What we need to know about becoming an ally to LGBTQ+ youth

Rebecca Textor
June 21, 2021

I found some gold this month and I want to share it. Throughout the past year, a slew of fantastic behavioral health webinars emerged in Virginia—so many, in fact, it was tough to engage in all of the ones I hoped.  In the process of catching up and seeking wisdom to share during PRIDE Month, my co-worker turned me on to a webinar called, “LGBTQ+ Safer Spaces Basics Webinar,” created by Virginia Department of Behavioral Health in partnership with Side-by-Side, an invaluable LGBTQ+ resource.  I’m compelled to share some key take-aways with Lock and Talk Virginia audience.  If you are interested in viewing the presentation in its entirety, it is available on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAxZMhF3d7E

We look at data, we talk about data, we know LGBTQ+ youth are a high risk population for suicide thoughts and behavior.  Why?  We know every person has individual reasons for painful thoughts and our lives are each unique and complex, but there are some common reasons LGBTQ+ youth may feel a sense of isolation and this may cause despair if left unaddressed. Here is what I learned from DBHDS and Side-by-Side:

There are “5 Dimensions of Isolation” common among LGBTQ+ youth

  1. Recognizing that one’s experience of ‘self’ is not typical often creates initial feeling of isolation
  2. They may feel unable to talk to anyone about their identity
  3. Feeling emotionally separated from family or other important networks is common
  4. Lack of exposure to LGBTQ+ role models who model how to live happily and healthily
  5. Some conceal identity because of pressure to conform to others’ expectations

This kind of isolation could certainly wear anyone down. What can we all do to help? It turns out there are simple, tangible actions we can take that vastly improve the experience of our LGBTQ+ youth in our communities. I was struck by the information in one slide in particular:

This is a powerful suicide prevention message. One simple change in how consistently we respect someone’s chosen name = suicide prevention. Imagine what else we can accomplish! We can become allies to LGBTQ+ youth. Here’s how:

10 tips for adult allyship

  1. Be aware of warning signs for suicide or harm (see Resources tab on this site under “For Families and Friends” https://lockandtalk.org/for-families/)
  2. Share positive stories, media, history of LGBTQ+
  3. Check-in on their coming out process
  4. Connect to resources like Side by Side
  5. Continue to treat with love and support
  6. Listen without judgement
  7. Believe them
  8. Use pronoun they prefer
  9. Don’t assume their LGBTQ+ identity is their priority
  10. Think thoughtfully about sharing info with their parents and friends

After watching the presentation, I reconnected with my co-worker, Glencora Gudger.  She is the Behavioral Health Equity Consultant for DBHDS in the Office of Behavioral Health Wellness.  I had a couple of questions for her:


“If you could make one request of the professionals who are working towards suicide prevention among our LGBTQ+ population, what would it be?”


Believe LGBTQ+ youth when they tell you who they are and how they identify, even (or especially) if you don’t understand or agree with them. Affirming a LGBTQ+ youth’s identity, respecting their preferences in gender identity and sexual orientation is one of the greatest protective factors any person/professional can provide.


If a young member of the LGBTQ+ population in Virginia is having suicidal thoughts (but not actively suicidal) and came upon our website, Lockandtalk.org, how would you suggest they utilize this site?  Where do you think they should go first, what resources do you think would help them the most, what part would you recommend their family and friends read, and are there any links on the site that are especially helpful?


Good question, if they are having suicidal thoughts, I would direct them towards specific behavioral healthcare resources that support LGBTQ+ youth (see below in this post and on this site’s “For Individuals” tab https://lockandtalk.org/for-individuals/ ). They should seek out affirming care as soon as possible. These resources could also direct them to local resources relevant to their situation. Possibly another topic to bring up is that if these youth are interested in gun safety, then sharing that LGBTQ+ populations have elevated rates of victims of gun violence via hate crimes or interpersonal violence. This would be more an advocacy route for them.
  • Here is a chilling study that found 3 out of every 4 trans persons killed, died by gun violence in 2020
  • Here is more on the intersection of gun violence (including information on suicide) and LGBTQ

Glencora and I hope you will share the links she provided and the expanded list of resources for LGBTQ+ in this post.

National Resources

Virginia Resources

Finally, we’d like to help the general public understand the pronoun conversation.  I’m attaching a helpful explanation for pronoun use so we may spread the word and begin using them with LGBTQ+ with confidence.

Be well,

Rebecca Textor, She/Her

Lock and Talk Coordinator, DBHDS

Call to Action: Share the helpful LGBTQ+ resources shown here as widely as you can.

Parting Thought: “Act as if what you do makes a difference.  IT DOES.” William James

Do you need support?

Are you or someone you know thinking of suicide?

Call or Text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

If you have an immediate medical emergency, call 911