Do Better Times Make It Worse For Some Kids? Thinking About LGBT Youth

Some might think this is a bit off topic, but I will take the liberty of including it anyway.    This afternoon I am going to a fundraiser for lesbian and gay kids (teenagers, mostly) who are homeless–generally because they’ve been thrown out onto the street by their very own parents.    (So you see, if there is an excuse for including this in my blog, it is that this is about parents and children.)  It’s a shocking to me that parents would so such a thing, but alas, it does happen.

In so many ways this has been a good year for lesbian and gay people.  I live in Washington, which is one of four states that supported lesbian and gay rights in a state-wide election this past November.   Consistent with that, polls show rising support for allowing same-sex couples access to marriage.  The Supreme Court just took a couple of cases that hold the potential to change the law governing lesbian and gay people in several important respects.  (Of course, there are no guarantees that the Supreme Court will actually reach the issues raised and that, if it does, its decision will enhance lesbian and gay rights.)

So would all this mean that the number of lesbian and gay youth on the streets is declining?   I don’t know (and perhaps I will learn more this afternoon) but it has occurred to me that perhaps it does not.

It seems fairly obvious that that parents who would throw their kids out of their homes because the child says she or he is lesbian or gay feel very strongly that there is something wrong with being lesbian or gay.  And though polling data suggests that this may be a diminishing number of people, my sense is that some of the people who share this view are feeling increasingly besieged.   This might be because they feel that the tide of history runs against them, but for whatever reason, it seems to me that for some the struggle against lesbian and gay rights has become increasingly bitter.   And I wonder if this doesn’t mean that there are some people who are actually more likely to turn their kids out of the house now than they were in the past.

I don’t know, of course, but I wonder.  I suppose this is consistent with a general view I take–that sometimes the situation of specific individuals may be at odds with the situation of a group to which the individual belongs, and that you have to think carefully about the individual as well as about the group.

If I learn more that has bearing here, I’ll come back to the topic.  Otherwise consider this just a small bit of self-indulgence–a chance to articulate something I’ve been wondering about.



17 responses to “Do Better Times Make It Worse For Some Kids? Thinking About LGBT Youth

  1. Sometimes I think that the gay culture devalues biological relationships is partly because so many have been thrown under the bus by their biological families. (coupled with their inability to have their own biological families naturally but perhaps that is secondary.).

    • Ki you devalue biological family when you think the father of a child can just be replaced by a step father.

      • It’s more complicated than that. I think it is true that you devalue the importance of a genetic parent when you teach a child that their parents are the people who love and care for them unconditionally, but as you all know, I’m not persuaded this is a bad thing. I don’t think this means you teach children that the people who love and care for them are interchangeble, but it might well mean that you teach them that there is a difference–and potentially an important one–between genetics and social role.

    • I’m sure there is something to this. Genetically related parents are sometimes very bad social/psychological parents and I’m afraid this is disproportionately so for lesbian and gay kids. It’s not surprising that some of these kids grow up to devalue the importance of those genetic parents. After all, what does it mean to tell children who have been so badly treated that the people who mistreated them are their “real parents?”

  2. Dan Savage has opined that the visibility (and growing acceptance) of gays and lesbians has triggered the increase in teen suicide. When he (and I) went to school, one could be picked on for being gay, but more likely, just for being different.

    Today, with the presence of LGBT people in the media and depicted inTV and movies, one is more likely to be targeted and bullied as gay or lesbian.

    There is defintiely an epidemic of homeless LGBT youth, compunded by kids aging out of foster care.

    Our succeses have produced some unintended, unfortunate consequnces that we need to remedy.

  3. I am from SF where if this sort of thing happened…forget it this sort of thing does not happen in this town because this is where the smart people go to run away from that sort of behavior.

    Julie isn’t it against the law to kick your CHILD out of your home and stop taking care of them? I mean can’t the state compel them to either take care of their children or go to jail?

