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For those of us who were old enough and local enough to remember the discussion surrounding Proposition 8 (a state constitutional ammendendent passed in 2008 in opposition to same sex marriage - ultimately ruled unconstitutional), you probably remember that it struck some pretty big cord in our state.
During that same time, downtown in the Horton Plaza 24Hour Fitness, it was a typical day, after a typical workout, and I was psyched for my favorite part of my gym routine - the sauna. It was quiet. I had the sauna to myself. It was one of those amazing moments... until, of course, some guy came in and wanted to chat it up with me after his workout. I don’t know if it was an attempt to hit on me, or just the need to break the silence, but he said out of nowhere, “It’s not that I mind gay people, but what will that do to the children they adopt?” I almost felt bad for him. If it was an attempt to hit on me, he could not have chosen a worse line. “I’m a lot more concerned about straight parents abusing their children than about gay parents loving theirs,” I replied. I meant it. I still mean it. It got awkward. I wasn’t trying to put him in his place, but I’d be lying if I said I was sorry I did.
It’s these kind of archaic beliefs that contribute to things like homelessness in the LGBTQ community, especially among youth. I was surprised while researching this article how difficult it was to find any consistent statistics concerning LGBTQ homelessness. Studies theorize that this has to do with stigma and misrepresentation, especially in places like the Midwest where youth are more likely to conceal their sexuality in religious or conservative communities. Wikipedia estimates it’s somewhere between 11% - 40%, while the general population of LGBTQ youth make up only 10%-15% of the general population. This is a pretty huge discrepancy. LGBTQ kids get kicked out of their homes and experience homelessness at a much higher rate than an overall family becoming homeless due to economic strain. This is because most LGTBQ homelessness is not based on a family’s lack of financial resources, but instead on a parental structure that misunderstands and punishes their children for being LGBTQ. Once homeless, LGTBQ kids are more likely to experience physical and sexual exploitation due to stigmatization and nonconformity. LGTBQ youth are also at a higher risk for increased drug and alcohol use, suicide, an other negative health symptoms once they experience homelessness.