Read the full original article at attn:
For the thousands of LGBT youth in the American juvenile justice system, bullying is just the beginning. That’s because, while lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender nonconforming (GNC) youth makeup five to seven percent of young people in America, they are 15 percent of young people in the juvenile justice system.
Low-income youth and youth of color are also particularly affected: a shocking 60 percent of the LGBT youth arrested and/or detained each year are Black or Latino. Factors ranging from family rejection to school discipline to homelessness—each exacerbating the other—increase LGBT and gender nonconforming youth’s risk of being funneled into the juvenile justice system.
Once there, bullying and harassment, discrimination, and harsh punishment conspire to keep kids in a vicious cycle, as harassment and excessive discipline leads to trauma, missed school, and potentially higher rates of recidivism.
“All of what we would consider feeders into the juvenile justice system, queer and trans youth are disproportionately represented in,”Wesley C. Ware, Co-Director of BreakOUT! told ATTN. The New Orleans-based organization is dedicated to fighting the criminalization of LGBT youth at a grassroots level.
Too often, LGBT kids are criminalized for being victimized, for expressing themselves, or for just being teens.
“In general, the juvenile justice system criminalizes normal adolescent behavior, period, and I think that amplifies for LGBT [teens],” said Christina Gilbert, Director of the Equity Project, an initiative examining issues affecting LGBT youth in delinquency court.
Keeping LGBT kids out of the juvenile justice system requires considering their lives in context and supporting, rather than stigmatizing, their identities.