New Study Reveals: Gay Kids Do The Most Dangerous Things!

Today the CDC released a study that shows that LGB students are more likely to engage in dangerous and unhealthy behaviors than their straight counterparts. The study is based on anonymous surveys completed by 156,000 high school students between 2001 and 2009 and is the largest of its kind to look at teen sexuality and behavior.

While the survey was administered all over the U.S., individual states and cities were given the choice to include optional questions about a variety of topics including sexuality. 9 states and cities that met the sample size requirements included questions about sexual identity, 12 asks questions about the sex of sexual partners, and 8 included questions about both identity and contact. The report shows the “disproportionate rates at which sexual minority students practice many health-risk behaviors. This disparity is most apparent among students who identify themselves as gay or lesbian or bisexual.” Of the health-risk behaviors measured, the prevalence was higher among gay and lesbian students than straight students for 63.8 percent of the behaviors and lower for only 1.4 percent. For bisexual students, the prevalence was higher than heterosexual students for 74 percent of behaviors and lower for 1.3 percent.

Some key findings mirror previous research; for instance, measures that are tied to bullying and suicide are substantially higher in LBG students and students who have had sexual contact with members of the same sex. Another set of questions gives some much-needed peer-reviewed evidence of same-sex dating violence, something that is often written off or overlooked.

There’s a lot of good going on here that we don’t always see when it comes to studies and sexual minorities. The differentiation between sexual identity and sexual behavior shows an acknowledgment of the complexity of sexuality. The researchers took responsibility for their research (which, if you haven’t read the actual report, sounds like it could easily be co-opted to prove just how evil the gays are) by highlighting that students who are LBG face social undesirability and recommending that:

“Public health and school health policies and practices should be developed to support establishment of safe and supportive environments for all students…The policies and practices designed to reduce the prevalence of health-risk behaviors are more likely to have an impact if they consider the context in which risk behaviors occur. For sexual minority students, this means addressing the challenges they face at school.”

They encourage schools and health officials to take steps that will improve safety and encourage safe behaviors for gay kids, and give examples of efforts from different school districts including GSAs, implementing safe spaces, creating training to help teachers with understanding terminology and issues facing sexual minority students, and providing open and non-judgmental health care.

Not without its limitations, the study has a few problems that have been addressed by its authors. Because the survey was only administered in public schools, private school students and drop-outs are not included. The researchers acknowledge that there may be a disproportionately high percentage of LGB dropouts whose experiences were not reported. There is no mention of trans* students in the study, leaving a wide gap in the research that will have to be addressed in subsequent work.

A survey like this shows only association and not causality, meaning that we know that LGB kids are more likely to take part in dangerous behaviors, but we don’t know that they’re more like to take part in them because they are LGB. It would be a mistake to assume any cause-and-effect relationship from this study (although one that anti-gay spokespeople are likely to make). A student may feel unsafe coming to school because they’re being bullied for being gay, but it also might be because they live in an unsafe area. Furthermore, coming out is in itself a risky behavior for many students.

Finally, when conducting surveys, it’s impossible to know when students are over- and under-reporting behaviors. I answered these surveys throughout high school and, while I can’t speak for other schools, I know that at mine we talked through the whole thing and hardly any of us answered honestly. Is it possible that a student who is more likely to be open about their sexuality–especially when it conforms to an unpopular minority–more likely to accurately report other behaviors?

You can read the entire survey here. If you’re more of a table-type person, I would recommend heading down to page 53 to see the data in charts.

Laura is a tiny girl who wishes she were a superhero. She likes talking to her grandma on the phone and making things with her hands. Strengths include an impressive knowledge of Harry Potter, the ability to apply sociology to everything under the sun, and a knack for haggling for groceries in Spanish. Weaknesses: Chick-fil-a, her triceps, girls in glasses, and the subjunctive mood. Follow the vagabond adventures of Laura and her bike on twitter [@laurrrrita].

