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Religious Rejection and the Crisis of LGBTQ Youth Homelessness

Photo: Courtesy of Nacho Arteaga

Why are increasing numbers of LGBTQ youths unable to remain in their homes?

What’s to blame?

The answers are not the same among all the young people. The cause may be the family’s poverty. Sometimes it is because of their parents’ mental illness or drug addiction. But the reason we hear most frequently is religious rejection — parents whose religious beliefs cause them to reject their LGBTQ children.

A harmful impulse has swept across some segments of American Christianity. In reaction to our society’s growing understanding and acceptance of the diversities of sexual orientation and gender identity, some Christians are seeking to define their religious freedom as the ability to discriminate against LGBTQ people. Laws have passed in Indiana and Arkansas allowing people to deny equal treatment to LGBTQ persons if they cite their religious beliefs. There are efforts afoot to pass similar laws in numerous other states, and there have been reports that the Trump administration is considering similar measures.

When parents are given the message by political and religious leaders that their religious beliefs should result in the rejection of LGBTQ people, it should come as no surprise that more and more of them respond by rejecting their LGBTQ children.

Humans, not statistics

From my vantage point, this is a tragedy. As many as 200,000 homeless LGBTQ youths are struggling to survive on the streets of our country. It is a terrible thing to see first-hand so many suffer the deprivations, terrors and brutalities that go with homelessness. It is even more painful to see them struggle to cope with the trauma of being shown by their parents that being LGBTQ makes them unworthy of being loved.

In the meantime, what can be done to protect LGBTQ teens from homelessness? The growing number of young people suffering in the streets urgently needs to be housed and fed. There are websites with programs that provide housing and other supportive services to homeless LGBTQ youth across the country. Such programs need your help — whether financial support or the volunteering of your time.

But if we are to address the root cause why LGBTQ youths are driven from their homes, I also ask people of faith to join me in speaking out against the religious rejection of LGBTQ people, wherever it is promoted — be it in the sermons preached in our churches or in the discriminatory laws in our halls of government. In so doing we can begin to challenge a damaging form of hatred that influences parents to reject their children. Every child needs to be protected. Every child needs to be loved. The belief in a God of love should never create a climate where children are harmed.

Carl Siciliano, Founder, Executive Director, Ali Forney Center, [email protected]

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