The dire consequences o stigma and discrimination or gay* andtransgender homeless youth
Homelessness disrupts a young person’s normal development, otenleading to issues in mental and physical health, educational attainment,and behavior. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth who arehomeless must ace these challenges on top o social stigma, discrimi-nation, and requently rejection by their amilies.
The ailure o criticalamily and social saety nets to support these youth has catastrophicconsequences on their economic stability, educational attainment, physi-cal and mental health, economic uture, and lie expectancy.
Family rejection causing more suicide attempts among gay and trans-gender youth
Family rejection o gay and transgender youth oten leads to attemptedsuicide. According to a 2009 study, gay youth who reported higher levelso amily rejection in adolescence were 8.4 times more likely to haveattempted suicide than their gay peers who did not experience amilyrejection. They were also 5.9 times as likely to have experienced depres-sion, 3.4 times as likely to have used illicit drugs, and 3.4 times as likely tohave had unprotected sex.
Suicide becomes more o a danger when a gay and/or transgender youthbecomes homeless. Sixty-two percent o gay and transgender home-less youth attempt suicide compared to 29 percent o their heterosexualhomeless peers.
Lower educational attainment or gay and transgender homeless youth
Once gay and transgender youth become homeless, barriers to ree andappropriate education arise. Not only do gay and transgender homelessyouth have to deal with the harassment and discrimination associatedwith being gay and/or transgender, but they are presented with new ob-stacles to overcome due to being homeless.
Despite ederal laws in placeprotecting homeless youth’s right to public education, residency require-ments, guardianship requirements, lack o transportation, and access tohealth and other records can still prevent homeless youth rom receivinga ree public education.
Moreover, homelessness hampers academicachievement due to requent school transers, lack o quiet, sae places tostudy, and hunger.
Due to these and other actors, both gay and transgender homelessyouth and homeless youth on the whole are reported to have highdropout rates,
with one 2008 New York study o homeless youth ndingthat hal o their respondents were high school dropouts.
Additionally,The Ruth Ellis Center, an organization that exclusively serves gay andtransgender homeless youth in Detroit, reported in 2006 that more than60 percent o their high school age youth population had dropped out o school due to bullying or discrimination.
These educational challenges can have ramications throughout ayouth’s lie. It is impossible to know how much potential is lost whena homeless youth struggles and drops out o high school. A strategicinvestment in these youth could yield savings when they are productivemembers o the uture workorce.
Physical and sexual assault sufered by gay and transgender home-less youth
Without the protection o a amily, homeless youth are at risk o physi-cal abuse and sexual exploitation. Thirty-three percent o heterosexualhomeless youth in Midwestern cities reported experiencing sexualvictimization,
and another study ound that 26 percent o heterosexualyouth were asked by someone on the street to exchange sex or money,ood, drugs, shelter, or clothes.
Gay and transgender homeless youth are more requently targeted or thiskind o greater physical abuse and sexual exploitation. A ull 58 percent o gay homeless youth in those Midwestern cities had been sexually victim-ized.
And 44 percent o homeless gay youth reported being approachedto engage in sex in order to meet their basic needs.
Mental health risks or gay and transgender homeless youth
The instability o homelessness causes physical and emotional stress orhomeless youth. When combined with the stigma o a gay and/or trans-gender identity, this stress can cause youth to experience mental illness. A2004 study o homeless youth ound that gay homeless youth were morelikely to suer rom major depression than heterosexual homeless youth,and lesbian homeless youth were more likely to have post-traumatic-stresssyndrome than heterosexual homeless young women.
Depression and low sel-respect can also lead youth to engage in riskybehaviors, such as drug use or unsae sex. A 2006 study ound that 42percent o gay homeless youth abuse alcohol compared to 27 percento heterosexual youth.
The study also ound that injection-drug use issignicantly more common or gay homeless youth than heterosexualhomeless youth.
Homeless gay and transgender youth also reporthigher rates o unprotected sex than heterosexual homeless youth,
aswell as higher rates o HIV inection than heterosexual youth.
* In this report the term gay is used as an umbrella term or all youth who identiy as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or queer.