Support From Friends, But Not Family, May Prevent Depression in Bullied LGBTQ Youth

Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation has uncovered some disturbing facts about bullying among LGBTQ youth. The good news? Having supportive friends makes a difference.

Lady Gaga White Hat at AMA
Photo: Tinseltown/Shutterstock

It's well-known that Lady Gaga is a supporter of LGBTQ issues. And now, her Born This Way Foundation has released survey findings of more than 8,500 youth, ages 13 to 25, that look at the impact of cyberbullying on youth in these communities.

Despite the increased conversations about formerly-taboo topics like kids in transition, it seems bullying is still a major problem. In fact, the Born Brave Experience Survey shows bullying has shifted from the schoolyard to the Internet, and now exists in tangent with face-to-face harassment. Sadly, transgender and bisexual youth are disproportionately affected.

Importantly, however, the research shows that support from friends (but not family) can positively impact kids' chances of experiencing depression when they are bullied.

Here are more key findings from the survey:

  • About 77 percent of respondents who said they had been bullied online said they had been victims of traditional forms of bullying as well. The intensity of the harassment seemed to be correlated, with those who experienced higher levels of cyberbullying also reporting higher levels of traditional bullying.
  • Transgender individuals were more likely to report they have experienced cyberbullying compared to their cisgender (those whose sense of gender corresponds with their birth sex) peers or those who identified as pangender or genderqueer. Specifically, more than half of those who identified as transgender had experienced cyberbullying, versus 22 percent of those who identified as cisgender, and 28 percent of those who identified as pangender or genderqueer.
  • Bisexual youth were more likely to report having experienced cyberbullying versus their heterosexual peers, or those who identify as gay or lesbian. About 28 percent of bisexuals had experienced bullying compared with 18 percent of those who identified as heterosexual and 21 percent of those who identified as gay or lesbian.
  • LGBTQ youth who were harassed online were more likely to report experiencing symptoms of depression compared to those who were not cyberbullied.
  • Those who are bullied online were less likely to report symptoms of depression if they have support from friends, however. Unfortunately, a similar correlation was not noted when family support was present.

Given the last two findings, it's clear how important having a strong support system of friends is for LGBTQ youth. It seems logical to assume that as parents, anything we can do to encourage friendships is key to preventing depression in kids who are bullied for any reason.

Ulitmately, the survey hopes to identify the conditions to empower youth so they can live their best lives, and to improve the services and resources available to them both online and offline.

Lady Gaga's mom, and the president of the Born This Way Foundation, Cynthia Germanotta, said in a press release, "Any effort to support the wellness and empowerment of young people has to start with an understanding of the challenges they face and the conditions they need to thrive. This means genuinely listening to what youth have to say, both individually and collectively through quality research. The findings from this survey are a reminder that every young person is unique and needs resources and support that meet their particular needs. This will only become more important as the digital landscape continues to evolve, playing an ever greater role in the lives of young people."

Germanotta has spoken openly in the past about her daughter's own struggles with bullying as a child. She wrote in The Daily Beast last year, "When my daughter Stefani—who most people know as Lady Gaga—was a child, she had to learn painful lessons about the dangers of cruelty and the importance of kindness. She was creative and unequivocally her own person, but her peers didn't always appreciate the things that made her unique—and different. As a result, they would sometimes taunt, humiliate, or exclude her. It was hurtful for her to experience and heartbreaking for me to watch."

But she added, "As difficult as those times were, however, they have enabled my daughter to bond with the millions of young people she has interacted with and impacted through her music." Her experiences are also what prompted her to launch the foundation.

Learn more about the survey and LGBTQ issues at

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and soon-to-be mom of 4. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.

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