NATIONAL — Up to 1.6 million young people experience homelessness in the United States every year; forty percent of these youth identify as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender), according to a 2012 study conducted by the Williams Institute at UCLA Law, reports Jaimie Seaton for The Washington Post.
“There are several reasons parents reject their LGBT youth,” said Telaina Eriksen, author of “Unconditional: A Guide to Loving and Supporting Your LGBTQ Child.”
“Sometimes it is based on religion; they think that their child is a sinner or that their child needs to be punished so they see ‘the error of their ways.’ They might think if they force their child to leave their home, their child may return repenting, magically somehow no longer LGBT.”
Ericksen went on to provide other examples; sometimes one parent is more accepting than the other and they might agree to kick a child out of their home to please their spouse or partner, or parents might think that an LGBT child makes them look bad to their peers. “These attitudes can be present in any race, religion or income bracket.”
Eriksen pointed out that these are all problems with the parents, not the children.
“A good way to start is for a parent to think about how they felt when their child was first born; the overwhelming love, sense of awe, and the sense of responsibility and commitment,” Eriksen said.
“My number one piece of advice is to keep the lines of communication open and keep reaffirming your love to your child.”
Truly accepting your child regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation is a crucial first step. But what can LGBTQ+-positive parents do about children who are not their own?
Marcus Pizer, 19, came out as transgender to his parents Penny and Chuck three years ago. After they put in the work to fully come to terms with his transition, they set a new goal: to spread the reaches of their acceptance to youth who were not afforded it by their biological parents.
As a result, Safe Harbor for Trans Teens was born. Safe Harbor for Trans Teens is a not-for-profit foundation that offers a safe space for LGBT teens — including a small Department for Children and Families licensed homeless shelter — where they live, in Burlington, Vt. The shelter can accommodate four teens, and has an ongoing GoFundMe campaign.
Safe Harbor for Trans Teens is based right in the Pizer’s family home.
“I’ve always recognized the privilege that I had,” Marcus told the Washington Post. “Talking to other trans youth online, I heard stories that were heartbreaking about how others haven’t been able to transition safely or be who they are.”
After a long, tumultuous election season, many parents across the nation have doubled-down on transphobic stances as a result of trans rights becoming a hot ticket issue. It is time to accept that unless we start spreading our love and resources beyond our immediate circles, LGBTQ+ youth across the nation will continue to suffer.
Read the full story about how parents can combat LGBTQ+ homelessness at The Washington Post.