We have a crisis in the African American community:
an epidemic of homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender
and queer youth. And they need our help. And like the AIDS epidemic
ravaging the African American community my folks are not addressing
this problem too.
Of course, airing the problem publicly will
be viewed by many in the black community as “airing our dirty laundry” or “putting
our business in the street.” But when 42 percent of the
country's homeless youth identifies as LGBTQ, and approximately
90 percent within this group comprise of African American and
Latino youth from urban enclaves like New York City, Boston,
and Los Angeles, the problem is already on the street. Why? Because
our kids are. And during these summer months their numbers will
According to the National Gay and Lesbian
Task Force report, “Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth: An Epidemic of Homelessness” released
in June 2006 family conflict over youth’s sexual orientation
or gender identity is the primary cause. And because of a lesser
intolerance for bisexual and transgender youth they are disproportionately
at a higher risk of becoming homeless.
And the perception that African American
families and communities do not throw away their children because
of the much touted out
old African adage that espouses black unity,”It takes a
village to raise a child” is false when it comes to our
As a matter of fact, in June 2006 the Ali
Forney Center (AFC), in NYC, the nation's largest LGBTQ youth
homeless services center,
aggressively launched an advertising campaign asking the simple
question: "Would you stop loving your child if you found
out they were gay or lesbian?" Carl Siciliano, Executive
Director of the Ali Forney Center, stated, "Our goal was
to address the rising rate of LGBT youth homelessness, particularly
in communities of color."
Ali Forney, who the center is named after,
was African American who identified as both gay transgender,
and was a throwaway.
Known also as “Luscious” who sometimes referred to
himself as “he” and at other times as “she” Forney
like many throwaways earned his living as a prostitute. However,
once stabilized with a roof over his head Forney spent his remaining
years dedicating his time helping his peers. But on a cold wintry
December night in 1997 at 4 a.m. a still-unidentified assailant
murdered Forney. Like most bisexual and transgender youth they
don’t expect to live a long and fruitful life.
“I believe that one day, the Lord will come back to get
me. Halleluiah.... all my trials and tribulations, they will
all be over. I won’t have to worry about crying and suffering
no more.... because my god, hallelujah is coming back for me.” Forney
recited this poem at his favorite event of the year: Talent Night
at Safe Space, a program homeless youth in NYC.
African American LGBTQ homelessness among
youth also culminates from an ongoing cycle of abuse that homophobia
exact on their
lives that remains unexamined and unaccounted for in the black
community. For example, with Biased Agenda-Driven (aptly abbreviated
as "B.A.D.") science like the seminal text “The
Endangered Black Family: Coping With the Unisexualization and
Coming Extinction of the Black Race” by renown African
American husband and wife scholars Nathan and Julia Hare help
shapes the community's attitude. Their use of fear, shame, misinformation,
and any other means necessary to eradicate homosexuality from
the black community is part and parcel of the type of pseudo-social
science and ex-gay ministries that have taken root in the Black
community. And these homeless youth are merely a small liability
for the greater gain of saving the black heterosexual family.
But the problem of homeless LGBTQ youth in the African American
community does not merely fall in the laps of B.A.D. scientists.
The continued problem of homelessness is both fueled and ignored
by our present administration and the Black Church.
With an administration that believes that restoring a spiritual
foundation to American public life has less to do with government
involvement and more to do with participation of faith-based
groups, Bush slashed needed government programs by calling on
churches and faith-based agencies, at taxpayers' expense, to
provide essential social services that would also impact the
lives and well-being of its LGBTQ citizens.
And with the Black Church whoring for Bush’s
faith-based monies coupled with its particular brand of homophobia
unapologetically and unabashedly closed its doors to its LGBTQ
population. And despite the fact these kids looked to the church
for help these youth have neither a chance nor a prayer for assistance.
However, in spite of the fact, that the church had not a prayer
for Forney, Forney, nonetheless, had his own:
“Whether I’m a man with a dress and a wig, My
God will love me for who I am! I might not walk like I’m
supposed to walk. I might not have sex with whom I’m
supposed to have sex with. My God will love me for who I am!
In the African American community you grow
up hearing your parents admonishing you about disclosing family
secrets with them saying, “ what
goes on in this house, stays in this house!” But many of
them have broken the sacred racial code of silence by throwing
their kids out of the house.
BlackCommentator.com columnist, the Rev.
Irene Monroe is a religion columnist, public theologian, and
speaker. She is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard
Divinity School. As an African American feminist theologian,
she speaks for a sector of society that is frequently invisible.
Her website is www.irenemonroe.com. Click
here to contact the Rev. Monroe.