Happily Ever After: Don't forget queer youth homelessness while celebrating Pride

Wedding season is upon us and if you’re looking for the perfect gift, I have a few suggestions that aren’t likely on the registry. You might be tempted to go for the traditional, like something for entertaining or to spruce up the house, but what would really make an impact is a bed. Of course, that all depends on who you’re spending for.  Same-sex couples now have the privilege to legally wed in 6 states (woo hoo!), with President Obama recently offering his blessing in the fight for marriage equality. Legions of people, gay and straight, have donated their social media statuses to show support, spent time lobbying and ponied up their hard earned cash, so that two people in love, regardless of their sex, can say “I do” and be granted the many benefits that go along with it.  In fact, to advance the cause, a staggeringly large and unprecedented amount of money has been raised with special thanks to donations from folks in Hollywood, on Wall Street and in Washington (amongst other places). Everyone loves love and attending fabulous parties, and those could be part of the inspiration behind this mass mobilization. Plus, with all the revenue gay marriage is predicted to generate, it’s not hard to tell why the ‘powers that be’ are celebrating too. But as we’re preparing to put on our dancing shoes for a weekend of Pride parades and dances celebrating how far we’ve come in the fight for marriage equality, GLBT youth across the country are worrying about where they’re going to sleep. More than 300,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth experience homelessness every year and the already meager funding for beds in shelters is being cut.

If this is the first time that you’re hearing of it, well, I’m not surprised. Queer youth homelessness isn’t as sparkly an issue as marriage and it certainly won’t make anybody money, so taking action to fight the epidemic hasn’t really caught on. Issues tend to sink down on society’s priority list when they involve teens, people of color and the poor. But once you learn the numbers, meet the young people and hear their stories, it’s hard to stay focused on the wedding party. As equality has gained support, LGBTQ youth have begun to ‘come out’ at younger ages, and many still face family rejection and hostile school environments. Research indicates that once on the street, queer youth are met with even harsher consequences than their heterosexual peers and many experience discrimination when attempting to access services.  And for transgender youth, the picture is even bleaker. So when it comes to wedding gifts, why not show LGBTQ homeless youth that they are valued by raising awareness about the issue, lobbying for adequate support and donating as we did towards marriage equality?  Just think, investing in queer young people now ensures you’ll have the chance to dance at fabulous weddings for generations to come.

Photo credit: Sweet Wedding Details

Find out more about LGBTQ youth homelessness, resources and places to get involved…

  • The Hear Me ROAR! Project collected an oral-history at Sylvia’s Place, an emergency shelter for queer youth in NYC. Listen to the experiences of LGBTQ homeless young people in their own words.
  • Learn more about The White House’s new initiatives to combat the epidemic.
  • Mayor Bloomberg organized a committee of experts to compile a report on LGBTQ youth homelessness in NYC and how to best address it. However, he and Governor Cuomo have continuously cut funding for services.
  • The National Center for Transgender Equality offers a guide for making all shelters safe for transgender folks.
  • BLITZ created a comprehensive list of resources across the U.S. who provide LGBTQ-inclusive services for the homeless.

Don’t miss the TRANSGENERATION marathon this Sunday, June 24th, starting at 8A.