Monday, June 04, 2007

Another Homeless Gay Teen

About once every six weeks I get an e-mail about a young person in Connecticut who needs a home because their parents no longer want them in the home because the teen is transgender or bisexual or lesbian or gay or even just questioning. Families are complicated, and no doubt other reasons come into play, but in almost every case the deciding factor to eject the child from the home is because they are too queer for mom or dad.

Robin McHaelen, the director of True Colors, sends out the requests via email. I just received one yesterday about a 16 year old lesbian who needed a home (and as a result of Robin's efforts, the teen has found two homes to choose from!). I just received another request today.
This young man just turned 18. He is bright, responsible, caring and homeless. His mom listened in on the phone last week and heard him come out to someone. The mom's response was to put him out. He has been staying with a friend since then, but can't remain. We would love to find him a place in Windsor Locks or very close so he can finish school (He graduates later this month).
(If you live in Connecticut and are queer, you know how to contact Robin).

My mom spoke to me a few times about parents and how I need to be patient with them around LGBT issues. They grew up in different times when it was not imaginable to be a happy, healthy homosexual. And that most queers get the snot beat out of them every other day. This advice has helped me a great deal when speaking with worried parents who fear their children will end up lonely and unhappy and in trouble. These concerned parents often need to hear new stories to replace the assumptions they have.

But I cannot understand a parent who feels so strongly against same-sex attractions and gender differences that s/he would actually push their child onto the streets. Of course not all parents respond the same way. Some force their children onto the streets, others into ex-gay programs, and others keep their sons and daughters within reach.

A friend of mine in Boston has worked a lot with youth and is a licensed sex educator for the Boston Public School system. She said she noticed a pattern in responses by parents of LGBT children when the parent has a problem with having a queer child.

She said among parents who are white, the response has typically been something like, "You might be gay (or lesbian, etc), but not in MY house!" Then they kick their kids out. The young people stay with friends for awhile, going from house to house, but in many cases they end up on the streets. Among Black parents the response is different: "You are not lesbian (or gay, etc) and you are going NOWHERE." The son or daughter stays in the home, watched carefully and perhaps silenced, but not destitute.

Last week I received an e-mail from a FTM transgender friend of mine. He is still college-age and is only just coming out to his parents. When he shared with them that he is trans and that he hopes to transition, their immediate response was to withdraw all financial support.

Again I understand how a parent may have concerns or be confused or need educating, but to react by impoverishing your offspring troubles me. Is this what we learn from living in a capitalist society that teaches people can and should be manipulated by money? How about talking? How about spending time together trying to understand each others' needs and concerns? Rather some seek to silence, contain and disenfranchise their loved ones..

I wrote about parents and their fears in my post, Can My Gay Child Change? The short answer is YES. If you treat them like dirt, if you disrespect them and push your agenda on them without opening your heart about your real fears and concerns and listening to theirs, your child will grow distant from you and even hostile. Then when they need you the most, (and you need them) you will have positioned yourself far far away.

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At 3:37 PM , Blogger Bruce Garrett said...

About once every six weeks. About once every six weeks. And just in your home state. And presumably just the ones who somehow manage to contact True Colors. I'm sorry, but that's just positively sickening.

At 5:22 PM , Blogger Brady said...

Peterson- it's pretty amazing.

I work in HR at my comany and had a mother come to me to ask for an advance on her paycheck to bail her son out of jail. He was in there for purse snatching.

Her reaction seemed typical. While not all parents would bail their son out, they also don't kick them out for that kind of thing. Somehow being gay is that much worse then being a criminal. People's priorities in life amaze me sometimes

At 1:57 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was homeless for a while during my teens. My parents didn't think think that they kicked me out because I was welcome home as long as I just changed.

Being without a home was the easy part, even if it was during a very cold winter. The hard part was "knowing" my parents was right and that I deserved to sleep in staircases, public restrooms or some bus.

The contempt I and my surroundings grew for me was really deep and still after 10 years I struggle almost daily with accepting that my friends and family actually like me.

At 8:44 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peterson thanks for writing about this, it's a problem I wouldn't have ever thought of. What a great opportunity for the church to be a sanctuary for these teens in a time of need.

At 9:42 AM , Blogger SoulPony said...

all of the bad treatment is about the parent. they are not concerned that their child is gay as much as they are concerned that it is their child. they worry only about how that will reflect on them.

i am too often surprised at how few times children really do come first. how can a woman carry a child in her womb for 9 months and then throw them into the street at any point in their life?

sorry you didn't turn out to fit into the frame of my perfect picture.

i must go some place to scream now.

At 4:37 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

The truly sad part is that the gay community cannot offer more outreach for these teens.

If all of us that could take in one of these kids and those that cant throw just a few dollars at the problem, we could solve this.

At 10:57 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thank you for your post. When I came out as bisexual to my mother and step dad I was fortunate enough to have them accept me for who I am, but I have been reading more and more the last few days about this problem, and I agree with Beltira about fixing this problem.

Personally I just can't understand how a mother would die for her child, yet when they are different would put them on the streets and not give a fig if they died. Just shows how low society is.

My two cents.


At 9:32 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting article. I'm a lesbian, and my parents have threatened to withdraw financial support, and pretty much leave me on my own. I'm about to start my first semester of college. I don't know what I'll do if they go through with it. All they seem to be concerned about is hiding this & pretending it's not real. I just don't understand. I thought being honest with them would help us be closer; coming out has done nothing but alienate me.

At 10:27 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous, ah, I am so sorry that this has been your experience. Ironic and sad that some parents (particularly people of faith) will create an atmosphere where it is desirable to be dishonest about one's self. To be a person of integrity one can get punished.

I do hope they consider listening to various sides and not just an echo chamber that reinforces their worst fears. Not sure if they will read it, but perhaps they will read my essay Can My Gay Child Change?

Thank you for commenting and sharing some of your story.

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At 10:18 PM , Anonymous Avi, Turning Winds said...

"I cannot understand a parent who feels so strongly against same-sex attractions and gender differences that s/he would actually push their child onto the streets."

It's sad that there are parents who do not accept their gay or lesbian teens. I'm sure, if parents are confused, these kids are confused about their sexualities too and pushing them away does not really help.
Maybe it's best for parents to educate themselves on this issue so that it won't be that hard for them to accept who their teens prefer to be.

At 9:43 PM , Anonymous said...

It is hard to understand why the parents of these kids kick them out of the house. It is not the kids' fault that they are born gays or lesbians. This just shows lack of maturity of the parents themselves.

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