YES Project Strategic Vision

Mission

The Youth Equity Science (YES) Project is a collaboration between mental health and human rights experts to benefit lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth. YES’s aim is to promote LGBT youth equality, health and well-being and decrease disparities associated with stigma such as suicide, bullying, family non-acceptance, and HIV/AIDS. YES’s goal is to support programs, policies and laws to address such disparities using health research evidence and human rights principles of health justice and equality. YES’s strategy is to create a platform for the translation of scientific research bearing on LGBT youth health and wellbeing into useful practices, programs and policies, and to help inform research that is relevant to such efforts. While the YES Project will focus substantially on the United States, it will also encompass laws, policies and programming outside the United States and transnationally.

 

Project Rationale

LGBT youth are at significantly elevated risk for a number of health problems. These include depression, anxiety, substance abuse, suicide, and HIV/AIDS -- all leading causes of youth morbidity and mortality. Risk for these problems rises with exposure to stigma that devalues and ostracizes youth for being (or being perceived as) LGBT. This stigmatization, which may be exacerbated by other intersecting biases, such as misogyny, racism, anti-immigrant bias, religious and ethnic bias, and other forms of subordination, occurs at various levels. It is reflected structurally in prejudiced laws, policies or social norms; interpersonally, in bullying or family rejection; and individually, in identity concealment or anticipation of rejection by others. Programs, policies and laws that counter stigma may help prevent these experiences, reduce the risk of associated problems, and protect youth wellbeing.

The YES Project will help to support LGBT youth rights and fight stigma by serving as a platform to foster ongoing collaboration between human rights and health science experts. Through this policy-science translation platform, YES will help gather and disseminate health science evidence to infuse non-discriminatory programs, policies and laws, and also help inform policy-relevant research to decrease problems like suicide and victimization and promote LGBT youth wellbeing across the diversity of this population.

 

Project Participants

Through the YES Project, outstanding LGBT health science researchers will work with leading LGBT youth rights advocates to provide them the evidence they need about the associations between stigmatization, various forms of victimization, and health and about effective strategies to fight them.

The YES Project benefits greatly from two key project partners: Human Rights Watch’s LGBT Rights Program and Yale's Global Health Justice Partnership (GHJP), a joint program of Yale Law/Public Health Schools. By working with these partners, YES benefits from valuable knowledge about effective strategies, and can have access to possible advocacy and scientific relationships, infrastructure such as a website for project communications, and product dissemination expertise ranging from press relations to academic publishing.

On October 19, 2018, representatives from leading stakeholder LGBT youth advocacy organizations met in Washington DC with youth mental health research, human rights and legal experts involved in planning the YES Project. Two brainstorming sessions explored current policy priorities, the scientific evidence relevant to these, and the basis for a relevant and appropriate project work plan.

 

Current Need

The recent recognition of the basic rights of LGBT people remains fragile and is under growing threat. Despite important recent civil rights victories like marriage equality in the U.S. and twenty six other countries, and the recognition of the need for intersectional protection against discrimination based on gender, race, religion, ethnicity, immigration status, or other category, LGBT youth as a whole remain disproportionately affected by stigmatizing social norms and policies. They continue having adverse experiences such as peer bullying, family non-acceptance, and community harassment. They grow up in a world in which LGBT people -- especially those belonging to already marginalized populations -- remain subject to discriminatory laws in employment, housing, public accommodation, and hate crimes in the U.S., and internationally to rights abuses including curtailment of speech, imprisonment, torture, and capital punishment.

Stigmatization has been on the rise in recent years as new strains of authoritarianism normalize creeping human rights abuses by scapegoating LGBT people, including youth, under the pretext that they are corrupting traditional values. These attacks on LGBT rights are coupled with ethnonationalist ones on other perceived threats to traditional values, and similar ones on feminism and abortion rights purveying a ‘gender ideology,’ that renders each aspect of “L”, G, B and T similarly but differently suspect in many national settings. These regressive trends threaten LGBT youth health and wellbeing. This problem is best addressed by human rights efforts informed by scientific evidence. Historically, knowledge about the impact of discrimination has played a crucial role in achieving landmark U.S. civil rights decisions. Ending stigmatization in the United States can both help save LGBT youths’ lives there, and can also benefit youth globally , because U.S. rights are linked to those of other countries by international law and human rights covenants.

To promote programs and policies that buttress LGBT youth and their civil rights, it is imperative that human rights experts have access to sound scholarly evidence about the harms of stigma and inequality. While such evidence is a crucial tool for them, its availability to them cannot be taken for granted. Through the unique collaboration of legal, policy and mental health experts under the aegis of YES, the project is in a unique position to contribute to the wellbeing of LGBT youth in the U.S. and globally.

 

Resources

ES has developed an efficient work plan to achieve its goals. It will be led by a project Steering Committee of LGBT youth mental health, legal, and human rights experts and research scientists. They will be assisted by a small, efficient workforce of administrative and research staff. These will include trainees from affiliated programs to assist with scientific, legal and policy research. The budget, staffing proposal and workplan reflect minimal needs deployed in a cost-effective way in collaboration with key project partners who are contributing significant resources.