Victor Lim, HRC Chicago Communications Co-Chair
Today is the MLK Day of Service. Nationwide, today is a way to transform Dr. King's life and teachings into community action to help bring together people, strengthen communities, and meet national challenges. The Human Rights Campaign has chosen to spend this day focusing on LGBT homelessness among LGBT youth, which makes up to 40% of homeless and at-risk youth.
Over the last month the local Chicago HRC partnered with the Broadway Youth Center – a program of the Howard Brown Health Center –on a service project benefiting LGBT homeless youth in our Chicago community. Together donations were gathered from physical drop-off locations and online from an Amazon wish list. This culminated with an event on Saturday, January 17, where volunteers came together to put together the care packages.
The most frequently cited factor contributing to LGBT homelessness was family rejection based on sexual orientation and gender identity, with the second most common reason of being forced out by their parents after coming out. Frequently, homeless LGBT persons have great difficulty finding shelters that accept and respect them. LGBT individuals experiencing homelessness are often at a heightened risk of violence, abuse, and exploitation compared with their heterosexual peers. Transgender people are particularly at physical risk due to a lack of acceptance and are often turned away from shelters and in some cases signs have been posted barring their entrance.
Last week, the Supreme Court made large moves in the marriage equality realm. The LGBT community saw huge excitement and anticipation of celebrations. Although a big win for LGBT equality if passed, people must remember the journey for full equality is still far from over. Too many youths grow up in environments, that some of us experienced firsthand, where their sexuality or gender identity has out-casted them from their communities and families. Regardless of what laws may be passed, the real battle is to ensure that the societal perceptions continue to be changed so that day-to-day interactions can foster an environment that is supportive to LGBT youth and inspire the next generation.
Dr. King had a dream that he hoped we "one day live in a nation where they (his children) will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” We must all hope the same dream can be aspired for our children’s sexuality and gender identity.
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