The Christmas season is a difficult time of year for many.
Too often we see the glitz and glamour that this holiday brings, totally missing its spiritual message. The underlying message in celebrating the birth of Jesus is the full embrace of human difference and diversity.
I truly believe if Americans – Christians and non-Christians, alike – stayed more focused on the message and teachings of Jesus, many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth and young adults would not have the annual angst of searching for home for the holidays.
Although Christmas is mostly thought of in terms of feasting and celebrating, Jesus, birth – like his death – was born of struggle, and that struggle was to be fully accepted. Similarly, when I think of the birth of Jesus, one of the themes that loom large for me is LGBTQ youth and young adult homelessness.
Because many of us, myself included, do not really have a home to go to where we can sit at the family table and be fully out – or if out, fully accepted. As with Mary and Joseph during the time of Jesus’ birth, we travel from inn-to-inn to only find there is no room.
“I’m Queer. I’m Homeless. I’m Hungry. I’m Scared. I’m Tired,” was the ad one year by New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth asking the American public to give the gift of $10 during the holiday season to help their homeless.
“Every night, thousands of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender youth and young adults are homeless in New York City. Whether they have been kicked out by homophobic families, forced to flee conservative communities, aged out of foster care, or come from families torn apart by poverty, AIDS, drug abuse or eviction, these youth sleep in the City’s parks, on the subway, and in public facilities such as Port Authority and Penn Station,” New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth website reminded us.
While homelessness of teen and youth populations are often attributed to family neglect, family tragedy, poverty, AIDS, drug abuse, eviction, or being aged out of foster care, our LGBTQ teen and youth populations that are homeless are, first and foremost, if not solely, because of their sexual orientation.
And sadly, it sends a message that these homes rather have no child than a queer child.
According to a 2011 study from Boston’s Children’s Hospital, published online on the “American Journal of Public Health” website it stated that when it comes to the private institution of the home, our LGBTQ youth are disproportionately thrown out of theirs, more often than their heterosexual peers, especially in communities of color like the African Americans one.
Some years ago when I wrote about homelessness of African American LGBTQ youth this was a typical type of response I received from an irate blogger who read my piece on “Black Commentator’s” website.
“Given that our resources are tight & these youth are not at all psychologically prepared for our liberation struggle, they are expendable. Such are the realities of war. It’s going to take all of our resources to salvage the heterosexual youth, who will hopefully form strong, loving, heterosexual relationships & produce healthy children. This is how we will produce a strong black nation/community. The dysfunctional youth you are asking us to rescue cannot/will not be able to make the contribution we need, so they are expendable.”
The perception that African American families and communities do not throw away their children because of the much-touted old African adage that espouses black unity, “It takes a village to raise a child,” rings false, it seems, when it comes to our LGBTQ youth.
“The high risk of homelessness among sexual minority teens is a serious problem requiring immediate attention,” says Heather Corliss, PhD, MPH, of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children’s Hospital.“ Teens with a sexual minority orientation are more likely than heterosexual teens to be unaccompanied and homeless rather than part of a homeless family. These teens face enormous risks and all types of obstacles to succeeding in school and are in need of a great deal of assistance.”
In Luke 2:6-7 it states “While they were there the time came for [Mary] to have her baby, and she gave birth to a son – her firstborn. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Our birth, as LGBTQ individuals and as a movement, mirrors that of Jesus. It comes at a time where there is still neither room nor tolerance for us – even in 2015 with U.S. Supreme ruling in favor of marriage equality – in some homes and families.
Unfortunately, many of our homeless LGBTQ youth and young adult across this country this holiday season will not have a queer-friendly shelter to go to. And too many will spend the time alone even where homeless LGBTQ shelters across the country will be open because they gravely miss their families and communities.
As we gear up for this holiday season let us enjoy the time and let us make home, if not with biological family, then certainly with beloved friends. But let us also not forget the continued struggle of the LGBTQ homeless youth and young adults searching for a home for the holidays.
Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth (LIGALY) has been helping LGBT youth across Long Island for more than 22 years.
Please call 631.665.2300 or 516.323.0011 or visit lgbtnetwork.org
for more information regarding programs and services and how they can help you or someone you know.
The LGBT Network is an association of 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations with locations in Nassau, Suffolk, the Hamptons and Queens.
By Reverend Irene Monroe