August 08, 2009

The Fight to Help LGBT Youth

LGBT youth are coming out earlier, and there are often severe consequences for doing so. From

Dr. Robert Reid-Pharr was in New York City walking his dog one morning when he was approached by a young black teenager. He appeared to be 15- or 16-years-old with slightly feminine mannerisms, Reid-Pharr said later. He propositioned the professor: sex in exchange for food. Like so many other homeless gay youth in New York City, the young man in front of Reid-Pharr has resorted to prostitution in order to survive.

Reid-Pharr, a critical essayist and professor at the CUNY Graduate Center, turned him down.

“I asked him what he was doing and he said his mom was addicted to crack. He had been out all night because there were people doing drugs at his home and he couldn’t stay there,” Reid-Pharr recalled. “He said, ‘usually when guys take me home they give me food first.’”

Like the young man who Reid-Pharr encountered, gay youth take to the streets for a variety of reasons, some resorting to hustling to survive. Whether they are kicked out by their families for being gay or are forced to leave to escape abuse, staying at home may not be an option for many gay youth.

According to a 2007 study done by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 20 to 40 percent of homeless youth in the United States identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. The same study also found that there are between 15,000 and 20,000 homeless youth in New York City, of whom 3,000 to 8,000 are LGBT.

Even when they are able to live at home, a gay kid’s life may not be easy. Bullying and a lack of support are pervasive problems in schools. A 1997 Massachusetts Department of Education Survey found that gay students hear anti-gay slurs as often as 26 times each day. Faculty intervention occurs in only about 3 percent of those cases.

This continues to be a serious problem, one that can be more easily ignored by government officials who are dealing with large, wide ranging issues during the severe economic downturn.

Those of us who realize this need to speak out for those who don't have a voice so they can get some help, and maybe even be pointed toward someone who can demonstrate the love of Jesus to them.

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