There’s a video currently making the rounds on the internet that highlights what many gay youth face when they come out to their families.
The video is called “How not to react when your child tells you he’s gay.” In it, a 20-year-old man has a hidden camera running and has told his parents he is gay. His mother says she has always known and then derides him, tells him to leave if he is going to continue to choose to be gay, screams at him. The situation escalates into physical violence from at least one adult and hate speech from two or three of the adults there. It’s hard to watch, and if those things are triggering, I urge you strongly to think before clicking play.
So why is it even here?
The video has received over a million views. This means that a graphic depiction of the reality for many gay teens and young adults is being seen. It’s being talked about. It’s not being politely ignored. There are questions if this video is authentic. I think that’s less relevant than this: the situation is real. Every day, all over the world, GLBTQ youth are turned out for being who they are, if they aren’t faced with abuse at home first.
In the US, blame is frequently heaped on the South or small towns, but young people are rejected by their families in urban centers, wealthy suburbs, blue collar homes, anywhere that people are.
Hate, fear, and bigotry don’t see geography or bank accounts.
Imagine being 14, or 16, or 20, and fearing daily for your safety, not just at school but at home. And then maybe like the young man in the video, when you think you’ve gotten to a place of support and love, you become a discard.
It happens. Every day.
GLBTQ teens make up a high percentage of homeless youth in America, about 40%, with 68% of those reporting that family rejection was a major factor in their homelessness, and 54% reporting abuse. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, “Once homeless, LGBTQ youth experience higher rates of physical and sexual assault and higher incidence of mental health problems and unsafe sexual behaviors than heterosexual homeless youth. LGB homeless youth are twice as likely to attempt suicide (62 percent) as their heterosexual homeless peers (29 percent). This population is at an increased risk for physical and mental illness, with a reported attempted suicide rate almost double that of their heterosexual homeless peers.”
Part of the problem is the lack of resources for shelter and treatment for homeless youth, including the very real possibility of mistreatment and discrimination at shelter and residential facilties. Without a stable place to live, these teens are more likely to be victims of crime, turn to whatever means of survival they can, and become homeless GLTBQ adults.
While progress is being made to make services better and more available to GLBTQ youth who are or at risk of becoming homeless, change needs to begin closest to where they are – in their schools and communities.
Some kids are lucky and find couches to crash on, or a home to take them in.
Reprinted with permission from The Good Men Project.