ABC News featured Elegance Bratton, the filmmaker behind Pier Kids: The Life, as a part of a series on veterans. Bratton was left homeless after coming out, was a part of community of LGBT young people on Christopher Street in New York City, enrolled in the military, eventually went to Columbia University, and is now documenting the lives of the young people who still live and gather on Christopher Street.
U.S. Marine veteran Elegance Bratton left his New Jersey home at age 16. “If I were to describe my relationship with my family in one word, is silence. Meaningful, heavy silence and the silence revolved around my sexuality,” says Bratton.
He says he started having problems in school and wouldn’t show up for class. The school called his mother to discuss the troubles Bratton was having. “When she confronted me about it, I ended up letting her know what was wrong and my mother’s response was to slap me and say I don’t want a [expletive deleted] in this house,” he says.
After that Bratton decided to leave the house. “In my household, a slap can turn into an hour-long ordeal of violence. I just panicked. I didn’t know what to do and didn’t know how to process it. So I grabbed my book bag, wallet and just left,” he says.
Bratton’s situation is not that uncommon. Every night, more than 1.6 million homeless teens between the ages of 12 and 17 sleep in public areas or shelters in the country. According to a report, LGBT youth make up 40 percent of the homeless youth population.