Black Joy

For LGBTQ+ Youth “Home for the Holidays” isn’t a given

The holidays are often revered as a season for generosity and spending time with the ones you love. But for LGBTQ+ folks who don’t have the luxury of a caring and affirming family it can be extremely difficult.

Ghrey, a Black, Queer, nonbinary person from Texas, shares their experience navigating the holidays, after their family was made aware of their sexuality.

“After being outed by a family member, I spent the holidays with my partner and her family. I was really sad, but that time frame inspired me to figure out how to create a home away from home because they created a home for me when I didn’t know what to do and didn’t feel safe to go around my family.”

In addition to no longer enjoying the holidays with family, Ghrey was also forced out of their childhood home. Luckily, with the support of their partner and friends they found a better living situation.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for all LGBTQ+ folks, particularly youth. LGBTQ+ youth are twice as likely to experience homelessness, and among the most affected are Black and multi-racial LGBTQ+ youth. Additionally, LGBTQ+ youth are overrepresented in the child welfare system, which also puts them at a higher risk of housing instability and homelessness. This experience has a devastating impact on their mental health and well-being.

M. Brooks, a former social services caseworker who is also Queer, discusses the unique obstacles of LGBTQ+ youth in foster care.

“The position calls us to be a support system, and for me, it meant so much more when I could be that for LGBT youth. The challenges [are] of course working within a system that [isn’t sustainable] and can’t truly provide the resources for the care and wellness they need.”

While the system certainly has more work to do when it comes to supporting LGBTQ+ youth and their families, especially those of color, Brooks did her best to provide them with the best possible resources she could.

In addition to social services, which often are very limited in the ways they can show up for LGBTQ+ youth, there are organizations around the country that have taken up the slack by providing emergency shelter, housing assistance and other essential support.

OUTMemphis, a non-profit that serves as a community hub for LGBTQ+ folks, is doing the work of supporting folks in the mid-South. Through their organization, they launched the Metamorphosis Project, a nationally-recognized program for youth 18-24 years old facing homelessness and instability. It is also home to OUTMemphis’s Youth Emergency Center.

Joshua Hall, the Director of Youth Emergency Services at OutMemphis, spent over six years as an educator witnessing some of the issues LGBTQ+ youth faced in school. However, Hall recalls being limited in how he could support LGBTQ+ students who were struggling.

“Teachers are not allowed, legally, to have conversations about gender, sexual identity, sexual orientation… that often leaves Queer youth in very hostile situations [because] they don’t feel safe. They don’t feel heard. They don’t feel seen. . . so it’s a lot more freeing to be in this kind of work, being able to listen to the problems that the youth are going through, and actually being able to take what they’re telling us, and do something about it.”

In discussing whether or not there’s an uptick in LGBTQ+ youth housing crises during the holidays, Hall states that housing is a constant need no matter the time of the year.

“From my experience, it seems to be all the time. Need is there whether it’s May or December or February. There are always youths on the streets looking for housing or couch surfing… but something else really good that’s happening is that the youth that are interacting in the center are building their own kinships. . . and their own support systems and safe spaces outside of here. So, I think it’s good that’s being fostered because it’s often lacking this time of year for the Queer folks in our community, especially Queer youth.”

For those wanting to foster support for LGBTQ+ youth in their own communities, Hall encourages folks to learn about nearby organizations that provide services for LGBTQ+ youth. He also mentions the importance of educating themselves and listening to young people to better understand what they are going through.

There has been some progress on a national level. This year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program which provides funding for youth housing programs across the country. Among their primary objectives related to housing equity, LGBTQ+ youth are identified as a population facing unique barriers to obtaining housing. This is a good first step, but we still have a long way to go.

The housing crises among youth is indicative of a larger problem that restricts the safety of Queer folks. From the persistent attacks on gender-affirming care for Trans youth to the violent and often deadly disruptions to LGBTQ safe spaces, these issues all play a factor when it comes to the well-being of LGBTQ+ youth, and the larger community as a whole. Queer youth deserve safety, community care and most of all joy – and it really begins with us.

If you want to show up for Queer youth in your community, reach out to them, let them tell you exactly what they need, and move accordingly. You can also donate to and volunteer at a local center that caters to marginalized youth.

To get you started, here’s a list of organizations providing services and resources for LGBTQ+ youth facing homelessness and housing instability.

OUTMemphis - The Metamorphosis Project | Memphis, TN

Center on Halsted Youth Housing | Chicago, IL

My Friend’s Place | Los Angeles, CA

Ali Forney Center | New York, NY

Pride Host Homes Program | Philadelphia, PA

Larkin Street Youth Services | San Francisco, CA

Zebra Coalition | Orlando, FL

Danielle Buckingham

Danielle Buckingham

Danielle Buckingham (she/her), affectionately known as Dani Bee, is Reckon’s Black Joy Reporter, and a Chicago-born, Mississippi-raised writer based in Oxford, Mississippi. A 2021 Lambda Literary fellow, her work has been published in MadameNoire, Midnight & Indigo Literary Magazine, Raising Mothers, and elsewhere.

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