Rev Irene Monroe

Remember our homeless gay youth this holiday

Filed By Rev Irene Monroe | December 22, 2010 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: bisexual, Christian beliefs, Christmas, Jesus, kids, lesbian, LGBT homeless, New York City, queer youth, transgender

The holiday season is a difficult time of year many of us.

homelessOur culture's egregious forms of commercialism always bother me, as well as its anemic recognition of other celebratory forms of this holiday season other than Christmas, like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, and the celebration of the winter solstice.

Too often we see the glitz and glamour that this holiday brings and we have totally missed its spiritual message.

And because much of the spiritual aspects of this season are lost, so too, by too many of us, is the gift of giving to the neediest in our communities. In my community, one of the neediest is our LGBTQ homeless youth and young adults.

Unfortunately, our LGBTQ homeless youth and young adults face the annual angst of searching for home for the holidays.

"I'm Queer. I'm Homeless. I'm Hungry. I'm Scared. I'm Tired," is the ad put out this year by New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth asking us to give the gift of $10 this holiday season to help our homeless.

"Every night, thousands of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender youth and young adults are homeless in New York City. 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," New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth website reminds us.

New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth is based in NYC and was founded in October 2008 by a group of volunteers and professionals with experience working with homeless LGBTQ youth in various shelter and transitional housing settings. And they are always looking for our help and gift-giving annually, but especially around the holidays.

This Thanksgiving, New Alternatives' youth and volunteers attended a dinner at Tom Colicchio's Craft restaurant in NYC, and they had an opportunity to meet actress Julianne Moore, who was also volunteering at the event.

This year, the New Alternatives Team is asking the community to "Be a Gay Santa!" They are looking for 150 Santas for this holiday season to receive a letter written by a homeless LGBTQ youth requesting a gift (requests are limited to items of $100 in value or less).

Our LGBTQ homeless youth and young adults have been out on the streets for decades that the problem is currently epidemic, and showing no signs of abating.

In 2006, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Coalition for the Homeless released a report that found that up to 42 percent of the nation's homeless youth identify as lesbian or gay. That means, of New York City's estimated 15,000 to 30,000 homeless youth population of that year, about 6,300 to 12,600 are LGBTQ, and approximately 90 percent within this group comprise of African American and Latino youth.

As a matter of fact, in June 2006 the Ali Forney Center, 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, "Our goal was to address the rising rate of LGBT youth homelessness, particularly in communities of color."

And despite the fact these kids looked to their Christian churches for help these youth have neither a chance nor a prayer for assistance.

Although this holiday season, for Christians, is mostly thought of in terms of feasting and celebrating Jesus' birth, let's not forget that Jesus' birth comes at difficult time along the human timeline for acceptance. Viewed as a religious threat to conservative Jews because of his iconoclastic views and practice of Jewish Law, and viewed as a political threat to the Roman government simply because he was a Jew, Jesus was nailed to a cross at Calvary because of ethnic and religious intolerance.

Similarly, when I think of the birth of Jesus in light of how Christians celebrate this holiday season one of the themes that looms large for me is LGBTQ homelessness.

Why homelessness?

Because many of our LGBTQ youth, myself included as once a homeless youth, do not really have a home to go to where they can sit at the family table and be fully out -- or if out, fully accepted. As with Mary and Joseph, Jesus' parents, during the time of his birth who traveled from inn to inn to only find there was no welcome space for them, LGBTQ youth live nomadic street lives, traveling from place to place to sadly find out there is neither room nor space nor home nor family to be permanently welcome them into.

Unfortunately, many of our homeless LGBTQ youth and young adult across this country this holiday season will not have a queer-friendly shelter to go to. And too many will spend the time alone even where homeless LGBTQ shelters across the country will be open because they gravely miss their families and communities- and especially around this holiday.

As we gear up for this holiday season let us enjoy the time. Let us make home, if not with biological family, then certainly with beloved friends. But let us also not forget the continued struggle of the LGBTQ homeless youth and young adults searching for home for the holidays.

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Irene what a wonderful message. Thank you for reminding us all the struggles of those in need. I agree many get caught in holidays or even their own struggles and forget those who are worse off. I wish everyone who had need could receive help.

In Memphis we are working through the same issues. The south can be even colder to lgbt youth... If you live in the midsouth is the organization reaching out to homeless youth. I'm proud to be associated with Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center...

We have to worry about them. Very few others will...

There are homeless gay and lesbian persons of ALL ages on the street. Lets remember and support them all.

Thanks, Rev. Irene, for reminding us of this ongoing problem -- a problem which the LGBT world must deal with, because we are so often refused by "mainstream" institutions.

Patricia Nell Warren posted a few weeks ago on a similar subject -- but she pointed out that it is not only the young that need help. Some LGBT people in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and older can and do find themselves homeless -- and there are very few shelters who will accept them without punitive restrictions. I doubt that being turned away because of one's age is any less painful than being turned away because of sexual orientation. The older people are a larger problem now, in the middle of an unemployment crisis and a continuing wave of foreclosures.

And that underscores the size of the challenge, because currently many of us are focusing and struggling on keeping ourselves from becoming homeless.

(I realize that many times government funding and other funding conditions create age ranges that must be observed -- but my point is that, ethically, people of all ages need and should receive assistance.)

While we're talking about kids who need some money from the city to get an education, have a home, eat, let's not forget the truly unfortunate:

It would be nice if people would remember that the rate of homelessness among trans youth is even higher than that among gay/lesbian/bisexual youth and that many homeless shelters will accept gay/lesbian youth but not trans kids.

Trans youth are by a substantial margin the neediest portion of the LGBTI community, and it's more than heartbreaking that many of "our" orgs focus almost exclusively on helping gay and lesbian youth.

Thank you for including the once again silent T.