LGBT Immigrant Youth Face Increased Risk of Homelessness

Imagine moving to a new country with your family in pursuit of a better life, only to have your parents disown you and make you homeless when they find out about your sexuality or gender identity.

This is the focus of a recent Feet in Two Worlds feature that catalogs in moving detail the personal stories of gay immigrant youth who have been made homeless due to their sexuality.

Feet in Two Worlds
is an organization that tells the stories of today’s immigrant communities, and over the passed week the site has highlighted the very serious problem of LGBT immigrant youth in New York who are being made homeless after admitting their sexual orientation or gender identity to their families and their communities.

Often, LGBT immigrant youth are especially vulnerable in this regard because, while homelessness is a pervasive issue for all LGBTs, LGBTs from immigrant communities often lack support systems such as other family members that they can turn to or friends that are in a position to give them shelter and help.

From the Feet in Two Worlds article:

The most recent survey of runaway and homeless youth in New York estimates that, each night, a minimum of 3,800 youth are homeless, more than half of whom identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Within the overall homeless youth population, 15 percent were born outside of the U.S. mainland.  Advocates say much of the immigrant homeless youth population identifies as lesbian, gay, transgender or bisexual (LGBT).

Jim Bolas with the Empire State Coalition of Youth and Family Services led the 2007 survey of homeless youth.

“I think immigrant youth are going to be disproportionately affected because they have less resources elsewhere. I do think that immigrant youth have an additional challenge that even other homeless youth don’t face,” Bolas said.

For gay immigrant youth, poverty and lack of support from their families and immigrant communities make them particularly vulnerable to becoming – and staying – homeless.  Margo Hirsch of the Empire State Coalition described the risks faced by these young people as a combination of poverty, cultural homophobia, religion, and a lack of community support systems.

When young LGBT people come to the U.S. and are offered the opportunity to be open about their sexuality, their families often do not follow suit, relying on behaviors and attitudes from their home countries where homosexuality may be taboo, or even violently repressed.

The article uses personal stories to relate how vital New York’s homeless programs are for LGBT immigrant youth looking to turn their lives around, and this is an example of how fortunate it was that, earlier this year, proposed cuts to New York’s youth homeless programs were dropped.

The article also details the challenges that homeless youth face and the dangers they are subjected to after being made homeless, such as feeling they have no other choice than resorting to sex work in order to feed and clothe themselves.

The Federal Response to Gay and Transgender Homeless Youth report published in 2010 found that 44% of gay or trans homeless youth would be asked to exchange sex for money, food, drugs, shelter, or clothes, compared to 26% of straight homeless youth. The report also found that 58% of homeless gay and transgender youth had been sexually assaulted, compared to 33% of homeless heterosexual youth.

While the Feet in Two Worlds article focuses on the stories of gay immigrant youth, we know that transgender people are especially vulnerable when it comes to issues like joblessness and poverty and it follows that immigrant trans youth would suffer under this same disproportionate burden.

A study published last month by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that almost half of the trans people surveyed had attempted suicide, that they had double the rate of unemployment and were four times likely to live in extreme poverty. You can read more about the study’s findings here.

Finally, you can read the full Feet in Two Worlds article here and see videos of homeless teens telling their personal stories.

Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to brainchildvn.


Kai Steeves
Kai S6 years ago

As a transgendered youth, I know all too well the struggles of finding a job. I've went to job interviews that I was qualified for, but they would just look over my androgynous clothing (since I refuse to wear dresses or skirts just to get a job) and then send me on my way, sometimes without even the pretense of continuing the interview. I try to hide that I'm transgender during interviews, but unfortunately, besides wearing extremely feminine clothing, they always notice something off. And I swore I'd never wear another dress or skirt in an effort to pretend ever again. I done that for too many years.

I can only imagine how much harder it would be if I was an immigrant, no family support, perhaps not being able to speak good English, or any English at all. It makes me extremely grateful that despite the trouble I have in finding jobs, I have a great family that I can count on.

Antonia M.
Antonia maestre6 years ago

‎"The right to do something DOES NOT mean that doing it is right."
-William Safire

Emily Drew
Emily Drew6 years ago

It makes me so sick. Will we ever be the country where all men are created equal? I really hope so but right now it seems so far out of reach. But i will not give up.

Ellen Mccabe
Ellen m6 years ago

The lonliness and hopelessness these poor kids must feel makes me weep, and strengthens my commitment to do what I can to end homophobia and strengthening LGBT rights is the first step in a much bigger picture.

Masha Samoilova
Past Member 6 years ago

So sad it has to be so difficult for them.

Katherine S.
Katherine S6 years ago

how can people do this to their own children because of something so trivial?
just let them be who they are and continue to love them for it, being LGBT does not change the person you were before telling someone, that person is still the same and should not be discriminated against for it!!

Don Go
Don Go6 years ago

Sometimes I wonder how human beings can be so...inhuman. Discarding their children because they dont like how they turned out...but then is it easy for me to say, since I'm neither in the closet nor caring if I would have children who would? I just dont understand. I wish I did. I can never ever wrap my head around how being different becomes a reason to exile you.

Susanne R.
Susanne R6 years ago

As a parent and grandparent, I can't for the life of me understand how you can abandon a child you brought into this world, raised and loved because of something over which they have no control --their sexual orientation. Is that all it takes to turn your back on someone you once would have given your own life for? I don't know what causes this kind of behavior, and I'm not even sure that educating these people would make a difference --unless they believe that sexual preference is actually a choice. Perhaps the answer lies in their places of worship. If their religious leaders taught tolerance and acceptance, perhaps these parents would realize their shame is misdirected because they shouldn't be ashamed of their children. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Lin Moy
Lin M6 years ago

Read, thanks

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman6 years ago

noted :0