Coming Out In A Still Hostile World

October 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

October 11, 2011 is National Coming Out Day. That’s a day for supporting friends and family who are Gay, Lesbian or Transgender. It’s a day to press for equality. It’s a day when LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) members are encouraged to “come out,” be open, and share the full spectrum of who they are.  But for many LGBT low income and homeless people full disclosure of sexuality leads to hate and discrimination in places where they go to seek shelter or support.

Recent reports from The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), New York based Queers For Economic Justice (Q4EJ) and Anti Violence Project pour out incidences and harsh experiences that homeless and low income LGBT people face.  On this day promoting visibility of all that we are these studies highlight the risk and complexity that minority communities face when they are visible and do stand up for their experience.

In Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth: An Epidemic of Homelessness,  the NGLTF finds that family conflict over gender identification is a primary factor driving youth into homelessness.  Estimates from counts across the nation suggest that LGBT youth comprise upwards of 20 and as high as 40% of  the more than 1 million homeless youth in our country. Youth continue to find hardship on the streets and are 7 times more likely to become crime victims. Safe shelter is hard to find. In New York, for instance, 60% of shelters are run by a facility that repeatedly threatens and abuses LGBT youth because of their sexual orientation.  Despite large numbers in the homeless community very little federal funding, targeted programs, or appropriate housing is provided for LGBT youth.

Queers for Economic Justice’s report: A Fabulous Attitude: LGBTGNC People Surviving and Thriving on Shelter, Love, and Knowledge reports that LGBT homeless youth often stay homeless or low income into young adulthood. In this report, using studies and interviews with 200 respondents, Q4EJ writes, “Survey takers contend with harassment from landlords, evictions, and egregious conditions in shelters. LGBTGNC (Lesbian, Gay,  Bi, Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming) people who are homeless negotiate unprofessional, discriminatory, and dangerous treatment in many vital social service agencies, including being denied services (40%), falsely arrested(24%) and physically (22%) and sexually assaulted (10%).”  

Sadly a 2010 report by The Anti Violence project concludes that LGBTQH (Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgender, Queer, HIV affected) communities with long histories of discrimination and violence faced increased rates of violence in 2010 noting that murders in the community are at the second highest level in a decade. Their findings of abuse and indifference within the system were consistent with NGLTF and Q4EJ. 61% of 362 victims interviewed said police attitudes toward them were indifferent, abusive or deterrent. 

Please join me today in pledging to support more funding and research directed toward LGBT low-income and homeless communities. Consider “liking” the Anti Violence Project on Facebook or donating to the  Human Rights Campaign. If you know someone who is LGBT let them know today that you appreciate and support who they are.

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