The Unfair Criminalization of Queer Kids
Gay, transgender, and gender nonconforming youth are significantly over-represented in the American juvenile justice system—approximately 300,000 gay and transgender youth are arrested and/or detained each year, of which more than 60 percent are black or Latino. Though gay and transgender youth represent just 5 percent to 7 percent of the nation’s overall youth population, they compose 13 percent to 15 percent of those currently in the juvenile justice system.
These high rates of involvement in the juvenile justice system are a result of gay and transgender youth abandonment by their families and communities, and victimization in their schools—sad realities that place this group of young people at a heightened risk of entering the school-to-prison pipeline.
Despite the disproportionately high rates of gay and transgender youth entering the juvenile justice system, America’s schools, law enforcement officers, district attorneys, judges, and juvenile defenders are not equipped to manage the unique experiences and challenges that these young people face. As a consequence, the system often does more harm by unfairly criminalizing these youth—imposing harsh school sanctions, labelling them as sex offenders, or detaining them for minor offenses—in addition to subjecting them to discriminatory and harmful treatment that deprives them of their basic civil rights.