Gay Teens More Likely To Be Homeless

August 1st, 2011

Santa arrives with a bag. "Here's the loving, supportive parents you wanted."

One in four GLBT high school students in Massachusetts are classified as homeless, according to a new study from the Children’s Hospital Boston, published in the American Journal of Public Health last week.

Students who identified as GLBT accounted for only five percent of all respondents, but nineteen percent of homelessness. That’s a full 25% of the GLBT-identified sample, and a hugely disproportionate number compared to straight teens. Heartbreakingly, these teens are either found on the streets, or switching between friends’ houses—without any regular place to sleep and call home.

This isn’t an outlier study, either. The results closely match those conducted elsewhere, repeatedly showing a higher incidence of youth who are kicked out of their homes—or who run away from home—in the GLBT community than other groups.

This is really sad, but not very difficult to explain.

When parents discover that their child is gay, some react with extreme negativity in hopes that expressing a zero-tolerance reaction will convince the child to change their sexual orientation. Sexual orientation, however, is innate and unchangeable—a fact accepted by all recognized medical and psychological associations. This means that such youth will either have to endure immense hardships (such as being kicked out of their home, ostracized, or being forced into quack therapy) or run away on their own. It’s a little like demanding that a fourteen year old girl either grow a beard overnight, or face hourly showers of turpentine until she smartens up and pushes some curly bristles worthy of ZZ-Top. The demand is outrageous, and can’t be met.

The solution, of course, is common sense: Ensure that all gay youth have a loving environment where they can feel accepted for who they are and thrive. Ideally this will be their own childhood home with loving parents. If parents decide to withhold such necessities, however, then the only other options are supportive friends/family or a safe shelter, such as those created by the True Colors fund.

It’s about time to end the discriminatory nonsense that is driving GLBT youth to homelessness and suicide, so I have a task for you. The next time you hear or read some homophobic nonsense, challenge it. Call it out. Don’t let homophobia be the dominant message for struggling gay youth. Perhaps someone that overhears your support will really need it.