“Twenty percent of young people in the American juvenile and criminal justice systems identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or gender-nonconforming, according to a report co-authored by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and the Center for American Progress (CAP),” writes John Walker. “This figure is troubling, and disproportionate to the 7–9% of young people who identify as LGBTQ or GNC in the general population.”
“There are a host of factors ranging from anti-LGBTQ stigma and unsafe schools to the racially discriminatory enforcement of laws that work together to make it all the more likely that young LGBTQ people, especially those who are also people of color, will enter our justice systems in the first place,” he continues.
Naomi Goldberg, director of MAP’s Policy & Research, says that there are a “host” of factors as to why queer youth end up in the criminal justice system system, despite that youth who identify as LGBTQI or GNC only make up seven to nine percent of the population. “These kids are being rejected by parents and pushed into child welfare, which pushes kids into the juvenile justice system. They might engage in survival sex, which might result in increased interaction with law enforcement. In school, they face high rates of bullying and harassment, which sets them up for a path of lower grades, lower aspirations, and skipping school. Combined with school discipline policies that may target LGBTQ youth, schools become a school-to-prison-pipeline.”
Black and Latinx folks, who are more likely to identify as queer, face intersections of sexuality, race, and class, which makes them especially vulnerable to ending up in the criminal justice system. Black transgender women are more likely to be profiled by law enforcement, on the grounds that they are sex workers, and even if they aren’t.