May 17, 2023 | Articles

A message of LGBTQ+ hope for today and tomorrow

While we have made great strides for LGBTQ+ equality in the past decade, today homophobia and transphobia are rising at an alarming rate. As of today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is tracking more than 450 bills targeting LGBTQ+ rights across the United States, including legislation that bans drag performances, eliminates books and educational curricula, and bans medical treatment and gender-affirming care. This climate of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is deepening the mental health crisis within the LGBTQ+ community, particularly for young people.

Today might mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, but in this environment, we need to continue to amplify and support the mental health and well-being of our community every day, on personal, local, and national levels.

That's why today we're lifting up a message of support from one of our amazing partners serving trans families in San Diego, CA, as well as resources, actions, and learning opportunities to help you get involved. And that's why today we're sharing a message of hope – for the kids all around the country who aren't getting the support they need to live happy, healthy, authentic lives, and everyone in our community who is working towards a better tomorrow.

For youth in the LGBTQ+ community who may feel isolated, victimized, or unloved, we have this message of hope for you: we see you, you are loved, and your resilience will soon outshine the harsh realities of the world. The fear of others will soon become inapt, and you will meet others who have walked similar paths.

The state of mental health and well-being for our nation's LGBTQ+ youth

But first, it's important that we don't paper over the VERY real and worrying state of affairs for the mental health and wellbeing of our LGBTQ+ youth. Here's just a snapshot:

  • LGBTQ+ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers (CDC)
  • One in four Black transgender and nonbinary young people reported a suicide attempt in the past year (Trevor Project)
  • In addition, LGBTQ+ youth in small towns and rural areas experience increased anxiety and suicidal ideation, with data from GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey indicating that these youth are more likely to hear anti-LGBTQ remarks and experience discrimination in schools.
  • Anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric is also negatively affecting youth access to gender-affirming care and mental health services. Some community leaders working to support gender-expansive youth have faced increased backlash, threats, and are even at times banned from providing physical and mental health care. This is all while anti-LGBTQ+ bills across the country continue to threaten everyday LGBTQ+ rights like free speech and civil rights.

A message to LGBTQ+ youth: It does get better

Dr. Mark Long, the Director of The Upswing Fund for Adolescent Mental Health, was one of those young people who lacked support and lived through the mental health challenges that many BIPOC and LGBTQ+ youth experience. As an LGBTQ+ adolescent growing up in a religious home in the rural Midwest, Mark faced bullying and victimization and suffered from depression for many years. Eventually, however, Mark received a message of hope as a young adult that changed their life forever.

A therapist in college told Mark, “You have the power to own who you are and take charge of your life. One day you will not need the approval of others.”

This message of hope came at a time when Mark had contemplated suicide, and helped Mark realize that no one is alone in the struggle for self-acceptance. It changed his life forever. Mark understood then the profound power of allies and a network of support.

Hope goes hand in hand with vulnerability and healing, and so Mark offered a message of hope that they would share with their younger self, if only they could:

“If I could return to a younger version of myself, I would tell them that it gets better. That lonely feeling is only temporary. In all sincerity, your safety is the priority. Your mental health and sense of self-worth will take a toll on you and soon become a priority. Your bravery, attention to wellness, and ability to advocate for those alike will make you strong. I know you’re not feeling accepted, and you’re often called slurs at home and school, but I promise – not everyone’s opinions matter, and one day, they won’t matter to you either.”

Dr. Mark Long
The Upswing Fund

Partner spotlight: TransFamily Support Services is hopeful for the future
We’re proud to support organizations on the frontlines of providing hope for our communities in many forms, including gender affirming care. Mark had the pleasure of meeting with one such partner, TransFamily Support Services, based in San Diego, CA, to discuss the importance of funding for LGBTQ+ community centers and current policies impacting transgender, non-binary, and gender-expansive youth.

Despite the current climate, Evan Johnson, Director of Youth Programming, shared hopeful messages and offered suggestions for adults looking to advocate and support LGBTQ+ adolescents, including:

  • Parents can affirm their children by showing a willingness to learn and not fearing saying the wrong thing. This online resource from the Family Acceptance Project, an Upswing partner, provides practical tips for doing so.
  • School anti-discrimination policies can be modified to reflect gender-affirming language that is inclusive of transgender and gender non-conforming youth.
  • The broader community can become well-informed about LGBTQ+ resources and centers within each city and state to ensure adolescents have somewhere to turn into in times of need.

Evan also shared their own message of hope for LGBTQ+ youth:

“I came out when I was 15. I tried coming out to my parents. It was a really brutal takedown, and it didn’t go well. I tried coming out to my therapist, and it didn't go well. I tried coming out to the teachers, and it didn’t go well. And now, I'm 25, and I am living in the transgender district of San Francisco. I look outside my window, and I see trans pride flags. And my parents call me Evan, and they use my pronouns publicly and correct their coworkers. There are people out there who are there to support you. There are people in your world who you know personally right now who will support you, and you may not know it yet.”

Evan Johnson
Director of Youth Programming
TransFamily Support Services

Learn more and take action to support LGBTQ+ youth
Upswing has worked to center culturally responsive and gender-affirming care in conversations about practices, policy, and funding priorities with the adolescent mental health community. Below are just a few resources to better understand the importance of gender-affirming care and LGBTQ+ youth’s mental health.


  • How Gender-Based Violence Affects Youth Mental Health by Karissa Smith, Upswing Advisor, provides an overview of gender-based violence, its effects on mental health, and ways to get involved.
  • Book recommendations from TransFamily Support Services spanning resource books for caregivers, memoirs by parents of transgender youth, and age-appropriate affirming novels.

  • Partner Showcase: Family Acceptance Project. Dr. Caitlin Ryan shares research and evidence supporting the role of accepting guardians. Her organization helps families learn to support their LGBTQ children to prevent health risks and promote well-being.
  • Supporting the Mental Health of Transgender and Gender Diverse Youth. Two of Upswing's Advisory Committee Members – Atlas Alvarez and Dr. Jack Turban – provide an overview of mental health disparities faced by gender and gender-diverse youth and share the rationale and current evidence base for gender-affirming medical care.

  • LGBTQ+, Family & Substance Use. Online suite of resources curated by Partnership to End Addiction, an Upswing partner, for families to access LGBTQ+-friendly substance use treatment for their children.
  • LGBTQ Youth & Family Resources. Online suite of resources curated by Family Acceptance Project to increase support for LGBTQ children through evidence-based resources, a searchable map of LGBTQ+ services and more.


Crisis resources
If you or a loved one are experiencing a mental health crisis, reach out to someone today.

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