Bullying and LGBTQ+ Youth

Youth of all sexual orientations and gender expressions can face verbal and physical harassment throughout their school day. In a 2011 national survey of LGBTQ+ youth, 82% said they had been verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation, 38% were physically harassed, and 18% were physically assaulted. Nearly 64% of students reported feeling unsafe because of their sexual orientation.

Repeated instances of bullying can create an environment that is not conducive to learning or academic success. Research shows that LGBTQ+ students who experience harassment have higher levels of depression and anxiety, as well as increased absenteeism. Some choose to drop out of school entirely.

Fortunately, available research also suggests that school safety is a protective factor for LGBTQ+ youth. School administrators need to assess their school environments to ensure they are fostering a welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ students. All staff should be trained to support LGBTQ+ students, LGBTQ+ history could be incorporated into lesson plans, and safe spaces should be designated throughout the school. Students often report feeling safer when they feel they are protected by teachers, school administrators, and staff. Resources for creating safer school environments for LGBTQ+ youth can be found at:

Further, establishing social organizations such as Gender and Sexuality Alliances (https://gsanetwork.org/) and psycho-educational support groups that expand school-based supports for LGBT youth can have a dramatic impact upon student well-being and academic outcomes.

Out Youth is currently partnering with Communities In Schools of Central Texas to provide such support groups in 5 area schools this fall, with plans to expand into at least 9 schools by the fall of 2017. This aligns with the overall mission of Out Youth to promote the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social well- being of LGBTQ+ youth so that they can openly and safely explore and affirm their identities.

Creating a Circle of Support for Families of Out Youth

Positive parental and familial relationships are crucial for all youth. For LGBTQ+ youth in particular, families can play a critical role in reducing risks and promoting well-being.

Since youth can express a clear sense of gender identity at various ages, there is greater awareness among some families that an adolescent might be transgender. As a result, more parents are seeking accurate information about gender development and sources of support. [1]

The Out Youth Family Circle of Support aims to give parents and caregivers of trans-identified youth a forum for sharing, support and education. Family members gather on Sunday evenings for six weeks to discuss their hopes and concerns, and to receive psycho-education related to gender identity.

The Family Circle of Support is facilitated by mental health clinicians with experience in family therapy in the context of the LGBTQ+ community. Jessica Fish, co-facilitator of the group this Fall, is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin.

Some of the most meaningful moments as a facilitator is seeing how parents, grandparents and other family members grow in their time during group and how they come to better understand and support their youth through that process.
— Jessica Fish, Co-Facilitator of the Family Circle of Support

“It's amazing to see how dedicated these parents are to showing support and affirmation for their youth," said Jessica, a facilitator for the Circle of Support. “Some of the most meaningful moments as a facilitator is seeing how parents, grandparents and other family members grow in their time during group and how they come to better understand and support their youth through that process. We talk a lot about how to be supportive of our youth by affirming their identities, and letting explore who they are at a very important time in their lives.”

“What I found most helpful was to hear the stories of other families and where they were in their journey,” said Pat, a parent who recently attended a Circle of Support meeting. “To hear parents that seemed to be further along in their journey than myself and get their feedback on how they dealt with their child coming out as transgender. Although my child has only been out to me since March of this year, I feel I have come a long way with not only that but with all that a parent of a transgender youth has to go through.” 

In addition to the Family Circle of Support, Out Youth is implementing innovative ways to connect with the families of the youth we serve.

In December, Out Youth plans to host a panel consisting of parents of transgender youth as well as a local medical provider who specializes in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for transgender clients. This combination of personal experience and professional expertise aims to help parents and guardians feel less alone and leave better informed, so they can best support their child.

The next round of the Family Circle of Support group will start in January of 2017.

For more information about the Family Circle of Support or clinical services at Out Youth, please contact Sarah Kapostasy, Clinical Director, at sarah.kapostasy@outyouth.org.

[1] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, A Practitioner’s Resource Guide: Helping Families to Support Their LGBT Children. HHS Publication No. PEP14-LGBTKIDS. Rockville, MD: 201

Out Youth Announces StandOUT Partners Giving Circle

In August, Out Youth announced our new donor appreciation program – the Out Youth StandOUT Partners giving circle.  

Out Youth is fortunate to have the support of so many community members, and we would not be able to provide the life-saving services we offer our youth without our generous donors.  As a way to recognize donors who give $1,000 or more in a calendar year, we have established this new initiative to keep donors more connected to the organization, and make sure we stay more connected to our donors.

StandOUT Partners will gather a few times a year at special events to hear directly from the staff, our youth and our board of directors.  We will share the latest news about Out Youth, as well to listen to donors to make sure we’re addressing their goals and desires. 

If you’re a StandOUT Partner – thank you. If you’d like to become a StandOUT Partner, contact us at hello@outyouth.org or call us at 512-419-1233. We’d love to talk to you. 

From the 2016 Glitz Gala Chair

Four years ago, I volunteered to assist with Out Youth’s fall event Glitz. A dear friend had introduced me to the organization and after meeting with staff members Aubrey Wilkerson and Kathryn Gonzales, I quickly saw the dedication and love that surround Out Youth’s mission; to promote the well-being of sexual and gender minority youth so they can safely explore and affirm their identities. I was “in” and eager to lend a hand.

From that moment forward, volunteering with Out Youth has been nothing short of an amazing experience. I have watched an organization grow to serve more and more youth, and I have met incredible community members who, like me, understand the importance of and need for Out Youth. In 2015, I joined the Board of Directors and it has been a privilege collaborating with this group as we aim to empower and protect our youth. 

Now, four years later, volunteered for numerous Out Youth events, I am chairing Glitz 2016.  I am fortunate to have assembled a fabulous committee who are going to make this year’s Glitz the most talked about event of the fall. We promise awesome auction items and delicious food and drink. This committee is making me look good.

I encourage you to attend Glitz, to join me in support of a house that helps so many. Every donation, every dollar, positively impacts the organization and youth we serve. It takes many dedicated friends and businesses for Out Youth to continue its mission. So please join me on Saturday, October 22 and enjoy a fabulous night out while enriching the life of another. 

Announcing New Out Youth Press

About a year ago Out Youth established its very own in-house publishing program at our  youth drop-in center called Out Youth Press. Using available resources available -- paper, markers and our youth’s ideas – we have created a number of wonderful small books and magazines. 

Some of our recent projects have included:

  • A zine (a short magazine) about HIV stigma;
  • “Identity Comics” (i.e. comic strips about different aspects of a person’s identities); and “A Beginner’s Guide to _______,” which is our latest project. It’s a series of small books about topics our youth know a lot about like gender identity, sexual identity, and self-care. 

These books will be featured alongside other resources offered in the drop-in center for anyone to read. This fall we will be anthologizing some of the projects our youth have created. This anthology will feature poetry, photography, illustration, essays, collage, and even some recipes.

This project encourages and nurtures the creativity and insightfulness inherent to our youth. We hope to continue to use this program in order raise the voices of LGBTQ+ youth, emphasize the importance of telling your own story and empower our youth to believe in the strength of their own ideas.