July 19, 2007 - Issue 238
Black Community’s Throw-away Kids
By the Reverend Irene Monroe
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 soar.
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 LGBTQ youth.
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 has both 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:
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.