LGBT rights persist as a controversial topic politically and culturally, but I wonder if it is really a moral or religious argument at all... It seems to me that the anti-LGBT stance is one born out of disgust, an evolutionary survival mechanism akin to fear and anxiety, the purpose of which is to protect the individual or community from accidental poisoning, spread of disease, etc. Visit the following links for more on this.
Our most primal emotions have been codified into a system of morals upon which legal frameworks and religious doctrine have been constructed. This moral system, conceived at a time when much of our understanding of the world was informed by superstition more so than by science, seems out of sync with our current understanding of science and the physical world in which we live. With LGBT youth representing such a disproportionate fraction of the homeless youth population (20 - 40% nationwide), perhaps it is time for a reexamination of our moral code.
I came across this article in a Reader's Digest magazine the other day. We may be becoming a more tolerant society, but, if this article is any indication, we still have some progress to make. Tragically, I fear that LGBT youths are going to continue to constitute a disproportionate fraction the homeless youth population for some time to come.
Alex Cooper documented her experience in the the book "Saving Alex". The following is from the Saving Alex page on amazon.com
When Alex Cooper was fifteen years old, life was pretty ordinary in her sleepy suburban town and nice Mormon family. At church and at home, Alex was taught that God had a plan for everyone. But something was gnawing at her that made her feel different. These feelings exploded when she met Yvette, a girl who made Alex feel alive in a new way, and with whom Alex would quickly fall in love.
Alex knew she was holding a secret that could shatter her family, her church community, and her life. Yet when this secret couldn’t be hidden any longer, she told her parents that she was gay, and the nightmare began. She was driven from her home in Southern California to Utah, where, against her will, her parents handed her over to fellow Mormons who promised to save Alex from her homosexuality.
For eight harrowing months, Alex was held captive in an unlicensed “residential treatment program” modeled on the many “therapeutic” boot camps scattered across Utah. Alex was physically and verbally abused, and many days she was forced to stand facing a wall wearing a heavy backpack full of rocks. Her captors used faith to punish and terrorize her. With the help of a dedicated legal team in Salt Lake City, Alex eventually escaped and made legal history in Utah by winning the right to live under the law’s protection as an openly gay teenager.
Alex is not alone; the headlines continue to splash stories about gay conversion therapy and rehabilitation centers that promise to “save” teenagers from their sexuality. Saving Alex is a courageous memoir that tells Alex’s story in the hopes that it will bring awareness and justice to this important issue. A bold, inspiring story of one girl’s fight for freedom, acceptance, and truth.
I watched a recording of a PBS show about homelessness in St. Louis, MO, the other day. One of the things they talked about was youth homelessness, and it was mentioned that 40% of the homeless youth in St. Louis identified as being LBGT. I thought this was shocking, considering that LGBT youths constitute only about 7% of the entire youth population.
I attended a Youth Summit in Reno, NV, yesterday. This was kick-off event for an initiative to end youth homelessness in Reno in two years. It is part of a larger Renown Health initiative to improve child health in Reno, NV. You can read the press release here.
A group of us talked about the issue of homeless LGBT youth here in Reno, NV. The published numbers for Reno indicate that about 25% of Reno’s homeless youth identify as being LGBT, but it is believed to be a much higher number. It was explained to me that downtown Reno is a drop-off point for ex-cons being released from prison. So, we have this ex-con community on the streets that make many of the LGBT youth reluctant to identify themselves out of safety concerns (fear of being targeted by the ex-con community).
When I asked why the LGBT youth represent such a disproportionately high fraction of the homeless youth population, I was told it was mostly because their parents put them out of the house for being gay. One man who works with foster kids related the following story to me.
A couple had been foster parents to this girl whose age I do not know, She may have have been a teenager, but was probably younger. They had been living together as a family for a few years, and were nearing the end of the adoption process. They expected to sign the final adoption papers in a matter of weeks.
