A group of young people smiling together

Life as a young LGBT+ person

Type Research

Published on
8 June 2023

Read our report detailing the experiences of young LGBT+ people in England 2021 to 2022.

This report presents findings from a research project conducted collaboratively between Barnardo’s Positive Identities service and Sheffield Hallam University.

This involved an online self-completion survey and small number of follow-up discussion groups. Both of these elements set out to explore what it was like being a young LGBT+ person aged 13-19 living in England in 2021-2022. The questions were co-designed between the report’s authors and Barnardo’s staff, and in consultation with young LGBT+ people. They were structured around five areas: home life as a young LGBT+ person; education as a young LGBT+ person; accessing health services as a young LGBT+ person; work life as a young LGBT+ person; and life in the local community as a young LGBT+ person.

What life was like for LGBT+ young people 2021-22

This report has identified the following key points:

  • There are ongoing issues about whether young people feel able to be ‘out’ about their identities within school, with common negative experiences of school life as an LGBT+ young person reported to us – including school staff members unnecessarily, and inappropriately, ‘outing’ young people to their parents.
  • Young people also expressed concern about LGBT+ invisibility in the formal curriculum, and issues about tokenistic and/or inappropriate representations of LGBT+ people within school spaces.
  • Less than half of the young people who responded to our survey who were out felt ‘accepted’ by everyone, whether at home, in education, at work, or in their local community. Whilst settings vary, young LGBT+ people clearly do not feel, or anticipate, universal acceptance.
  • Young people involved in the research were overwhelmingly positive about LGBT+ youth groups they were involved with, sometimes in explicit contrast to their home lives;
  • More specifically, the most important factor survey respondents said that could improve their school or college experiences was to have more inclusive sex and relationships education which has particular policy relevance given the recent announcement on the review of the (new) relationships and sex education curriculum.
  • When given the opportunity to reflect on what they thought was the best thing about being LGBT+, many young people talked about experiencing a sense of community and/or belonging with other (LGBT+) people ‘like them’, particularly in online spaces.

This report highlights the importance of listening to young people, and of acknowledging the nuances and complexities of their lives. Although being young and LGBT+ can be lonely and isolating for some, other young LGBT+ people can also be a source of support, friendship, and affirmation, emphasising that to be young and LGBT+ is not only, or always, a negative experience. This also demonstrates how valuable the provision of LGBT-specific youth services are, as they often facilitate the friendships and peer support that strengthens LGBT+ wellbeing.

About Barnardo's Positive Identities service

Barnardo’s Positive Identities (PI), including Prouder Communities, has been providing services to LGBT+ children, young people and their families for 12 years. Services have included anti-homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying training for schools, direct 1-1 support for children and young people, direct support to parents/carers, community based support, LGBT+ youth groups, and training for professionals who support children and young people.

Get support as a young LGBT+ person

Find out what support we offer to LGBT+ young people through our Positive Identities service.

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