LGBT homeless youth need more than empathy

Photo: Screenshot from Forty to None Project promotional video. (fortytonone.org)

 

This weekend, headlines in LGBT publications and blogs heeded the news that while impressive progress has been made in the past two years for American gays and lesbians, there is still work to be done. Forty percent of homeless youth are LGBT kids, according to a study done by a collaboration of the Palette Fund, True Colors Fund, the newly-launched Forty to None Project and the Williams Institute titled “LGBT  Homeless Youth Provider Survey.” The issue of homeless gay youth is certainly not new, but the statistic was staggering, considering the recent evolution in public attitude toward homosexuality.

The majority of respondents said they had been rejected by their family. The rosy statistics we’ve been hearing lately of growing acceptance obviously don’t emphasize the point, but a large portion of Americans still don’t favor LGBT rights. Many are so homophobic that they actually turn their backs on their own children, which is a pretty serious line to draw and demonstrates a wider feeling of the public mood. While LGBT acceptance will surely continue to grow, there will be strong resistance from a portion of society which will never in its lifetime recognize gays as equals.

Sadly, this shocking piece of information will probably go to waste. It’s easy to play the victim, but gays are hardly saints. We’re quick to complain about horrible inequality, citing statistics like the one above. Yet instead of doing something to alleviate the problem, we blow off steam with a couple of $10 drinks on Halsted in our designer shoes. Gays could do a lot more to help themselves, but bitching is always easier.

The fact that the agencies surveyed cited lack of funds as the number one barrier for provision of services underscores this point. Five of six hurdles to improved service for LGBT youth relate to lack of funding from all levels of government, non-profits and the public.

Yes, it would be nice if our governments took a stand and made this issue a priority. But let’s be honest — America is in a partisan political mess and major issues like unemployment and uncertain economic prospects concern a far larger segment of the population. That’s not to mention the fact that the new Tea Party GOP, hellbent on austerity and righteously Christian, would hardly ever vote for increased funds for LGBT youth.

It’s time for the gay community to take responsibility for its own fate. We do need government to pass laws that treat us as equal citizens, but recent history has showed that Washington and Springfield cannot wave a magic wand to make all problems disappear. This doesn’t just apply to LGBT issues, but to the economy, the budget, war … the list goes on. In fact, government has become more of a problem in its state of disfunction.

Yet we forget that we have power, too, in the form of money. And whether it be for better or worse, money is power in America. For the LGBT community, this means solving the problems that concern us ourselves. Don’t use  gloomy studies like the one on gay homeless youth to complain about our social situation; take action by donating money to a shelter or food pantry. No one will feel sorry for us if we simply sit around and feel sorry for ourselves.

We can’t immediately change the fact that a segment of the American population thinks we’re an abomination. However, we can make a difference in the lives of the children that are effected by such bigotry. Problems are only solvable when we stop talking about them and take some action. It’s terrible that such a large percentage of the nation’s homeless youths are gay, but they will have hope if we come together as a community to solve the issue instead of trying to place blame.