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Emotional Responses January 27, 2009

Posted by cellardoor10 in Uncategorized.
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What kind of emotional response is necessary to activate students to think about queer, homeless youth?  Most students are neither queer nor homeless, so where is the appeal?  I have been grappling with the idea of who we can recruit to help in our movement.  We have discussed the idea of Carleton as an apathetic campus.  Students are busy, the weather is cold, there are too many groups fighting for attention and participation – how can we find a niche for such a specific issue that is so difficult to combat from where we sit?  Yes, we can organize a volunteer day, push legislation and raise awareness, but somehow it feels hollow coming from (mostly) white, straight, upper middle-class, educated people.  I believe in the cause, there is no question about that, but it is hard to envision a lasting movement or interest evolving out of this.  The GSC already does so much, and they are still working on expanding to be inclusive and educational about the “T” in LGBTA.  There is honestly an epidemic of homelessness among queer youth, but it feels difficult to comprehend when I feel so insulated.

It feels like a problem that can only be addressed with systemic, societal change, with an LGBT movement that doesn’t just work for middle-aged, middle-class white gay men, but one that works for young genderqueer, lesbian, or bisexual people of all colors and backgrounds.  This is certainly not the movement that exists today.  The fight for marriage equality, while I support it wholeheartedly, is clearly an elitist movement.  Who can worry about marriage when the only source of food is the money you get from prostitution in the bushes, or you are freezing in -20 degree weather?

My point is not to dishearten or reduce feelings of efficacy, only to raise my own personal doubts about how we can enact some form of change.  I do believe that if we are successful in our three events that we hope to put on, that we will be able to make some small contribution.  However, the more I look critically at the issues we’re addressing and the issues being addressed by large mainstream LGBT rights organizations, I find a failing to address the LGBT future – the young people who need support.  Yes, many people need the supports of legal hospital visitation rights or adoption rights, etc., but that seems to pale in comparison to the issues of shelter, food, and the most basic kind of love and support.  Grassroots organizations are the ones doing this, not the large conglomerate coalitions.

But to return to my original topic, I believe we will have to illustrate to people that those young queer kids on the streets could be them.  Your parents don’t like your major?  your significant other? your religious/political beliefs? your friends?  All those are essentially analogous to being kicked out of the house for being gay.  In fact, many of those are easier to hide or change than sexuality.  That’s the angle I think we must use – think of their lost opportunities!  All we ask to help the kids who should be your peers is that you write a letter, attend a talk, and give up part of a Saturday in order to really understand what these kids, who are often your age or your sibling’s age, need in the form of support.  I don’t think fear is the right emotion – perhaps outrage at the lack of support they receive.  Outrage will motivate the legislation drive, I think, while compassion will motivate those who volunteer at the shelter.

We can trigger outrage by providing an enemy to blame – the systemic mistreatment of queer youth by families, religious groups, and even other homeless people.  This seems vague and huge, so the unfortunate side effect might be a lowering of political efficacy – when the fight is too big, one feels very small.  We can trigger compassion by tugging at heartstrings – pictures and stories of youth who chose to freeze to death rather than endure hostile shelter environments, kids with futures who were rejected by their parents and driven to subsistence prostitution, etc., etc.  Ignoring people who may categorically hate queer people, no matter their age, plight, or situation (few of which seem to exist at Carleton, our main target community), the emotion of compassion shouldn’t be hard to evoke.  The challenge will be to make sure students feel empowered to help.  We have to educate and motivate, and then present opportunities to channel that.  Without that ability to package those events like this, we will be unable to garner a decent turnout for either of our action-oriented events.


Welcome to Carleton OUT on the Streets! January 22, 2009

Posted by cellardoor10 in Uncategorized.
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Welcome to OUT on the Streets, a group founded by Jane Sturges, Ruth Aufderheide, and Alexandre Adrian, three juniors at Carleton College in POSC 358: Comparative Social Movements.

We are very concerned with the situation of LGBT youth (and adults) who have become homeless, whether due to poverty, societal/familial rejection, or a myriad of other possible reasons.  The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has estimated that between 20-40% of homeless youth on any given night are identified as queer/LGBT.  This lack of societal support, compounded by age and many youths’ inability to support themselves has resulted in a widespread problem that needs to be confronted.  Queer youth, especially those of color, are experiencing poverty and homelessness disproportionately as compared to their heterosexual, Caucasian counterparts.  The problems of prejudice and misunderstanding on the part of many people have resulted in queer youth being mistreated or turned away from shelters and not given the particular support they need.  In many cases, shelters are unsafe or unwelcoming, and an increasing number of queer youth are choosing to take their chances on the streets, leaving them vulnerable to abuse, weather, hate, and the constant possibility of general crime.  Many resort to selling their bodies and sex for money to survive.  They often are abused or contract STIs, but have little ability to receive the care they need.  In addition, since many of these young people are runaways, they do not have the education or resources to find legal, respectable work.

Our goal is to raise awareness at Carleton College, and to encourage students to take action to support these young people.  We are working on coordinating a volunteer day, a possible speaker, and a possible legislation campaign.  All three facets: awareness, policy, and personal exposure/volunteerism are integral to gaining knowledge and creating a better situation for the young people so greatly affected by their lack of structural support and ability to support themselves.  We are excited and ready to begin this project we find so moving and important to our society.