Friday, November 9, 2007

Why Are So Many Homeless Teens Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender?

Lately we have been learning about the plight of homeless teenagers, and what they need in order to make it out on top.
A disturbing fact is that at least 42% of homeless teenagers are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. This is a very disproportionate number, compared to the number of teenagers in the general population of the USA who are LGBT. How is that possible?
Unfortunately, as most of us know, the world still isn't very accepting of the gay population, and it seems to be even less accepting of teenagers who either seem to be gay or come out as being gay. Lets look at what these kids have to face in life.
At school, many kids who are known or suspected to be gay get harassed and bullied by their peers, and even by teachers and other staff members. 50% of kids who "come out" to their parents are met with negative consequences, such as being punished, ignored, mourned, insulted, physically abused, or forced into "restorative therapy." In one newspaper article about this issue, a girl reported being threatened with a gun by her father, and another girl was raped by a family "friend" who wanted to "straighten her out." 25% of teenagers who "come out" to their parents end up getting kicked out of their homes. For those that don't actually get kicked out of their homes, running away may seem like the only option.
But out on the streets, things don't usually improve. Kids often encounter even more violence from their peers on the streets or in shelters. Many kids report that, when they were being bullied by other kids in teen shelters, staff members just looked away, or even participated in the violence. In some shelters, gay kids had to wear special clothing in order to be identified easily. Other shelters... mostly ones run by faith-based organizations... don't even let kids in if the kids are gay.
So many kids who are gay choose to avoid teen shelters as much as possible, and try to survive on their own instead. Like other street kids who avoid shelters and social services for various reasons, these kids often end up doing dangerous things to survive... the most common being prostitution. Often kids will agree to have sex with someone just to have a place to stay for the night. They also often turn to drugs in order to cope with the harshness of life on the streets.
In order to help these teens, specialty shelters for gay, lesbian, transgender or bizexual teens have cropped up in many cities. But these shelters are few and far between, and cannot accomodate the large population of kids who need them.
The best solution to this problem is to help gay teens feel safe and accepted in their schools and in their homes, so that they won't need to turn to the streets in the first place. Adults who work with kids in schools, churches, social service agencies, etc, have a special role in this matter. Regardless of how an individual adult feels about the issue of homosexuality, every kid... and every person, for that matter... should be treated respectfully. As adults, we have a responsibility to protect and support young people. It is never okay to physically, emotionally or sexually abuse a child or teenager. That should go without question. It is never okay to turn one's head when a child or teenager is being bullied or harassed by peers. It is never okay to force a child or teen to leave their school, youth group, church, or especially their own home, because of their sexual orientation or any other difference they may have.
Gay adults can make a big difference by volunteering as mentors to gay teens. A mentor can help a teen deal with any bullying or harassment he faces, help him find ways to make real friends, be a supportive person if a teen's family members aren't particularly supportive, etc.
We all need to remember that they are all our children. They all deserve our love and support and guidance and protection.


Anonymous said...

i personally run a home shelter for for teens alot of the time i talk with them and find the answer is simple
they would rather live on the dtreets that to tell thaer parents that they are lesbian or gay
or even the most common is bisexual
if any teen is in need of shelter in a safe enviromen they should contact me at because if i can not help you then i will tell you who can and give you all kinds of information

Anonymous said...

nice site you should add help links to shelters and things as well