By Kris Berggren | The timing of the Orlando tragedy at a gay nightclub lends particular poignancy to this June’s Pride Month commemorating New York City’s 1969 Stonewall riots that elevated the struggle for LGBTQ equality and inclusion.
Despite many advances since Stonewall in human and civil rights, hostility continues to exist toward people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer/questioning.
Sometimes the animosity comes not from strangers but from their own parents and family members.
Numerous surveys and studies indicate that family rejection of youth because of sexual orientation or gender identity is a big factor in youth homelessness.
The Williams Institute survey of providers serving youth suggests that up to 40 percent of youth who have received services at a drop-in center are LGBTQ. And of those, 43 percent said they ran away because of family rejection of their sexual orientation or gender identity, while 46 percent said they were forced out by parents for the same reason.
Furthermore, it’s often highly religious families that reject their LBGTQ children, notes blogger Jason Welle, S.J.
The National Coalition for the Homeless estimates that between 20 percent and 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ, and also notes that family conflict is a key reason for homelessness:
“Disruptive family conditions are the principal reason that young people leave home and many homeless youth leave home after years of physical and sexual abuse, strained relationships, addiction of a family member, and/or parental neglect.”
The True Colors Fund also estimates that up to 40 percent of youth experiencing homelessness identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, compared with up to 7 percent of the total youth population. True Colors advocates notes that LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness are even more likely than non-LGBTQ youth to have poor mental or physical health and to be more vulnerable to unsafe sex practices and at greater risk for victimization.
Knowing the facts helps us and our partners to respond to the real needs in the communities we serve. If our housing can be a safe, supportive, respectful home for young people facing discrimination or rejection because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, that makes us proud.
Pictured, the front desk at Nicollet Square with wall mural by the artist HOTTEA.