One of the most pervasive risks LGBT youth face today is the threat of being thrown out of their homes because of their sexual orientation. According to a Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey, one in four teens that identify as lesbian or gay are homeless. Of the estimated 575,000 to 2.8 million youth that are homeless each year, between 20 percent and 40 percent identify as LGBT. While youth homelessness is most often attributed to neglect, family tragedy, poverty, and addiction, most LGBT youth populations attribute their homelessness directly to their sexual orientation. This suggests that these parents and families would rather have no child than a gay child.
This abandonment, in addition to the general rejection and victimization experienced generally by LGBT persons in the United States, is compounded by the fact that LGBT homeless youth are more at risk for physical and sexual abuse, survival sex, mental health issues, and substance abuse. The legislative, organizational, and agency-based responses to LGBT youth homelessness have improved the lives of thousands of minors over the past thirty years, but current remedies are not meeting the needs of this unique and vulnerable population. While the law presumes that parents will try to preserve what it is in the best interests of their children, this presumption is not enough to protect LGBT children. Because all minors are subject to extensive legal disabilities, mistreated children are often unable to get the recourse they need to mitigate their abandonment. Comprehensive institutional change will be needed to tackle this increasing problem, but allowing abandoned LGBT minors to petition the court for partial emancipation and financial support from their parents through already existing state and welfare structures is the right place to start.
"Thrown Away for Being Gay: The Abandonment of LGBT Youth and Their Lack of Legal Recourse,"
Indiana Journal of Law and Social Equality:
2, Article 5.
Available at: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/ijlse/vol3/iss2/5