Skip to main content

NewFolks may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

How to support an LGBTQIA+ teen if they’re having bullying issues in school

Guide to helping your LGBTQIA+ teens deal with bullying in school

Bullying in schools is an all-too-common problem. About 20%, or 1 in 5, of students, report being bullied, according to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Education. However, LGBTQIA+ students experience bullying at an even higher rate. A Trevor Project report from 2021 found that 52% of LGBTQ middle and high school students reported being bullied.

The consequences can be tragic, with nearly 29% of teenagers who had been bullied in the last year saying they attempted suicide. Parents of LGBTQIA+ teens may be particularly troubled about this data and their child’s reality. Though society has come a long way, including the legalization of gay marriage and more education on the difference between sex and gender, there is clearly work to be done. In the meantime, parents may wonder how to help their teens. Here’s how to be your child’s biggest ally.

Two teens embracing
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Know the signs of bullying

The symptoms of bullying are generally the same, whether a person is LGBTQIA+ or not. However, since transgender, nonbinary, and gay teens are more likely to be on the receiving end of bullying, parents want to pay close attention to common red flags. Teens don’t always tell parents when they’re having issues in school. Understanding symptoms can allow parents to support their children. These flags include:

  • Unexplained signs of physical harm, such as cuts and bruises
  • Missing or damaged items
  • Frequent absenteeism from school or activities
  • Constant nightmares
  • A decline in academic performance
  • Low self-esteem
  • Loss of appetite
  • Takes a different route or exit to enter or leave school

Father talking to teen

How to approach your teen

If you think your LGBTQIA+ teen is being harmed, your initial reaction may be to confront the bully or school. However, you’ll want to first get a sense of the story from your teen. It’s a delicate conversation, and experts suggest that parents not bluntly ask the teenager, “Are you being bullied?”

Instead, you can say something like, “I recently read a report about bullying and LGBTQIA+ teens and how they are more likely to experience it. Does that happen at your school?”

You can also talk about bullying and LGBTQIA+ youth when it actually comes on the news. This nonconfrontational approach feels natural rather than prying.

Other subtle questions include: “Who are you hanging out with this year? Who sits with you at lunch?”

Adult hugging a teenager in front of a wall
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Be supportive yourself

Your LGBTQIA+ teen is more likely to come to you with issues or confide in you that they are being bullied if they know you support them. Experts suggest:

  • Unlearning previous beliefs about gender, gay teens, or sexual orientation in general, which you may have shared with your teenager and hurt them.
  • Assuring them you’re always there to listen, even if you don’t have all the answers (you may be learning more about what gender journeys look like, too).
  • Showing your pride by marching with them in parades, joining support groups, and attending fundraisers for LGTBQIA+ youth.

Don’t blame the teen

Bullying is never the victim’s fault. Avoid placing blame with statements like, “Maybe you should stop wearing dresses” or “Just use the girls’ room then.” You may be trying to give well-meaning advice to protect your teenager, but these suggestions imply they need to change, not the perpetrator.

Teens playing a board game

Take action that supports your LGBTQIA+ teen

Parents may fear that calling the school to report bullying could only make the problem worse, but experts say adult intervention is often a must. Calmly state the facts as given to you by your teen, and emphasize your desire to make it stop. Avoid contacting the bully’s parents directly, as they may not be as objective and receptive as the school should be.

It’s also essential to empower your teen. Some do’s and don’ts include:

  • Don’t tell your child to “just ignore it.”
  • Encourage them to use words, not physical retaliation.
  • Help them find new activities to make friends, perhaps outside the school setting.
  • Work on safety strategies, such as calling an adult if they feel unsafe.
  • Find a therapist that specializes in LGTBQIA+ youths.

For years, we’ve known gay teens are susceptible to bullying. However, more teens are living lives as nonbinary and trans. Part of the reason is that they feel safer. Unfortunately, anyone who identifies as LGBTQIA+ is more prone to bullying in schools. You’ll want to empower your LGBTQIA+ teen to exercise safe strategies for dealing with bullies while also protecting them. Teaching them how to call an adult when they feel unsafe is one way. Don’t be afraid to contact the school for assistance. Adult intervention is often necessary, and it’s better to call the principal than the bully’s parents. Be an ally in your own home so your teen feels more comfortable being honest with you about bullying in school. A therapist can provide useful support for LGBTQIA+ teens if they’re a victim of bullying.

Editors' Recommendations

BethAnn Mayer
Beth Ann's work has appeared on healthline.com and parents.com. In her spare time, you can find her running (either marathons…
Real talk: How much wine can you safely drink while pregnant? (We’re surprised)
Is alcohol safe to drink while pregnant? Read this to get more info
Drinking wine while pregnant

Pregnancy is exciting, but it can also be a bit overwhelming, especially if it's your first pregnancy. Pregnant women are inundated with "advice" from everyone including friends, family, and even well-meaning strangers. They tell them what they can and can't eat, how often they should exercise, and whether it's safe to drink any alcohol at all.

Those who enjoy the occasional glass of wine in the evenings or like to order a cocktail when out to dinner may find themselves wondering how much (if any) wine they can drink while pregnant. Is there a safe amount to drink at certain stages of their pregnancy, or should they simply become teetotalers until the baby is born?
Many suffer anxiety if they had wine before they found out they were pregnant, wondering if it could cause any harm to their unborn baby. Unfortunately, there isn't one straightforward answer when it comes to how much wine you can drink while pregnant, but there is a lot of information out there to help you make an informed decision.

Read more
How you should discipline a teen for vaping
Here are some tips for dealing with vaping teenagers
Teen vaping outside

Ah, adolescence. That time of awkward growth, confusing feelings, and unstoppable urges to try new things. It's also the time when many are influenced by peer pressure to try things that aren't good for them, like vaping. Unfortunately, teens as young as 13 are trying vaping at least once, while some tweens are already into vaping. If you've discovered your teen is vaping and you're not sure what to do, it's easy to worry and immediately think of ways to punish your child, even though it's hard to know what an appropriate punishment for vaping is.

Teen vaping has spiraled out of control with middle and high schools dealing with vaping issues in restrooms and elsewhere on school grounds. As parents, we need to be concerned about teen vaping because of the chemicals it exposes kids to, as well as the likelihood of nicotine addiction. Then, there's the rise in lung injury related to an illness associated with vaping. It's important teens understand the risks of vaping, which is where finding an appropriate punishment comes in.

Read more
What is normal teen sexual behavior? We’ve got answers to help you understand your teenager
When you should start talking to your teens about sex
Two teenagers on a date outside

Parenting teens is not for the faint of heart! Exploring sexuality is a normal part of growing up, especially as kids progress through their teenage years. Although it may be uncomfortable for parents to discuss sex behavior with their teens, being educated about typical sexual development and what teens may be hearing from their peers is important. Parents should be able to talk openly with their child about protection, consent, risk reduction, and other issues.
Teens will be talking about sex and exploring this new part of their lives eventually and it's perfectly natural. Having your head in the sand won't make it go away, so the information below will prepare you with information to tackle this new stage of parenting.

Puberty
The onset of puberty is what can start the beginning of this stage of life for teens, but it doesn't mean they're ready for sex; just that they may start experiencing sexual thoughts like crushes or urges like feeling aroused. On average, puberty begins between ages 8 and 14.

Read more