Youth who identify as LGBTQ2S+* are overrepresented in the juvenile justice system. While LGBT youth constitute 9.5 percent of adolescents ages 13–17 in the United States, a recent national survey found that 20 percent of youth in juvenile detention facilities identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning, gender nonconforming, and/or transgender. Other studies suggest that the percentage may be even higher.
To ensure that justice-involved LGBTQ2S+ youth are treated equitably, with dignity and respect, and receive services tailored to their unique needs (see sidebar), the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) and the National Center for Youth with Diverse Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity & Expression (National SOGIE Center) have partnered to launch the Pride Justice Resource Center. The resource center provides training and technical assistance to youth justice professionals and community-based stakeholders to strengthen their skills and thereby improve juvenile justice systems. It is funded by OJJDP and supported by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice and the Gault Center.
Pride Justice Resource Center Website Links to Resources and Events
The Pride Justice Resource Center website was launched in July 2023. The site includes links to resource center newsletters, events, and many useful resources, including the Justice Department’s A Quick Guide for LGBTI Policy Development for Youth Confinement Facilities. It will house videos and recordings of the resource center’s webinars, including “An Introduction to LGBTQ2S+ Justice-Involved Youth,” which first aired in June. Site visitors can fill out an online form to request technical assistance or consult with the resource center about the needs of justice-involved LGBTQ2S+ youth.
The resource center has developed a glossary of terms commonly used when discussing sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. “Language and terms in the LGBTQ2S+ community evolve as the identity spectrum is further explored and understood,” the introduction states. “It is vital to ask people what terms they use to describe their own sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
“There are a lot of questions about the key policies and the best practices to ensure that juvenile justice systems are safe and affirming places for LGBTQ2S+ youth,” explains Lauren Beal, NCJFCJ Senior Program Manager. “There is a real hunger for a safe place to share strategies and ideas to improve the juvenile justice system to better serve LGBTQ2S+ youth without stigmatizing them.”
The Pride Justice Resource Center is the Justice Department’s response to a charge issued by President Biden in Executive Order 14075—“Advancing Equality of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Individuals.” In it, the President instructed the Department to establish a clearinghouse to provide training, technical assistance, and other resources to “jurisdictions seeking to better serve LGBTQI+ youth using a continuum-of-care framework.”
“OJJDP’s support of the Pride Justice Resource Center reflects our unwavering commitment to justice for all youth, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation,” says OJJDP Administrator Liz Ryan. “We want to guarantee that youth-serving professionals can access the training resources they need to serve LGBTQ2S+ youth effectively and equitably. Because all young people deserve to be treated with equity and fairness. They all deserve opportunities to grow and thrive.”
* “LGBTQ2S+” is the acronym for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, and Two Spirit.” The + stands for all other sexual orientations and gender identities that are neither heterosexual nor cisgender. Researchers and programs sometimes omit “Two-Spirit” from their acronyms, as there is generally less research, data, and programmatic support for and about Two-Spirit people.
OJJDP’s Tribal Youth Resource Center has launched a webpage dedicated to resources for Native youth who identify as LGBTQ2S+. The Two-Spirit and Native LGBTQ+ resources page highlights the struggles, challenges, and triumphs of American Indian and Alaska Native youth, emphasizing those who identify as Two-Spirit or LGBTQ+.
LGBQ+ Youth More Likely To Experience Depression, Bullying, and Sexual Violence
In the Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary & Trends Report, 2011–2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported ongoing disparities among students who identify as LGBQ+ or have had same-sex sexual partners. For example, they were more likely than heterosexual students to have used or misused alcohol, opioids, marijuana, and select illicit drugs, and were significantly more likely to experience all forms of violence. According to the report, in 2021 LGBQ+ students were more likely than heterosexual students to: