Why “Don't Say Gay” Policies Are Harmful to LGBTQIA+ Youth

If you or someone you care about is a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, you have probably heard about or dealt with the repercussions of “Don’t Say Gay” policies. These policies directly prevent education, acceptance, and subsequent support for people who identify outside the social construct of orientation and gender. These policies are also intended to invalidate those who are among the LGBTQIA+ community and make them feel like their sexuality is wrong or unacceptable. This has serious negative consequences on the mental health and well-being of anyone in the LGBTQIA+ community, especially young adults and teens. Without acceptance and support, these teens can easily become isolated and live in fear of being outed and shamed.

Repercussions of Anti-Gay Policies

Higher rates of depression, suicide, and poverty - The American Psychological Association (APA) released a study that found LGBTQIA+ youth are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and substance abuse compared to their heterosexual peers. The same report also found that LGBTQIA+ youth are also at higher risk of attempting suicide or having thoughts of suicide—an alarming reality considering that suicide is already the third leading cause of death among adolescents. Additional APA studies found that members of the LGBTQI+ community “are more susceptible to socioeconomic disadvantages”, including homelessness.

More incidents of bullying - According to GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey, more than 85% of LGBTQIA+ students experienced harassment and/or bullying in school in 2015. Furthermore, an astonishing 48% of transgender and gender non-conforming students were physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation. Students who are bullied or harassed at school often suffer serious mental health consequences as a result. In fact, it has been proven that long-term effects on their mental health (including PTSD) have resulted from experiences with bullying and harassment. "Don't Say Gay" policies directly condemn the adoption of inclusive policies—such as adapting inclusive language that includes all sexual orientations and gender identities, implementing staff training programs regarding LGBTQIA+ issues, and creating support groups for LGBTQIA+ students.

Lack of information and support - Not including LGBTQIA+ people in sexual education programs leads to confusion about gender identity and orientation for both LGBTQIA+ people and heterosexual people. This lack of education and understanding also strengthens a stigma around same-sex relationships and promotes isolation, rather than community and equality. Human contact and communication are an integral part of feeling accepted, secure, loved, and hopeful for our future. Without these things, it is difficult for people in marginalized groups—whether by sexual orientation or gender identity, or by race or ethnicity—to develop a positive view of themselves and their place in society. Self-acceptance is critical for healthy development because it allows individuals to have confidence in themselves and hope for their future. Open and honest communication about all aspects of sexuality and gender is a necessary component of achieving this.

How You Can Help LGBTQIA+ Youth

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth require validation and encouragement as they navigate their feelings. There are many ways you can help at the local and national levels.

It’s hard to know how to fit in when there are big secrets that no one is willing to talk about. Though some states, businesses, and school districts have moved toward inclusive policies that promote acceptance of all students regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, there are many who have not.

Mental Health Support for LGBTQIA+ Youth

If you or someone you know in the California or Nevada areas is struggling with feeling unaccepted or stigmatized for their sexuality, Medens Health provides an inclusive environment for all, with queer-competent therapists ready to help. Reach out to us by phone or text at (833) 624-5400, or by filling out our online contact form.


The information provided in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Reliance on any information provided in this blog is solely at your own risk. Always seek the advice of your physician or a qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding your medical or mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who is qualified to give you safe, professional, and ethical advice regarding your mental health.

If you or someone you are responsible for is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should call 9-1-1 and/or take them to the nearest emergency room.