With Thanksgiving fast approaching, many Americans are looking forward to spending time with their families and loved ones and catching up on the year’s events. Unfortunately, the holidays are often a difficult time for many LGBT people whose families have not yet come to terms with their orientation. This weekend NPR ran a wonderful piece about a segment of the LGBT community for whom the holidays are particularly challenging — LGBT homeless youth.
The segment, recorded in New York City, follows staff at Safe Horizon’s Streetwork Project as they go to the Christopher Street pier to distribute snacks and information to some of the city’s 3,800 homeless youth. Reporter Margot Adler talks to a number of LGBT homeless youth and highlights the unique challenges they face on the streets after their families have either kicked them out or made life so uncomfortable that they chose to leave.
“It has become clear to me that we are living in a societal moment, where kids are coming out at younger and younger ages, and there are so many parents who can’t be parents to their gay kids,” Carl Siciliano, founder and executive director of homeless youth shelter the Ali Forney Center, tells Adler. “They can’t cope, they can’t deal with it, their religion is in conflict with the reality of their kids’ lives, and these kids are getting thrown away.”
Adler also speaks to Siciliano about the political response to this enormous problem. There are only 250 beds for the thousands of youth who are homeless in New York City, and because of recent budget cuts, youth advocates are working hard to maintain funding for the meager programs that already exist. Siciliano says he is angry that homeless youth are not a priority for Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“It’s tearing my heart in two. Here you have a political leader who is doing so much to help the adults of our community and is taking actions that harm and imperil the most vulnerable youth of our community,” he says.
Even the wider LGBT movement, Siciliano says, has not really addressed youth issues.
“The movement was articulated and thought out at a time when it was almost all adults coming out,” he says. “We have framed our fight for equality in adult terms, and almost all the victories we have won only really benefit the adults in our community.”
GLAAD applauds and thanks NPR and reporter Margot Adler for covering this important issue in such a fair and sensitive fashion. GLAAD encourages other media outlets to use Thanksgiving as an opportunity to tell the stories of LGBT people, particularly those of youth who are unable to celebrate the holiday with their families, like those featured in this clip from In The Life.