Imagine being a young person who, after coming out to your parents as LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) or even after trying to discuss your sexuality, is told to pack your bags and get out. Imagine being a target for violence in your family home, and having no choice but to leave to protect yourself. The people who are supposed to love you the most are giving you no choice but to leave the place you know best and you don’t have much money at all. Where would you go? Who would you call?
A child should never have to experience homelessness and a parent’s love for their children should always be unconditional. Unfortunately, many kids do become homeless after being disowned by their parents when they don’t live up to expectations—this can be anything from making poor grades or questioning certain beliefs to not looking the “right” way or identifying as LGBTQ. In certain situations, the parents are not able to stop siblings from enacting violence in the household due to same reasons. As a result of family rejection, discrimination, criminalization and many other factors, LGBTQ youth represent as much as 40% of the homeless youth population. LGBTQ youth are 120% more likely to be homeless than their non-LGBTQ peers, which is an alarming disparity.
Each day, the average teen is constantly learning more about themselves and making decisions that will shape who they will be tomorrow. They are still developing social-emotional intelligence and learning to fit in at school; it is not an easy time for all young people—many youth face bullying at school, but LGBTQ youth are more likely to be bullied. It is this discrimination that leads to other issues, like a higher likeliness of alcohol and drug abuse. Only 37% of LGBTQ youth report being happy compared to 67% of non-LGBTQ youth. 80% of LGBTQ youth believe they will eventually be happy, but almost 50% believe they would have to leave their hometowns in order to be happy.
With each incident of physical or verbal harassment, the risk of self-harm increases 2 ½ times. Many LGBTQ youth also end up missing more school than non-LGBTQ youth because they don’t feel safe there. This leaves these youth feeling hopeless and wondering why their school officials are not doing more to help them feel safe and protected. Not only is this a sensitive time developmentally for people at this young age, the added pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter Movement, have exacerbated the issues that are already prominent in the lives of LGBTQ youth, especially BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) LGBTQ youth.
Homelessness is another issue that adds stress and stigma to young people’s lives. Anchorage’s LGBTQ youth, including those who live at Covenant House and otherwise, are yearning for connection with other young people in safe spaces where healthy activities are facilitated, like craft nights, book clubs, important discussions, and writing workshops. They want spaces where they are seen and heard to talk about the police brutality, racial violence, and discrimination people are experiencing locally and throughout the country. They want to take action in their community. It is now more important than ever to protect these young people and show them support, to provide these spaces, to listen to what they have to say, and to make sure they have visibility and amplification.
To make positive choices and develop a sense of confidence and self-love, these youth need acceptance from adults and supportive mentors who believe in them and their futures, whether it be their parents, grandparents, teachers, or a CHA employee. They need someone who will listen to their concerns as soon as they are ready to talk about them. They need affirmation. Did you know that calling youth by their correct pronouns can lower their risk of suicide by up to 80%?
Check out the resources below to get help, get educated, or to get involved in this important work.
If you are a youth who needs to talk to someone, here are some resources for you.
Covenant House Alaska, a non-profit providing immediate needs to youth as well as many other resources to independent living. Need Help Now? Call the Outreach Team: 907-887-4611
Crisis Text Line: TEXT 741741 https://www.crisistextline.org/
The Trevor Project, a support network for LGBTQ youth providing the nation’s largest crisis intervention and suicide prevention services: Call 1-866-488-7386 to talk with someone now. www.thetrevorproject.org
The Pride Institute: facility that offers a residential treatment program, including psychiatric care for depression, anxiety and other needs. www.pride-institute.com
The GLBT National Help Center: Provides multiple resources and access to a hotline and youth chat line. www.glbtnationalhelpcenter.org
The Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrist—Provides numerous resources for LGBTQ people, including a directory of LGBTQ-friendly therapists. www.aglp.org
Aurora Pride, providing a safe space for Indigenous lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and Two-Spirit (LGBTQ2S) people to share stories in a supportive environment. Facebook Private Group.
Families, Friends, and Allies Resources to Get Educated
Human Rights Campaign, find all the up to date information about LGBTQ issues www.hrc.org
Human Rights Watch www.hrw.org
National Youth Advocacy Coalition www.nyacyouth.org
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays www.pflag.org
If you are someone looking for ways to support local LGBTQ youth:
Choosing our Roots, a non-profit looking to safely house homeless LGBTQ youth in Anchorage, Alaska. http://www.choosingourroots.org/