As LGBT youth come out at younger ages, thousands are driven from their homes by rejecting families. And in a society that has grown increasingly unwilling to support a safety net for the most vulnerable, they are forced to endure homelessness and destitution.
Being homeless is one of the worst things can happen to someone. I know because I have been there. In 2004, at the age of 20, my circumstances changed dramatically, and I was made homeless one week before Christmas. I was devastated, and it was a dark period in my life.
Should Congress fail to reach a budget agreement and take action before New Year's Day, $54.7 billion in federal spending will be cut immediately. These arbitrary cuts to vital services would mean decreased access to mental health care, safe schools and shelters for LGBTQ youth.
As a queer kid from Raleigh, N.C., who's just spending a semester in NYC, I didn't think I'd end my semester by sitting VIP at the birthday of an infamous photographer while an equally infamous woman took the stage. The best part? It was a benefit for the Ali Forney Center.
On Dec. 15, in commemoration of five years out of the closet, I'm going to be raising money by running across the Brooklyn Bridge in five-inch heels. Why? Because Hurricane Sandy has left thousands of homeless LGBT youth in New York City out in the cold.
Some experience a lack of support from their loved ones, and others are even faced with homelessness. Here in New York the Ali Forney Center and the Hetrick-Martin Institute are invaluable resources to these kids, but both of these organizations were affected by Hurricane Sandy.
New York City's homeless youth are frequently faced with no option but to prostitute themselves in order to survive. And Mayor Bloomberg, despite promoting anti-prostitution efforts, perpetuates this situation by failing to provide nearly enough shelter beds for homeless youth.
No matter what side of the debate people are on, marriage isn't everything. In fact, with the challenges of bigotry, hatred, and violence facing LGBTQ youth today, marriage equality can feel like a nice idea, but not an immediate concern.
As we worked to open the Ali Forney Center, I was haunted by the fact that the movement for LGBT equality did not address the needs of LGBT kids who are rejected by their families. LGBT kids who fell victim to family rejection were left to fend for themselves in the streets.
I wonder if the mayor understands what it means to put a kid on the street. Does he know that many will be forced to resort to prostitution? Does he know that 20 percent of the LGBT kids will become infected with HIV? Does he know that 60 percent will consider or attempt suicide?
Recently I published an open letter to Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, calling his attention to the epidemic numbers of LGBT youth being rejected by their parents and forced into homelessness. Last week I received the following reply from Cardinal Dolan.
We know LGBT youth homelessness is not like the issues of marriage equality or the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," both more "palatable" not only to the public but to those who help fund and drive the agenda for LGBT equality. But we must do whatever we can to make it a priority.
We are thrilled that today, March 9, 2012, the Ruth Ellis Center will partner with the White House Office of Public Engagement and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to hold the first-ever LGBT Conference on Housing & Homelessness.