The Black Youth Project releases data on gays in the community

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By Michelle Zenarosa

It’s been a time of victories lately for the gay black community. 

President Barack Obama’s finally fully endorsed gay marriage, inciting words of support from Jay-Z, Chuck-D and Jesse Jackson. 

Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t come out, but either way, mega superstar Queen Latifah showed her love for the gays when headlining the Long Beach Pride festivities last month. 

And finally, when rumors lit up the Internet alleging Disney star Raven Symone was a lesbian, she responded with a cool, yet ominous, response via Twitter, “It’s my right as a HUMAN Being whether straight or gay. To tell or not to tell. As long as I’m not hurting anyone.”

As black politicians and celebrities across the nation have come out in overt and covert support for the LGBT community, so much more work is left to be done, reveals data released recently by The Black Youth Project (BYP).

Among the most notable results – about 43 percent of black gay youth have thought about or attempted suicide as a result of issues related to their sexual orientation.  

The findings of BYP are crucial, as bullying has come to light as a larger issue in public discourse and as organizations like the Trevor Project and the It Gets Better campaign are addressing how gay teens are treated and working towards preventing suicide.

Data on LGBT youth suicide, especially data broken up by race, is rare. National data regarding suicidal contemplation or suicide rates among the LGBT population as a whole or in part, simply does not exist.  

“The youth asked, ‘What if we do a large survey of black youth to tell the story of what it was like to be young black and gay in America,” said Frank Walker, director of Youth Pride Services, the organization spearheading the project. “What would happen? Could we create change and could we create more of a focus on the plight of blacks and other nationalities?”

Another startling find from the BYP survey: A whopping 11 percent of the youth surveyed are HIV positive and 7 percent don’t know their status. 

“I was shocked by the high amount of youth that thought there was a lot of race issues in the whole LGBT community,” Walker said. “The main issue with the LGBT community is marriage equality, but I think the main issue for the black LGBT community is HIV and AIDS. There’s this huge gap on what is getting pushed forward and who is getting affected by that.”

Twenty-two percent of black youth surveyed experienced mental abuse related to their sexual orientation and 26 percent experienced anti-gay bullying. The survey respondents were also asked to list items that would make life as a black gay youth more bearable and 90 percent listed “family acceptance,” making it the most popular item in the survey.

So far, the study has surveyed over 500 youth across the nation. Leaders from four regions in the country are heading efforts to continue the survey and are aiming to have a total of 2500 youth participate by the end of this year.

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