LGBTQ homelessness is not a hot topic anywhere. Why would it be? It’s not visible or sexy enough to catch votes with it, it’s not on our radar at all. When we think about the homeless we think about old dirty beggars on street corners, which is already sad enough, but the truth is grimmer than that. Up to 1.6 Million young people are subject to homelessness each year in the US alone, and a huge chunk of them is part of the LGBTQ community. Here’s what you need to know about LGBTQ youth homelessness.
Identifying with any aspect of the term LGBTQ can be a burden in and of itself. Though we made (slow) progress in the past years and decades, it is still a topic that is subject to stigma, phobia, and harassment. Statistics show that the LGBTQ youth is facing severe harassment, verbally and physically, at the hand of their peers while growing up and that’s “just” in school and on the street. Many also face difficulties within their families, making their coming out a risky challenge. A challenge some of them unfortunately lose.
LGBTQ youth are often facing homophobia even within their home, causing parents to react in a variety of ways to their children coming out to them. From condoning the behavior and failing to address, understand or support their situation to flat-out violence and kicking them out on the streets – everything is possible in their reality. Even if they aren’t forced to leave their home, some may choose to run away, confused and conflicted about their own sexuality and identity, becoming homeless.
LGBTQ Youth Homelessness – More Common than you Think
This may sound like a rare occurrence to you, probably because you’ve not been exposed to it yourself. The statistics show just how much the struggles of the LGBTQ youth are interwoven with youth homelessness. Only about 7% of the general youth population can be defined as LGBTQ youth, while they make up to 40% of youth homelessness. This is not a recent phenomenon, it’s been around for years and years. And even though we are increasingly aware of the struggles and lives of those that belong to the LGBTQ community, very little is done to address LGBTQ youth homelessness.
You may argue that it is unfair or beyond the point to emphasize LGBTQ youth when talking about youth homelessness, but it really isn’t. While homeless kids are always a tragedy, LGBTQ youth have an additional cross to bear. Harassments are a common occurrence, homeless or not, so regular homeless shelters are not always appropriate or save for kids that identify with certain sexual orientations or identities. Add to that the inherent identity struggle in adolescents, which can be amplified when you have a sexual orientation that differs from the majority and isn’t commonly accepted.
Specific homeless shelters for LGBTQ youth are still rare and often have extensive waiting lists to take children in. The rest of them has to face life on the streets, which often consists of crime, drugs and sexual exploitation.
One of the biggest issues in connection with LGBTQ youth homelessness is sexual exploitation. Chances are high that those identifying as LGBTQ will engage in sexual contact for favors or money within a short time frame of actually becoming homeless. This is often called survival sex, where the own body becomes the only currency available to be exchanged for goods to survive. Keep in mind we are still talking about youth here with kids as young as eleven being part of this sad statistic.
In a country like the USA, this has a whole bunch of different ramifications beyond the soul-destroying act of being forced to sell your own body for crumbs and means of survival. If you’re over 18, this can easily end with being charged with illegal prostitution which can actually worsen an individuals situation significantly. Drug abuse and general alienation do the rest, which makes it abundantly clear that specific homeless shelters for LGBTQ youth are necessary, but still criminally underrepresented in the US and around the world.
No matter how far we’ve come in recognizing LGBTQ and the equal rights movement, there are a bunch of topics that still remain out of sight, such as LGBTQ youth homelessness. Like with any other issue, just because it’s out of sight doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It just shows we still have a long way to go to eliminate social injustice in our world.
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