We have a crisis in the African American community: an epidemic of homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth. And they need our help. And like the AIDS epidemic ravaging the African American community, my folks are not addressing this problem either.
Of course, airing the problem publicly will be viewed by many in the black community as â€œairing our dirty laundryâ€? or â€œputting our business in the street.â€? But when 42 percent of the country’s homeless youth identifies as LGBTQ, and approximately 90 percent within this group are comprised of African American and Latino youth from urban enclaves like New York City, Boston, and Los Angeles, the problem is already on the street. Why? Because our kids are. And during these summer months their numbers will soar.
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According to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force report, â€œLesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth: An Epidemic of Homelessnessâ€?, released in June 2006, family conflict over youths’ sexual orientation or gender identity is the primary cause. And because of a lesser intolerance for bisexual and transgender youth they are disproportionately at a higher risk of becoming homeless.
And the perception that African American families and communities do not throw away their children because of the much touted out old African adage that espouses black unity, â€?It takes a village to raise a child,â€? is false when it comes to our LGBTQ youth.
As a matter of fact, in June 2006 the Ali Forney Center (AFC) in NYC, the nation’s largest LGBTQ youth homeless services center, aggressively launched an advertising campaign asking the simple question: “Would you stop loving your child if you found out they were gay or lesbian?” Carl Siciliano, Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center, stated that “Our goal was to address the rising rate of LGBT youth homelessness, particularly in communities of color.”
Ali Forney, who the center is named after, was African American who identified as both gay and transgender.Â And was a throwaway. Known also as â€œLusciousâ€?, who sometimes referred to himself as â€œheâ€? and at other times as â€œsheâ€?, Forney, like many throwaways, earned his living as a prostitute. However, once stabilized with a roof over his head Forney spent his remaining years dedicating his time helping his peers. But on a cold wintry December night in 1997 at 4 a.m. Forney was murdered by a still-unidentified assailant. Like most bisexual and transgender youth, they donâ€™t expect to live a long and fruitful life.
â€œI believe that one day, the Lord will come back to get me. Hallelujah…. all my trials and tribulations, they will all be over. I wonâ€™t have to worry about crying and suffering no more….because my God, hallelujah, is coming back for me.â€? Forney recited this poem at his favorite event of the year: Talent Night at Safe Space, a program for homeless youth in NYC.
African American LGBTQ homelessness among youth also culminates from an ongoing cycle of abuse that homophobia exact on their lives that remains unexamined and unaccounted for in the black community. For example, with Biased Agenda-Driven (aptly abbreviated as “B.A.D.”) science like the seminal text â€œThe Endangered Black Family: Coping With the Unisexualization and Coming Extinction of the Black Raceâ€?, by renown African American husband and wife scholars Nathan and Julia Hare, help shape the community’s attitude. Their use of fear, shame, misinformation, and any other means necessary to eradicate homosexuality from the black community is part and parcel of the type of pseudo-social science and ex-gay ministries that have taken root in the Black community. And these homeless youth are merely a small liability for the greater gain of saving the black heterosexual family.
But the problem of homeless LGBTQ youth in the African American community does not merely fall in the laps of B.A.D. scientists. The continued problem of homelessness is both fueled and ignored by our present administration and the Black Church.
With an administration that believes that restoring a spiritual foundation to American public life has less to do with government involvement and more to do with participation of faith-based groups, Bush slashed needed government programs by calling on churches and faith-based agencies, at taxpayers’ expense, to provide essential social services that would also impact the lives and well-being of its LGBTQ citizens.
And with the Black Church whoring for Bushâ€™s faith-based monies coupled with its particular brand of homophobia has both unapologetically and unabashedly closed its doors to its LGBTQ population. And despite the fact these kids looked to the church for help these youth have neither a chance nor a prayer for assistance. However, in spite of the fact, that the church had not a prayer for Forney, Forney, nonetheless, had his own:
â€œWhether Iâ€™m a man with a dress and a wig, my God will love me for who I am! I might not walk like Iâ€™m supposed to walk. I might not have sex with who Iâ€™m supposed to have sex with. My God will love me for who I am!â€?
In the African American community you grow up hearing your parents admonishing you about disclosing family secrets with them saying, â€?What goes on in this house, stays in this house!â€? But many of them have broken the sacred racial code of silence by throwing their kids out of the house.