The foster parents noticed that something was troubling the girl, and asked her what was going on with her. When the girl resisted telling them, the foster parents assured her that she could tell them anything. The girl went on to reveal that she had crush on another girl at school, and thought that she herself might be a lesbian.
The next day, the girl was called to the school office where she was informed that her foster parents had decided not to proceed with the adoption, that they no longer wanted her in their house, and that a social worker would be taking her to a shelter that night.
I thought the story was heartbreaking.
I suppose that love has its limits, and it is sometimes not enough to overcome our ingrained biases and prejudices.
I noticed this girl flying a sign asking for help as I was leaving the Whole Foods parking lot this past weekend. I winced with a bit of pity as I passed by her on my way to the freeway, then I turned around and headed back to the parking lot. I wanted to learn a little bit about her personal story, and how it came to be that she was out there subjecting herself to the shame, humiliation, insults, and the occasional generosity of strangers that certainly has to be a part of the whole panhandling experience. Her very brief story follows.
I didn’t get her name (I’ll call her Hope), but she was twenty-three years old with a three year old child. She was apparently newly single. I presume that the ex-husband/father was out of the picture. Hope was working as a home healthcare aid, but not making enough money to secure an apartment, so she was hotel hopping. Hope didn’t own a car. The lady she worked for owned a car, but did not drive. She let Hope use the car as she needed.
Hope grew up in the Reno area, but her mother had since moved to Alaska. She had grandparents in the area that would occasionally watch the child, but they were older and not in a position take in Hope and her child.
As far as child care was concerned, Hope had a friend who would watch the child when the friend was not in school. When I asked Hope where she thought she might be in a year from now, she said that hoped to find a full-time job or a second job so that she could afford her own place to live.
Hope needed a home – stable housing for her child and herself. I bought her a sandwich.
I'm a frequent NPR listener. I caught part of an interview with Sherry Turkle on my way to work one morning. Sherry Turkle is an MIT researcher who has been studying the digital culture for nearly three decades. She was talking about her now book "Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age".
One thing she said that really caught my attention was that there had been a forty percent decrease in empathy among college students of over the past twenty years. She went on to say that much of this has occurred during the past ten years, and she attributed it to the widespread use of smartphones.
The following is from the radio station's webpage:
"A Pew Research Center study finds that 89 percent of cell phone owners use their phones during social gatherings, yet at the same time, 82 percent of those surveyed said that phones hinder conversations in those situations. In her new book, "Reclaiming Conversation," MIT's Sherry Turkle argues that a lack of face-to-face communication driven by increased smart-phone use is diminishing people's capacity for empathy."
You can listen to the interview here
I was thinking about this on my way to a Mexican restaurant for dinner that night. On my way into the restaurant, I noticed a very pregnant lady standing beside a big pile of stuff. She was in and out of the restaurant several times while I was eating dinner. As I was leaving, I saw her standing by her stuff talking to one of the waitresses. I approached her and offered help. She had apparently been renting a car from the place next door. She had returned there to rent it for another week, but they refused and made her remove all her belongings from the car.
As I approached, she was frantically calling and texting "friends" asking for help. It seemed that no one would come to her rescue. She refused my offer for help, saying the she couldn't trust me because I was a man. I left, but I went back the following morning to see if I could discover what became of her. When I got there, her pile of stuff was gone, but an abandoned sleeping bag had been left behind. It appeared that someone had been huddled there all night long.
I went into the car rental center and asked if they knew what had become of her. The clerk got tight lipped, then said that the lady had some history with the rental company and was on their “do not rent” list. I wondered if the rental agent had felt any empathy at all for the customer as she was turning her out on the street with nowhere to go and no way to get there.
I next went into a paint store in the same shopping strip to inquire about what they knew. They said that the police had been there in the morning talking to the lady for about an hour. They didn't know what happened to the lady nor her stuff, but I couldn't help wondering if being homeless in itself was considered a crime in Sunnyvale, CA.