and well being.