This is very powerful.
These young LGBTQ people experience homelessness, find themselves with nowhere to live but the streets because of rejection by their family (often fueled by religious-themed ignorance and hated) and a society that considers anyone in poverty, even more so queer, expendable.
Nor do their stories conform to the traditional narrative of “coming out” that the LGBT community likes to tell. Coming out for these kids was not primarily experienced as liberating and freeing, nor was it experienced as finding acceptance in the broader LGBT community. For these kids, coming out meant being driven from their homes, denied love, denied all economic support, made to suffer utter destitution. And, shamefully, despite the numbers of homeless LGBT youth across the nation reaching epidemic proportions, their plight has not been at the forefront of the attention of the LGBT community.
And their stories certainly belie the notion that the citizens of our city, state, and nation can find some safety net to protect them.
Ali Forney provides refuge for kids, but they only have 250 beds for a population estimated to be near 4,000. And that’s just young people.
Carl Siciliano, Ali Forney Center Executive Director, took a movie series of photos of ten young people and shares their stories via this Huffington Post story. Click on the link and scroll to the bottom to see the slideshow and read the stories.
The resiliency and survival skills are humbling, if tragically born of necessity.
I grew up in New Jersey with my dad and my stepmom. I came out when I was 14. They tried to act like it was OK, but I could tell it wasn’t with my stepmom. I heard her tell my dad that I was going to rape her son. Why would she think that?
I started using drugs when I was 15. I got badly addicted, I guess to escape the reality I was living, which was unbearable. I haven’t been home since I was 15; for the last four years I have been in group homes, drug treatment facilities, the streets.
Last night I rode the trains and then slept in Penn Station. It was kind of scary, and I was afraid of being robbed, but I am so thankful I was inside, where it was warm. A lot of homeless people were trying to sleep there. The police kicked out a lot of the people trying to sleep. I am thankful I looked good enough to be a customer waiting for a train. The police left me alone.
I want to go to college and double major in psychology and political science. When I am on my feet, I want to do advocacy for people that are mentally ill.
I grew up with my mom in Brooklyn. I came out to her when I was 15. She wasn’t happy with it. My friends told me it takes two years for your parents to get OK, but two years went by and she still wasn’t OK.
She attached all the negative stigmas to being gay. Doing sex work, having AIDS. She was always saying I was going to get AIDS. I wasn’t even sexually active! I didn’t lose my virginity until this year. I began doing research on transitioning. When I told my mom, she said, “I gave birth to a boy, not a transvestite.” She wasn’t cool with it and got more and more angry.
One day she said she was going to leave me. I thought she was joking, but three days later she packed up and moved. She told me I had to vacate the apartment that day, and left me $40. I was so shocked!
For the last six months I have been waiting for a shelter bed to open up. I walk all over the city at night until I get really tired, so I can hope to fall asleep on the subway. I try to sleep on the trains until the workers throw me out.
It feels horrible to live like this. You feel like you have nobody on your side. You think of your mom, and you think of someone always on your side. I try not to think about it because I’m like, “Oh my God!” I try not to get down when so many people are already down on me. I try to be inspirational.
I’m going on job interviews and am working on my music. I want the world to see who I really am. And when I get a lot of money, I want to open a drop-in center for other kids.
As Carl writes, none of us can be confident in a society that treats so many people like they are disposable. My woes with being verbally based pale when I think about having a home and a source of income and family, etc. But I’m not foolish; I connect the dots between what I experience and the larger picture – a culture where leading voices still defend the use of faggot as a cultural term, a lesbian community that shudders at women identifying as dykes, religious leaders whose hatred of the sin leads to all sorts of distorted interpretations, white gay men with power, money and privilege turn their backs on those of us without, people flee to the suburbs and pretend it won’t happen to them.
Yes, I include a few “gay” sins in the list … LGBT folks going to Chick-Fil-A, bashing other LGBTQ folks that don’t fit “their” conception of gay. We have a lot of internal work to do, too. The kids banding together to take care of each other on the streets of New York set an example for adults.