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A Publicity Update and Definition February 19, 2009

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We have a couple events scheduled now (which are described on the Calendar page), and we have sent some posters to the copier (aka Dev).  Anyway, our posters follow two major themes – DID YOU KNOW? and HOME … We are pretty excited about them because they are simple, direct, and striking visually.  We think they will be on bright yellow paper, and probably everywhere (we’re getting 50 of them!), so keep an eye out.  The DidYou Know? posters detail some startling facts about the issue of LGBT homelessness, suchas that 26% of LGBT youth are kicked out of their homes when they come out, up to 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT, and that around one-third of homeless gay youth engage in survival sex.

Survival sex is not always a familiar concept to people, so I will quickly define it for you.  It is especially overlooked in the U.S.A., where our government takes such a normative approach to sexual pleasure and sex work.  I do not endorse sex work, but the paranoia around “promoting prostitution” demonstrated in HIV/AIDS policies and the lack of support for sex workers, who I view as victims, is a disservice to this often vulnerable population.  Anyway, survival sex is when people, in this case LGBT homeless youth, prostitute themselves in order to afford food, shelter, or drugs to numb the pain.

Some people may say drugs don’t count as survival, but numbing the pain is sometimes a necessity if you are rejected from home (many are even physically assaulted when they come out), homeless, and forced to sell your body for food.  Anyway, that could be a completely different post.  My point is that while the government treats the people who engage in survival sex as deviant criminals, they should be treated as victims of systemis and cultural failings, and supported so they can remove themselves from a psychologically and physically detrimental mode of survival.

As for our events, we will be tabling Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoon of next week, the 24th-26th, and we are volunteering that Saturday, the 28th.  We may or may not have a speaker, since the group we were working with on that had to back out because of other commitments.  We will have a film we can screen about homeless youth if the speaker doesn’t work out, though, and so the backup plan makes me much more comfortable about our prospects.

Additionally, I was doing a lot of the organizing early in the process due to my status as contact person with the shelters, but now Alexandre and Ruth have both taken on a lot more logistical details – getting transport, tabling, a script for legislation, designing posters, etc.  I have really enjoyed getting knee-deep in this issue and my compatriots have been great so far, really keeping me grounded when I go off on crazy or overly ambitious ideas.  I am so excited for next week, now that things are finally falling into place.

– Jane

Some Facts and Figures February 1, 2009

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that the number of homeless and runaway youth ranges from 575,000 to 1.6 million per year.  Our analysis of the available research suggests that between 20 percent and 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). Given that between 3 percent and 5 percent of the U.S. population identifies as lesbian, gay or bisexual, it is clear that LGBT youth experience homelessness at a disproportionate rate.

Family conflict is the primary cause of homelessness for all youth, LGBT or straight. Specifically, familial conflict over a youth’s sexual orientation or gender identity is a significant factor that leads to homelessness or the need for out-of-home care.  According to one study, 50 percent of gay teens experienced a negative reaction from their parents when they came out and 26 percent were kicked out of their homes.  Another study found that more than one-third of youth who are homeless or in the care of social services experienced a violent physical assault when they came out, which can lead to youth leaving a shelter or foster home because they actually feel safer on the streets.

(You can access the pdf full document through this website “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Youth: An Epidemic of Homelessness”)

Of course the facts continue.  LGBT youth are more likely to consider and attempt suicide (about 5 times more likely than heterosexual youth), to suffer from depression, to engage in dangerous sexual activities, to use illicit substances, and to have been sexually victimized (58.7% of LGBT homeless youth vs. 33.4% of heterosexual homeless youth).  Some of these figures are a bit older but the trends remain the same, and of course you find the same trends if you keep comparing other facts.  It’s a huge problem that very few are paying attention to.

http://www.1800runaway.org/pub_mat/documents/LGBTQ.pdf

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

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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.