Gay youth socially excluded in Europe

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people across Europe face discrimination and exclusion in their everyday life, a report claims.

The report, Social Exclusion of Young Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People (LGBT) in Europe, by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Youth and Student Organization (IGLYO) and ILGA-Europe claims LGBT youth experience estrangement from family, bullying and marginalisation at school, which can lead to such problems as underachievement and school drop-out, low self-esteem and mental ill-health.

These in turn, the report says, have a negative impact on the capacity of young LGBT people to manage the transition from school to work and to become confident and independent adults who can contribute to society.

The report is a response to the need to bring attention to the social exclusion of young LGBT people in Europe and to put the issue on the agenda of national and European policy-makers.

Its publication highlights the effect that discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation and gender identity has on young LGBT people’s capacity to be socially included and to become active citizens. It also raises awareness about the multiple forms of discrimination that interact to put young LGBT people at a particular disadvantage and risk of exclusion.

Over 700 young LGBT people from 37 countries responded to the survey and gave information about where they mostly experience discrimination. School (61% of respondents) and family environment (51%) are the places where most young people reported discrimination and exclusion.

In comparison, 29.8% of young people faced discrimination in their circle of friends.

The report highlights the lack of visibility of LGBT people at school and in society and shows how bullying and harassment continue to be major problems for LGBT youths. These can affect mental well-being, lead to lower achievements at school and to higher suicide rates.

Discrimination and prejudice thus influence the transition of young people into adulthood and are at the basis their social exclusion.

“The outcomes of this survey do not give a positive picture,” said Björn van Roozendaal, IGLYO board member.

“Realities of over 700 young people tell us that there is a great need for change. Young people should be able to live their lives without fears, to go to school without being bullied, and to live in a society which is supportive and allows for their personal development regardless their sexual orientation or gender identity,” he said

Deborah Lambillotte, the co-chair of ILGA-Europe Executive Board pointed out that the European Union and national governments have a duty to make sure that all young European citizens have equal rights and opportunities.

“A lot more has to be done on protecting young people against homophobic violence and other forms of discrimination, both at EU and national level,” she said.

“Governments need to take into consideration the realities of LGBT youth in their social policies, in particular in health and education.”

Although tackling social exclusion in the Member States of the European Union (EU) has been an objective since the launch of the Lisbon Strategy in 2000, little attention has been paid to the exclusion that LGBT people experience in the context of European social policy, and in particular the EU social inclusion strategies.

Yet, as the report points out, Member States have made many commitments to combating discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation within the EU, including by inscribing the principle of non-discrimination on this ground in European policy-making through Article 13 of the Amsterdam Treaty and the adoption of the Employment Equality Directive.

In fact, the link between discrimination and social exclusion has been recognised by the European Commission and the European Council on a number of occasions.

However, there is a real need to bring equality and non-discrimination considerations at the core of European social policy-making and especially the EU social inclusion process, for discrimination remains one of the main causes of exclusion.

The first aim of this report is to contribute to national and European policy-makers’ understanding of the need to formulate social inclusion policies that bear in mind the specific needs of LGBT people, and especially in the context of the EU social inclusion process. The report seeks to do this by highlighting the effect that discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation and gender identity has on LGBT people’s capacity to participate fully in society and be included in all areas of life.

A second objective of this report is to raise awareness about the need to take into consideration how multiple forms of discrimination interact to put people at a particular disadvantage and risk of exclusion.

To this end, the main focus of this research was placed on young LGBT people. On one hand, young people have repeatedly been identified as a group particularly vulnerable to social exclusion and poverty, including by the European Council in the European Youth Pact adopted in 2005.

The improvement of the situation of the most vulnerable young people was also made one of the key components of European youth policies by the European Commission.

Yet, there is little awareness of the particular vulnerability of young LGBT people and limited understanding of the double disadvantage which these young people suffer

because of their age and their sexual orientation, a disadvantage which can sometimes be increased by discrimination on grounds of sex, gender, disability, ethnic origin or religion.

By bringing to light the existence of multiple forms of discrimination which have an impact of social inclusion of young LGBT people, this research wants to stress the importance of looking at all the factors which make people vulnerable to exclusion.

To achieve these two aims, the report examines the main mechanisms of social exclusion which affect young LGBT people as young people and LGBT people, in relation to education, health, employment and active citizenship.

It establishes that LGBT youth can be socially excluded as a result of socio-economic factors (such as low income; unemployment; poor education, health, and housing conditions) and as a result of discrimination based on their sexual orientation which affects their ability to realise their autonomy and their citizenship rights.