    Ki and I were just chatting about how some people get stuck with bunk parents and I am asserting that even though they have crappy personalities and bad attitudes their obligation to their child is not erased. Their child still deserves their care and support even after they’ve been kicked out which is why their should be some justice for them. The charity is wonderful but having had their needs attended to by generous and compassionate strangers does not erase the debt that the parent owes them.

    What does this charity do for these kids in terms of going after the parents for money for these kids? Medical Care? Family counseling? Parenting classes for Pete Sake? Wage garnishment. If a parent tells their 14 year old kid to get out because they got caught having sex with a member of the same gender can’t that parent get in trouble? The child is still their responsibility. Genetic Social Adoptive Guardian Foster whatever. I guess your a lawyer and maybe you can get them their justice. If the parents are abusing them they need to go to jail.

    • I would guess most of these kids aren’t “kicked out” of their home so much as they run away from home to escape the heartache and torture they are being subjected to by their parents.

      • Probably true. And I just don’t see that forcing them back into these homes will help. FWIW, the first stage of our local WA project is to figure out what does work/what can help/what we do know. In other words–it’s research to start with because people most emphatically do not have the answers.

    • I think the goal is to find ways to create stable and sustaining environments in which these kids can thrive. That means figuring out what the characteristics of a stable/sustaining environment are. For starters, I think it means the adults around them have to at least be sustaining.

      While I think you may be right about legal obligations of parenthood, I’m not sure the law (or society) can force people to be what they are not. You can punish them, I suppose. But (at least as I’m thinking now) you still need to find a good place for the kids.

      • could they be compelled to provide financial support to a group home safe house kind of thing garnish wages or whatever. Seems like even if your kid runs away it is your job to feed them and there ought to be some way for money to funnel to them on the street some kind of account or credit at youth hostils something even if they are turning tricks or whatever they deserve food. stuff like that the obligation does not stop when the kid walks out.

        • What I’m saying is that we need to send a message to these parents that they don’t get off the hook just because their child is gay. I do think they should be forced to take care of their child wherever their child is in the world even if the child will not come home to them due to bad home life. Some kind of hybred foster system for kids that are too old for foster really or that refuse foster care. These are the kids your dealing with right under 20 on the street not going to go the foster route? I love you for this this is such a worthy way to spend your time I want to cry.

          • Again–it depends by what you mean about “take care of” the child. The financial expenses? That’s one thing. But if the parents are persuaded that the child is broken or evil or whatever, they will only be doing harm to that child. Maybe we should insist on counselling for the parents.

            One other note: CA just enacted a law banning reparative therapy on children. That’s “therapy” generally initiated by parents aimed at “repairing” a child’s sexual orientation. The current situation is quite complicated–there are several lawsuits in progress. Still it seems relevant here.

            • yes. i mean when everything else falls apart and the home is no longer an environment the nearly adult child will tolerate, the parent should not simply be off the hook in terms of providing for their child.

        • It’s one thing to compel financial support and I don’t suppose there is much wrong with that (if the parents have the money). But if the environment at home is toxic to the child, it does nothing good to insist that she/he live with those people.

          • never would I suggest such a thing. I just feel their duty should not end because they were such jerks that their kid left

  4. I had this brother for a while in the early 80’s my mom took in a 18 year old boy she met working on the Finestein mayor campaign. He was to this day the gayest person I have ever known and he was kicked out he was from the deep south and his family were babtist and he joined the Army right away but they kicked him out. He wanted a Mom figure so so badly and my mother just loved him to bits he was such a sweet guy always falling in love and wanting to plan lavish weddings and he wanted to be a Dad some day. He did not have a job he was homeless and I am pretty sure he was a prostitute. He died a long time ago and his picture is still on my Mother’s mantle at her house. Dad was great he rolled with it.

    I forget that there have been times when my mom was actually cool. I don’t give her enough credit. I totally forgot that she did that or I never thought about how compassionate it was how he called her Mom and Dad Dad and me his little sister. You know cause he died out here without them and she made sure it was respectfully taken care of.

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