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Est. April 5, 2002
December 17, 2015 - Issue 634

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Our Homeless
This Holiday Season

"Our birth, as LGBTQ individuals and as a movement,
mirrors that of Jesus. It comes at a time where there
is still neither room nor tolerance for us - even in
2015 with U.S. Supreme ruling in favor of marriage
equality - in some homes and families."

The holiday season is a difficult time of year for many.

Too often we see the glitz and glamour that this holiday brings, totally missing its spiritual message.The underlying message in celebrating the season is the full embrace of human difference and diversity.

I truly believe if Americans - Christians and non-Christians, alike - stayed more focused on the message and teachings of this holiday season, many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth and young adults would not have the annual angst of searching for a home for the holidays.

Although Christmas is mostly thought of in terms of feasting and celebrating, Jesus’s, birth - like his death - was born of struggle, and that struggle was to be fully accepted. Similarly, when I think of the birth of Jesus, one of the themes that looms large for me is LGBTQ youth and young adult homelessness.

Why homelessness?

Because many of us do not really have a home to go to where we can sit at the family table and be fully out - or if out, fully accepted. As with Mary and Joseph during the time of Jesus’ birth, many of us travel from inn-to-inn to only find there is no room.

"I'm Queer. I'm Homeless. I'm Hungry. I'm Scared. I’m Tired,” was the ad one year by New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth asking the American  public to give the gift of  $10 during the holiday season to help their homeless.

"Every night, thousands of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender youth and young adults are homeless in New York City. Whether they have been kicked out by homophobic families, forced to flee conservative communities, aged out of foster care, or come from families torn apart by poverty, AIDS, drug abuse or eviction, these youth sleep in the City’s parks, on the subway, and in public facilities such as Port Authority and Penn Station,”  New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth website reminded us.

While homelessness of teen and youth populations are often attributed to family neglect, family tragedy, poverty, AIDS, drug abuse, eviction, or being aged out of foster care, our LGBTQ teen and youth populations that are homeless are, first and foremost, if not solely, because of their sexual orientation.

And sadly, it sends a message that these homes rather have no child than a queer child.

According to a 2011 study from Boston’s Children’s Hospital, published online on the “American Journal of Public Health” website it stated that when it comes to the private institution of the home, our LGBTQ youth are disproportionately thrown out of theirs, more often than their heterosexual peers, especially in communities of color like  the African Americans one.

Some years ago when I wrote about  homelessness of African American LGBTQ youth this was a typical type of response I received from an irate blogger who read my piece on “Black Commentator’s” website.

“Given that our resources are tight & these youth are not at all psychologically prepared for our liberation struggle, they are expendable. Such are the realities of war.  It's gonna take all of our resources to salvage the heterosexual youth, who will hopefully form strong, loving, heterosexual relationships & produce healthy children.  This is how we will produce a strong black nation/community.  The dysfunctional youth you are asking us to rescue cannot/will not be able to make the contribution we need, so they are expendable.”

The perception that African American families and communities do not throw away their children because of the much-touted old African adage that espouses black unity, "It takes a village to raise a child," rings false, it seems, when it comes to our LGBTQ youth.

"The high risk of homelessness among sexual minority teens is a serious problem requiring immediate attention," says Heather Corliss, PhD, MPH, of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children’s Hospital. "Teens with a sexual minority orientation are more likely than heterosexual teens to be unaccompanied and homeless rather than part of a homeless family. … these teens face enormous risks and all types of obstacles to succeeding in school and are in need of a great deal of assistance."

In Luke 2:6-7 it states "While they were there the time came for [Mary] to have her baby, and she gave birth to a son - her firstborn. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."

Our birth, as LGBTQ individuals and as a movement, mirrors that of Jesus. It comes at a time where there is still neither room nor tolerance for us - even in 2015 with U.S. Supreme ruling in favor of marriage equality - in some homes and families. 

Unfortunately, many of our homeless LGBTQ youth and young adult across this country this holiday season will not have a queer-friendly shelter to go to. And too many will spend the time alone even where homeless LGBTQ shelters across the country will be open because they gravely miss their families and communities.

As we gear up for this holiday season let us enjoy the time. Let us make home, if not with biological family, then certainly with beloved friends. But let us also not forget the continued struggle of the LGBTQ homeless youth and young adults searching for home for the holidays. Editorial Board member and Columnist, The Rev. Irene Monroe, is a religion columnist, theologian, and public speaker. She is the Coordinator of the African-American Roundtable of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS) at the Pacific School of Religion. A native of Brooklyn, Rev. Monroe is a graduate from Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University, and served as a pastor at an African-American church before coming to Harvard Divinity School for her doctorate as a Ford Fellow. She was recently named to MSNBC’s list of 10 Black Women You Should Know. Reverend Monroe is the author of Let Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow Always: Meditations on Bible Prayers for Not’So’Everyday Moments. As an African-American feminist theologian, she speaks for a sector of society that is frequently invisible. Her website is  Contact the Rev. Monroe and BC. 

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