KCRW and Rolling Stone focus on rising LGBT youth homelessness

KCRW's radio talk show, To The Point, recently featured a conversation about the epidemic of homelessness facing LGBT youth in the United States, despite apparent growing acceptance for LGBT people in general. The episode was based off an article in this month's issue of Rolling Stone Magazine on the same topic. To The Point's host Warren Onley was joined by Alex Morris, author of the Rolling Stone article; Carl Siciliano, executive director of the Ali Forney Center; Wendy Montgomery, an LGBT-affirming Mormon parent; and Dr. Caitlin Ryan, director of San Francisco State University's Family Acceptance Project.

The show began by recounting the story of Daniel Pierce, a 20-year-old gay man who came out to his religious family, only to be verbally and physically attacked by them. Pierce recorded a video of the incident and posted it online, where it quickly when viral. He received over $100,000 in donations to help support him after he was kicked out by his family, but for many LGBT youth who face similarly devastating reactions from their families, the result is homelessness.

In Morris's Rolling Stone article, Jackie, now a 24-year-old, was cut off emotionally and financially from her family in her sophomore year of college after telling them she is gay. Hannah was 20 when she found a police officer standing at her bedroom door in her family's home, saying she was no longer welcome there. And Luke, the son of a conservative Pentecostal preacher who grew up in a remote area of Tennessee, travelled three days on a train away from everything he had ever known to live in a youth shelter on the West Coast.

Carl Siciliano, a former Benedictine monk-in-training, emphasized in the article and on To The Point that the lack of resources for LGBT homeless youth, and homeless youth in general, is a huge issue. "I don't think that we as a movement have put enough attention into how homophobia can create destitution," Siciliano told Onley. "There are at least 200,000 homeless LGBT youth in this country…and there are only 350 beds dedicated to homeless LGBT youth, and there only 4,000 beds in the whole country dedicated to homeless youth. There's a shameful, shameful lack of fighting for resources to protect our kids. And it's not just the LGBT community."

Later on To The Point, Montgomery spoke about accepting her gay son after he came out, saying, "It was pretty difficult, growing up in a really devout, conservative, multi-generational Mormon home, I had some pretty negative stereotypes and ideas in my head of what it meant to be gay… So, I reassured him as much as I knew how, but inside I was just falling apart because I had no frame of reference for understanding this." When Montgomery didn't find helpful information on LGBT people from the Mormon religious leaders she had turned to her whole life, she looked elsewhere and came across Dr. Caitlin Ryan's work with the Family Acceptance Project. "I can tell you that it felt like sunshine in the middle of the darkest period of my life," she told Onley.

Ryan joined the conversation to talk about the work of the Family Acceptance Project, saying, "Our aim in doing this project was to develop an entirely new family-based approach that helps support LGBT young people in the context of their families' values and beliefs, including their religious beliefs." She added, "Our work is designed to intervene at three phases, one to go upstream when children are little to give families accurate information about sexual orientation and gender identity… We also intervene when conflict emerges and, in fact, with situations like Jackie and Daniel's where the family has been fractured, to help reconnect families after the young people end up out of the home."

You can read the Rolling Stone article here and listen to the full story from KCRW's To The Point here.

GLAAD is working with the National Campaign for Youth Shelter. In June, the campaign held a rally in New York City's Washington Square Park. The campaign is being led by the Ali Forney Center and the National Coalition for the Homeless. Additionally, films like Road to Home and Pier Kids: The Life have sought to tell the stories of LGBT homeless youth. To join the National Campaign for Youth Shelter, visit their web site.