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Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity as Risk Factors for Homelessness

The Trevor Project, the largest nonprofit LGBTQ crisis intervention organization, has recently released alarming numbers. According to their latest research, 28 percent of queer youth in America have experienced homelessness or a precarious housing situation. Half of all homeless LGBTQ youth have indigenous roots, and about 40 percent define themselves as transgender or non-binary.

Homeless LGBTQ youth are up to four times more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts than queer youth who can be housed. About one in three homeless queer youth have attempted suicide within the last year. This paints a dramatic picture of the lives of young queer people and shows that young people who experience multiple forms of marginalization, such as homophobia, racism, transphobia, and anti-indigenous racism or oppression, are more likely to be pushed out of housing support and become homeless.

"Nothing repairs the damage that typically comes from being rejected by your family, your community or the culture at large.”

The pandemic has made the situation even worse - for more than 80 percent of LGBTQ youth, their housing situation has worsened. Many have been disconnected from their medical and mental health care. Online solutions are a great solution if you're middle class, but if, like most homeless people, you don't have a device or WIFI, or live in housing where you have no privacy to talk to your psychiatrist, not so much. The pandemic and its effects also further increase hopelessness for queer youth, so much so that experts from various bodies fear that the number of suicides could continue to rise.

A recent study by the University of Chicago also confirms that gay, lesbian, and transgender youth are more likely to experience homelessness than heterosexual youth of the same age. The risk is even twice as high. Moreover, they say, the likelihood of violence or even murder is also higher among homeless LGBTQ youth.

For the study, researchers conducted telephone interviews with 26,161 people in a total of 22 counties. In addition, 215 LGBTQ people were interviewed in-depth to better understand their living situation, and again there were startling results. Once again, the analysis showed that LGBTQ youth are about twice as likely to experience homelessness as heterosexual youth of the same age. They are also at higher risk of being victims of street violence. For example, homeless LGBTQ youth are 15% more likely to be victims of physical violence. They are also 18% more likely to sell their bodies to meet their basic needs. They are also ten percent more likely to self-harm.

Homeless LGBTQ people are exposed to multiple forms of discrimination: they may have experienced devaluations or even violence during their coming out and at the same time are exposed to devaluations due to their homelessness: Discrimination and violence within the family are also more common among gay, lesbian, and transgender youth: for example, 64 percent of LGBT youth reported having already experienced discrimination within their family, so coming out as a lesbian, gay, trans, or queer person may well be a potential cause of homelessness, such as when the family of origin deprives the family member of their material, social, and emotional resources. In addition, 60 percent of respondents have had this experience outside the family. This is drastically higher than heterosexual youth, who experience a total of 37 percent both inside and outside the family.

Homelessness is also often associated with the idea of failure - and failure is seen as a deficiency in a highly meritocratic society. As a result, homelessness is also very shameful. A sense of shame can arise when social rules and forms are violated. When certain performance expectations are not met, this can trigger shame, e.g., many people feel ashamed because they are unemployed. However, lesbian, gay, trans, and queer people are confronted with both societal and subcultural rules and norms: for example, the realization of having a sexual orientation or gender identity that deviates from the hetero norm can be shameful or trigger feelings of shame.

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