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AIDS Stigma Taunts Homeless LGBT Youth

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The White House will be convening in Detroit an LGBT conference on housing and homelessness, which as far as I know is the first time such a thing has happened.

No conversation about homelessness among LGBT people can be credible without focusing on the disproportionate impact it has on LGBT youth.

An article at HuffPost Gay Voices does a great job of describing how bad the situation is for LGBT youth on the street.

From the article:

LGBT young people represent a dramatically high proportion of an estimated 600,000 or more homeless youths across the country - between 20 percent and 40 percent, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute. But only about 5 percent of youths identify themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Also in the article, Carl Siciliano, executive director of the Ali Forney Center, which helps homeless LGBT youth in New York City, offers his insights:

ali_forney_center.jpgSiciliano believes there's a new reason for the rising number of LGBT youths seeking shelter. As some states legalize gay marriage and the military welcomes openly gay soldiers, "Many kids think, `Oh, I'm ready to come out,'" he says.

As a result, the average age of young people declaring their sexuality - or at least sharing their doubts about it - has dropped dramatically in recent years to as young as the early teens, according to the Family Acceptance Project.

Some families are not ready for them, nor are segments of society, he says. Each rejection turns into a homeless youth looking for a bed. And there aren't enough.

"These kids are the collateral damage of our cultural wars," Siciliano says.

To think that our progress as a people has also increased the suffering of our youth is beyond words. But I do believe he is correct.

What struck me most in the article as a gay man with HIV who tested positive for the virus at the age of 22 was the slideshow of personal stories from homeless LGBT youth.

From a transgender youth named Paris:

I grew up with my mom in Brooklyn. I came out to her when I was 15. She wasn't happy with it ... She attached all the negative stigmas to being gay. Doing sex work, having AIDS. She was always saying I was going to get AIDS. I wasn't even sexually active ... One day she said she was going to leave me. I thought she was joking, but three days later she packed up and moved.

And from a gay youth named Terrence:

I grew up in Foster Care in Greensboro, N.C. It got bad when people realized I was gay. The staff treated me horribly after that. They would make gay jokes about me and tell me I was going to die of AIDS. You don't treat a 13-year-old kid like that.

AIDS stigma taunts homeless LGBT youth. AIDS stigma taunts all LGBT youth. AIDS stigma taunts all LGBT people. When will LGBT people turn the tables on AIDS stigma?

Oriol on:

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Comments on Oriol R. Gutierrez Jr.'s blog entry "AIDS Stigma Taunts Homeless LGBT Youth"

A double edged sword of feelings surrounds me when I read this article. Finding out at 34 I was poz, learning the art of working within an among my community as it grew and took shape brought challenges. I jumped in with both feet, I was scorned an I was supported. I learned an I grew. I was able after living over 20+ years of with hiv that I was easily capable of caring for an aged relative. Me the guy who was going to die was now able to care for a relative who didn't share my same political convictions. That said an I can't believe I am able to write those true words. I find myself as I write this after reading the article willing to offer space for someone or more than one. I am in a unique situation. I am in NY State, I am still alive, I have two homes one which is seasonal. I took a chance at 17yrs poz to move to St Lawrence County NY on a lake. The economy feel apart. I have learned the importance of community. I can offer safe harbor for a get away, something temporary, something to grow out of. I have safe shelter away from city life, a touch rugged, I have survived, heck my T cells went from under 100 for a decade to almost triple that. I'd love to partner with a person or organization to make something work. I have gotten this far since July of 1989 allowing myself to think outside the box. I love the years I spent in the Greater Hartford Community learning about community and how to participate and try to make a difference. Thanks and prayers to the youth that take a chance.

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This page contains a single entry by Oriol R. Gutierrez Jr. published on March 8, 2012 5:20 PM.

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