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45 Comments

  1. Carrying a gun isn’t necessarily a dangerous or unhealthy behavior. When done responsibly by a competent person, it is a safe and responsible behavior. And yes, a teenager could carry a gun safely and responsibly.. it is in fact legal to do so in some states. Though how likely is a person who is carrying a gun for protection to write it down on some survey?

    • I agree that it’s perfectly reasonable behavior to carry a gun, and even a teenager could do that safely, but if I recall from when I took this ridiculous survey in my high school years, the question is referring to carrying a gun at school which is an entirely different situation.

  2. None of the data surprised me except this line: “adolescent lesbian and bisexual females are more likely to have ever been pregnant than their heterosexual peers.” Intriguing.

    Also, I agree with diver. Carrying a gun doesn’t always equal dangerous or unhealthy behavior. I quite enjoyed target shooting as a teen (and still do).

    And as I think about it, this survey was administered in my state during the time I was a teenager. I think I took this in 8th grade (and I did answer honestly).

    • That line is really intriguing… My psychoanalytical side has popped up to suggest that it’s because these girls are out to “prove” that they’re not gay and thus are more reckless, but I’m just projecting. Very very cool…

      • I helped do some sexual and reproductive health trainings at my college and the sexual health nurse there told me that this is probably related to using protection. A woman who generally does not have sex with men is probably less likely to be on birth control pills. She’s also probably less likely to prepare for that situation by using other forms of birth control or carrying condoms. Therefore, if she gets in a situation where she unexpectedly has sex with a man it’s more likely that they won’t use protection (esp. since in our society it’s the woman’s responsibility to prevent pregnancy). I think this happens more often than most people think for lots of different reasons.

        Lesbian and bisexual women may not receive or have access to sexual health resources or birth control options. They may also feel like they have to prove their sexuality to themselves, their peers, their parents, or whoever.

    • That’s weird. I’m wondering if the bisexual ladies that are carrying this stat. I think what high school kids believe is “bisexual” isn’t necessary bisexual. Does that sound offensive? I hope genuine bisexuals don’t get pissed at me, but my experience in high school was that “bisexual” girls who hooked up with chicks were actually the sluttiest straight girls in the entire school and not genuinely interested in romantic relationships with girls. High school is a weird place, dude. It’s either that or the “lesbians trying to get pregnant” stereotype on American TV has been super-successful.

      • No, I agree with you. That’s why so much of society scoffs at bisexuality being legitimate, and claim that the label is “trendy”. If only I figured it out sooner, I could’ve tapped into it and been the most popular girl in school!!! *rolls eyes*

      • Do you have to be interested in romantic relationships with girls to be legitimately bisexual?

        Wait, if you’re not interested in a romantic relationship at all, does that make you asexual?

        • I think you’re splitting hairs over the language I used. “Relationship” doesn’t mean monogamy and going on dates in this context. Sigh. I knew someone was going to get pissed because I dared to say that in high school, some “bisexual” girls are just horny straight chicks.

          • I’m not pissed, and I didn’t mean monogamy or going on dates in particular. I really just meant, I don’t get why hooking up with girls makes you not really bisexual, even if your only interest is hooking up.

      • I agree. I’m bisexual and I get pretty frustrated when I hear other girls telling me they’re bisexual but only seem to act interested in girls when there are guys around. Making out with girls to get attention or to look like you got a “wild” side does not make you bi, it makes you an attention whore.

          • While I have no problem with girls who want to make out with girls, like I said it gets frustrating when I make out with a girl all night and find out she was in it to impress someone else, and I had little to do with it. But I understand, you have to start experimenting somehow, and many start this way. While I never make the connection of bisexual=slutty, I also agree that there is nothing wrong with slutty in the first place =)

      • I’m coming back to this because I couldn’t stop thinking about why it bothered me so much during my lunch and I had lots of thoughts and now I need to share.

        If someone identifies as bisexual, how is it your place to question the legitimacy of their sexuality?

        In high school, I was a girl who drunkenly hooked up with girls and dated boys. And yeah, I made out with girls in front of boys. Maybe not my most proud moment but I don’t think I caused the downfall of civilization or anything. And if some people are really into that, so what? People are into all sorts of things.

