A Paradox Of Gay Progress

Alex Morris pinpoints it:

Tragically, every step forward for the gay-rights movement creates a false hope of acceptance for certain youth, and therefore a swelling of the homeless-youth population. …

Research done by San Francisco State University’s Family Acceptance Project, which studies and works to prevent health and mental­ health risks facing LGBT youth, empirically confirms what common sense would imply to be true: Highly religious parents are significantly more likely than their less-religious counterparts to reject their children for being gay – a finding that social-service workers believe goes a long way toward explaining why LGBT people make up roughly five percent of the youth population overall, but an estimated 40 percent of the homeless-youth population. The Center for American Progress has reported that there are between 320,000 and 400,000 homeless LGBT youths in the United States.

Meanwhile, as societal advancements have made being gay less stigmatized and gay people more visible – and as the Internet now allows kids to reach beyond their circumscribed social groups for acceptance and support – the average coming-out age has dropped from post-college age in the 1990s to around 16 today, which means that more and more kids are coming out while they’re still economically reliant on their families. The resulting flood of kids who end up on the street, kicked out by parents whose religious beliefs often make them feel compelled to cast out their own offspring (one study estimates that up to 40 percent of LGBT homeless youth leave home due to family rejection), has been called a “hidden epidemic.”

Globally too the paradox is greater. As gay dignity and equality spreads in the West, that very progress provokes a backlash in less developed countries where homophobia still runs deep. My own group, Immigration Equality, has seen applications for asylum sky-rocket in the last couple of years – just as marriage equality becomes more and more entrenched at home. It seems to me we can adjust to this – by recognizing our youth crisis and taking care to try and find safe places for the homeless and young and gay to stay out of trouble, get on PrEP, and be free from violence. We can also expand our asylum policies for LGBT foreigners threatened with death for being themselves.