By Sikivu Hutchinson
In Godless Americana I address the epidemic of foster care and homelessness amongst LGBTQ youth of color. African American youth in L.A. County comprise over 30% of foster care youth (and around 26% nationally) and 50% of homeless youth. Nearly 30% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. LGBTQ youth overall are imperiled by homophobia, transphobia, religious discrimination and HIV/AIDS contraction, but LGBTQ youth of color also face considerable risks of racist profiling, criminalization, sexual abuse and predation when they are forced to live on the streets or in foster homes. Unfortunately, the largest homeless youth shelter for 18-24 year olds in the U.S. is run by the Catholic-based Covenant House (which has a history of anti-trans discrimination). The Huffington Post reports:
“Sixto Cancel says his ultra-religious foster family frequently talked about their disdain for his homosexuality at the dinner table, trashed his room and called him homophobic slurs. While he was still a teenager, he says, they kicked him out of their Connecticut home after he had lived there for nearly a decade.
Discrimination against gay and lesbian youths in foster care is prevalent enough around the country that federal health officials sent a letter in 2011 encouraging states to develop training for caseworkers and foster parents on the issue. Advocates in a handful of states including Florida, California, Connecticut, Illinois and Massachusetts have increased efforts to train caseworkers, recruit foster parents and assign mentors. Officials don’t want to force youths to disclose their sexuality, but must try to create environments where they feel safe to come out when ready. Without such support, the federal government memo says, gay and lesbian youths who leave the foster care system can wind up homeless.”
What is the secular community doing to step up and redress these issues that intersect with institutional racism, heterosexist discrimination and economic disenfranchisement?