The Problem of LGBTQ Youth Homelessness does not Start or End with Daniel Pierce
By now, most of you will have already seen the viral video “How not to react when your child tells you that he’s gay.” The young man is 20 year old Daniel Pierce of Kennesaw, GA. In the video, Daniel’s family claim that his homosexuality is a choice, a choice that dishonors his family. They disown him, and when he tries to defend himself from these claims, they become physically violent. [Side note: When Daniel tries to explain that he was born gay (they all knew he was gay since he was a toddler!) and that biology and psychology support him in that claim, his stepmom counters that the word of God trumps science: that homosexuality is a choice. This is another example of the harm of allowing religious faith to trump evidence based beliefs.] In a later interview, we learn that while Daniel is hurt by the his family’s rejection, he still has supportive people to his life, access to medical care, and thanks to a GoFundMe page set up by his boyfriend, he now has over $90K in donations to pay for his education and living expenses. These are all things that set Daniel apart from thousands of other LGBTQ youth who have been rejected by their families.
While between 4% and 10% of today’s youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning, the Urban Institute estimates that LGBTQ make up between 20% and 40% of homeless youth in the United States . It is difficult to get an exact count of homeless youth in America, but the National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that count to be roughly 550,000 for unaccompanied youths under the age of 25 . That puts the number of LGBTQ homeless youth to between 110,000 and 220,000.
Why are between 110,000 and 220,000 LGBTQs under the age of 25 homeless? The number 1 cited reason for these kids leaving home was having a family that was unsupportive or had outright rejected them for their orientation and/or gender identity. According to the Williams Institute, 68% of surveyed homeless LGBTQ youth reported being rejected by their families, and 54% reported being abused . On top of that, another 14% reported lack of financial or emotional support from their families . This is the price of homophobia and transphobia: tearing families apart and leaving youth vulnerable to drugs, survival sex work, and violence.
Being queer, trans, or gender non-conforming makes homelessness more difficult to escape and more dangerous. Homeless LGBTQs face all the same discrimination and abuse that plague the rest of LGBTQs, but from a situation of higher vulnerability. Homeless LGBTQ youth are more likely to be robbed, physically assaulted or sexually assaulted than their cis-het counterparts . While cis-het youth can often rely on extended family for support, LGBTQs are less likely to find that support due to homophobia and transphobia . When it comes to non-LGBT dedicated shelters, LGBTQs are subject to discrimination and abuse from shelter staff and their fellow residents. I personally know a young woman who was trans bashed at a youth shelter, but since the staff didn’t witness the attack, her abuser was allowed to stay, forcing my friend back onto the street. If this can happen in San Francisco, it can happen anywhere, and it does. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, 29% of homeless trans people report being turned away from shelters for being trans, while 42% were forced to rely on shelters for the wrong gender , increasing their risk of sexual assault. Homeless LGBTQ youth are among society’s most vulnerable members.
If you felt heartbroken or enraged after viewing Daniel Pierce’s video, then you know it is time to act. Educate your friends and families about the enormity of the struggle faced by homeless LGBTQ youth. Share this article or the links below. Don’t let homophobia or transphobia go unchallenged in your daily interactions. We all need to speak out if we want the culture to change. Volunteer or donate to your local LGBTQ youth shelter. If there isn’t one in your town, consider supporting one of these:
- Atlanta: Lost N Found Youth (to which Daniel has pledged a portion of his donation)
- Boston: Youth on Fire
- Detroit: The Ruth Ellis Center
- New York City: Ali Forney Center
- San Francisco: Larkin Street Youth Services
- Seattle: Youth Care
Everyday, hundreds of LGBTQ youth just like Daniel Pierce are rejected by their families and thrown out of their homes, but unlike Daniel, they don’t have a supportive aunt to take them in or a GoFundMe account to put their lives back on track. They need us. Don’t let them down.
Daniel has pledged a portion of his donations to a shelter that has helped him: Lost N Found Youth. Consider joining Daniel in supporting them.
- Urban Institute: “Homeless LGBTQ Youth“
- National Alliance to End Homelessness: “Youth“
- The Williams Institute: “Serving Our Youth“
- Center for American Progress: “Seeking Shelter“
- National Center for Transgender Equality: “Housing and Homelessness“
Featured Image: Daniel Pierce via Gay Star News