Born this way: Some Statistics on LGBT youth
Think about the last time you were out.
In the produce section at the grocery store.
If you are lucky and live somewhere warm this time of year, maybe you were out at a park or a sandy beach.
All around us in these places, we can see small, tender moments of parents parenting their children, and you can tell a lot about the parent-child bond at the grocery store. When it comes to being a parent, it’s all those little moments – not the graduations or birthday parties or fancy summer vacation – that make the parent-child bond so precious and special.
And crucial to that child as they become an adult.
Sometimes you will see a parent or older adult, maybe a grandma or grandpa, bending down to gently remind a child to be mindful of cars in a busy parking lot.
Sometimes it’s not great parenting, like when fussy toddlers are given mom’s iPhone instead of a toy or a book just so she can get through the grocery store without later requiring a Valium. Not the best parenting, but parenting nonetheless. No judging there. I get it.
There are small moments like when a younger mom or dad will talk to their kids as they go up and down the aisles, kids happy and content or screaming their heads off . Tiny, small moments of caring.
Or, when the kids are older, parents and kids may be picking out together what to make for the week’s meals. Or what the team may want as a post-game snack.
At the park, a mom or dad may be pushing their little one on a swing. Cooing at them as they lift their kids high above their heads as they listen to their little ones shriek with delight.
Or, sitting quietly in a waiting room, a movie theater, on a bus, safely cuddling a child on their lap or supporting a sleepy head on their shoulder.
Every child when they are grown should have a parent or relative or grown up in their life that can look into their eyes and remember the small child that they were during those moments and cherish the adult they are becoming.
How can they not?
That’s not the case for some kids who come out to their parents. No, that’s not the case at all. And I don’t know how they can shed all that cut off their love and close the door.
If your child came out, could you still hold onto those little moments of parenting, and realize they are the same kid inside and who trusted you enough to tell you something that is the core of their identity and now needs your love and parenting more than ever?
My family happened to cross paths with a kid whose family, unfortunately, did not offer that love and support.
Some grim facts and statistics coming up here.
Homelessness in LGBT youth is on the rise. Of all the demographics of why youth become homeless, the group that is seeing the biggest jump is those who come out as LGBT and who are rejected by their parents.
Up to 1.6 million young people experience homelessness in the United States every year. Forty percent of them identify as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender), according to a 2012 study conducted by the Williams Institute at UCLA Law.
According to PFLAGNYC,
- Gay teens are 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide and 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection.
- LGBT youth who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence are three times more likely to use illegal drugs.
- Half of gay males experience a negative parental reaction when they come out and in 26% of those cases the youth was thrown out of the home.
- Studies indicate that between 25% and 50% of homeless youth are LGBT and on the streets because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- LGBT youth are overrepresented in foster care, juvenile detention, and among homeless youth.
Whatever happened between Jonah and us this year, and whatever will happen one day, I regret nothing, because I wasn’t having any of that on my watch if I could help it.
What I of me was not a statistic. What I had in front of me was a shattered heart.
On a warm afternoon in May, what should have been the beginning of a night of celebration for district-wide extracurricular success, I didn’t need statistics to show me what parental rejection does.
All the proof I needed was that I had a 18-year-old who was crying as he sat on the side of a bed.
The bed that belonged to my son who had given it up, along with his room to live in the basement for the summer, because this kid did not or would not live with his father because he did not feel safe. Or loved.
I had a kid, who after finding out his father had called me to have a rather unpleasant conversation with me, just upon hearing his father’s voice coming from the receiver for under a minute, that was all it took to set him off.
What does he want from me?
He had just been accepted with a full scholarship to three prestigious colleges.
I can’t help it.
My son and I sat with him on the bed trying to calm him down as he shook and cried. It took a full 30 minutes before we could all pull it together and get on with our evening’s plans.
I did not choose to be this way. I did nothing wrong. Why won’t he just leave me alone?