        Maybe some of those girls who identify as bisexual will identify as straight later. That’s fine. I identified as bisexual then straight then queer. When I identified as straight, I was afraid that I wasn’t queer enough to identify as queer, and people would judge me if I wanted to date boys. Basically, I thought people would think I was one of those “slutty” girls you’re talking about. Right now I’m with a girl but if I date a boy again someday I’m kind of scared of how some people I know will react.

        Maybe when some people hear “bisexual” they think “slutty straight girls trying to titillate the boys.” You know what? Fuck those people. And fuck anyone who disapproves of slutty girls in the first place. And so what if girls want to date boys and hook up with girls, as long as they’re being honest about it. Policing people’s sexual identifies sucks.

        • Did anyone say you caused the downfall of civilization? Did anyone say there was something wrong with being a slutty girl? Did I say there was something wrong with dating both girls and guys?

          I was speculating on an odd but apparently true stat that lesbians and bisexuals get pregnant more than straight women. Re-fucking-lax, dude.

          • I wouldn’t take her comment so personally. I have a feeling louvella’s response was more to societal notions of what “bisexuality” means and why it’s characterized as “bad” or “non-existent”. Bisexual people are often ostracized by both straight and gay communities. Straight communities because bisexuals are seen as too promiscuous or selfish and gay communities because bisexuals are seen as not “real” gay people. Even if those stereotypes are true for SOME bisexual people they are often seen as representative of ALL bisexual people which is just wrong. There are people who experiment, do things for attention, sleep around, do WHATEVER, who identify as every type of sexual identity you can claim. But for some reason society doesn’t see those actions/people as representative of any other identity than “bisexual”. I see this as a real problem.

          • I honestly wasn’t trying to attack you, and I get what you’re saying, I just don’t think we should be saying that girls who identify as bisexual aren’t actually bisexual because how are we qualified to judge?

        • Can’t like this enough.

          Side Note:
          I hated the way boys reacted to me saying I was bisexual, when I identified as such. It also bothers me that my straight male friends can’t understand that bisexual girls actually face a good deal of hate.

  3. This doesn’t surprise. Life in high school is tougher when you’re gay. And when life doesn’t seem that great, what’s the incentive not to do things that are risky? I’m lucky I never hung around a crowd that did serious drugs because in high school I was rather depressed, alienated feeling and just didn’t give a fuck and would’ve taken any drugs in front of me. Life is 1000x better now than it was when I was 16, that’s for sure.

  4. Unsurprising, minus the pregnancy bit. I’m guessing the statistics would probably be a little better here in Australia, though. And I’m surprised/pleased that they assessed bisexual teens too – it’s always ‘lesbian’ this and ‘gay’ that and it’s hard to find statistics relevant to us sometimes.

  5. High school is a bitch, more so if you are gay. Also there has been heavier (like skins heavy) substance abuse, especially pharmaceuticals in the last 10 years. So is it surprising….no not really, it just seems like common sense. If you try to shun away kids, they will act out in destructive ways.

    maybe there should be a 17 version of autostaddle out there

  6. I’m queer and in high school and don’t drink/smoke/text while riding my unicorn or whatever, but several of my friends who do don’t do so because they’re queer, but because they’re part of the thriving hipster culture in my small college town. Then again, we’re pretty liberal for the most part, and I guess the ‘high school experience’ could be a hell of a lot worse.

  7. I hope you guys will forgive me, but I will NEVER understand the need to carry guns around. I will NEVER understand the need to own a gun. I just can’t fathom a good enough reason why some of you people would do that. :-S I just can’t.

      • Yeah, well… I’ve heard a lot of arguments over this subject. I remember someone told me once: “Well, the criminals have guns, we have to have guns to protect ourselves from them”. And I was like: “Maybe the vast majority of criminals have guns BECAUSE they can buy them in the supermarket!”
        Seriously, why do they think that there are much lower percentages of criminal acts in the countries that don’t sell guns indiscriminately? :-S

        I swear I just don’t understand the need to have a gun. Whenever I see a little kid learning how to shoot on TV I get chills… :-S

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