I truly believe if Americans – Christians and non-Christians, alike – stayed focused on the message of this holiday season, many LGBTI youth and young adults would not be homeless right now.
Although Christmas is mostly thought of in terms of feasting and celebrating, Jesus’ birth – like his death – was born of struggle, and that struggle was to be fully accepted.
So when I think of the birth of Jesus one of the themes that looms large for me is LGBTI youth and young adult homelessness.
Why homelessness? Because many of us do not really have a home to go to where we can sit at the family table and be fully out – or if out, fully accepted. As with Mary and Joseph during the time of Jesus’ birth, many of us travel from inn to inn to only find there is no room.
‘Every night, thousands of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender youth and young adults are homeless in New York City,’ New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth website states.
‘Whether they have been kicked out by homophobic families, forced to flee conservative communities, aged out of foster care, or come from families torn apart by poverty, AIDS, drug abuse or eviction, these youth sleep in the city’s parks, on the subway, and in public facilities such as Port Authority and Penn Station.’
There are many reasons teens and 20-somethings find themselves homeless. But for LGBTIs it is mainly, if not solely, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Many homes would rather have no child than a queer child.
A 2011 study from Boston’s Children’s Hospital showed our LGBTI youth are disproportionately likely to be thrown out of home. They are far more at risk of this than their heterosexual peers, especially in communities of color like the African American one.
Some years ago I wrote about homelessness of African American LGBTI youth on Black Commentator’s website. The shocking proved my point, here’s one example:
‘Given that our resources are tight and these youth are not at all psychologically prepared for our liberation struggle, they are expendable. Such are the realities of war.
‘It’s gonna take all of our resources to salvage the heterosexual youth, who will hopefully form strong, loving, heterosexual relationships and produce healthy children. This is how we will produce a strong black nation/ community.
‘The dysfunctional youth you are asking us to rescue cannot/ will not be able to make the contribution we need, so they are expendable.’
There used to be a perception that African American families and communities do not throw away their children. It was based on that much-touted old African adage that espouses black unity, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ That rings false, it seems, when it comes to our LGBTI youth.
In fact, LGBTI kids who are homeless need particular help.
They are more likely to be on their own, while homeless heterosexual teens are more likely to be part of a homeless family. For the LGBTI youths, that means even greater risks as well as obstacles to succeeding in school.
Our birth, as LGBTI individuals and as a movement, mirrors that of Jesus. There is still ‘no room at the inn’ for us in some families – even in 2015 with US Supreme ruling in favor of marriage equality.
Unfortunately, many of our homeless LGBTI youth and young adults across this country this holiday season will not have a queer-friendly shelter to go to. Too many will spend the time alone.
As we gear up for this holiday season let us enjoy it. Let us make home, if not with biological family, then certainly with beloved friends. But let us also remember the LGBTI homeless youth and young adults searching for home for the holidays.