According to new preliminary survey findings, 43 percent of Black gay youth have thought about or attempted suicide as a result of issues related to being LGBT.
The National Strategy for Black Gay Youth in America, a collaborative effort of organizations around the country, launched the survey in mid January with the expectation that it will conclude late this year. But surveying organizations were so stunned by initial responses that they have released the first wave of findings.
Just over half of those surveyed said they had experienced or believed they would experience family disownment for coming out.
Eleven percent of respondents reported being HIV-positive while 7 percent said they did not know their status.
Twenty-two percent of young people said they experienced mental abuse as a result of being LGBT, while 26 percent reported anti-gay bullying. Eight percent said that being LGBT had resulted in them being homeless. Nine percent reported sexual abuse as a result of their sexual orientation, and ten percent reported physical abuse.
Frank Walker, director of Youth Pride Services in Chicago said that many of the results shocked him.
"Other people should see these numbers," he said. "It really does show what it is like to grow up Black and gay in the U.S."
Walker wants parents who have struggled to accept their LGBTQ children to see the report.
"If they could take a look at their own child and look at all the issues that this survey reveals and put their own child in their minds… I think it would allow some Black parents to look at it from a different angle," he said.
In addition to analyzing data from multiple choice questions, the report compiles a list of 22 items listed by youth themselves that they said would make life as a Black gay youth more bearable. At the top of that list was family acceptance, with 90 percent of young people listing that item.
Walker said that Illinois youth also prioritized family acceptance, but second on the list, he said was "race related issues." Nationally, youth prioritized race issues at number eight, suggesting that youth in Illinois might be struggling with racism more than their peers in other parts of the country.
Many Illinois youth also reported that they tended to avoid social service agencies because the organizations appeared to be competing with each other, Walker said. Instead, many youth noted that they received support through ball houses, large chosen LGBTQ families formed around ballroom culture.
The preliminary report analyzes data from 578 young Black LGBT respondents between the ages of 12-25. Organizations hope to get 2,500 responses by year's end.
According to Walker, it was youth who had the idea for the survey, largely a response to an epidemic of bullying reported about gay youth that focused on young white people alone.
The findings at the conclusion of the survey will be used to draft a "Bill of Rights" for Black gay youth and sent to service providers and other agencies.
Survey results are being released in three groups. The second will come out this summer, and the final analysis will be released at the end of the year.
Black gay youth under the age of 25 can take the survey at www.surveymonkey.com/s/GL5DQN2.