And post for today. I'm leaving for Toronto in ten minutes and will be gone for a week, so I won't be posting then. I can't find the full speeches at the demonstration discussed below, so here is just a clip of Lt. Dan Choi's speech. There are more videos and pictures at the sources
The problem is already bad and is about to get worse.
Experts told CBS 2 HD on Monday that hundreds of gay, lesbian and transgender young people are now homeless in New York City because of their sexual orientation.
Community advocates are alarmed at budget cuts that threaten to put some of them back out on the street.
There was a cry for help in Union Square as a small network of homeless shelters for gay, lesbian and transgender youth came under attack -- beset by bigots and budget cuts.
"It's not a lot of money we're talking about and yet it could mean the difference between life and death," NYC Comptroller John Liu said.
Liu is talking about the rise of anti-gay violence like the October attack on Jack Price in the College Point section of Queens that left the young man on the edge of death. Experts said the young, especially, need a safe place to stay.
"A lot of these young people have been kicked out of their homes when they come out to their parents. Their family members don't agree with their sexual orientation or their sexual identity and it's a real problem for these young people," said Nancy Downey of Covenant House.
They all have stories about how those who are different become prey for thugs and bigots.
"They were calling us names and they started chasing us and they had a guns at one point," demonstrator Harmoney Santana said.
"I got kicked in the ribs. I got my jaw broken. I wound up in the hospital for about a week or so," said Tyrell Gorton.
"These guys tried to attack me. It's still out there," added Tyron Smith.
The shelters themselves have been targeted, including one just last week in Astoria. The shelter is locked up tight after midnight so whoever vandalized it took a lot of trouble to jump the fence in the darkness and descend the staircase and leave messages of hate. The words "Gay Center" was written on the wall and then the message "We don't want gays here" was inscribed on the door -- the unmistakable language of bigotry.
Some on Monday night suggested a perfect way to answer that message would be to reverse budget cuts to the shelter program.
At least that was the message from Union Square.
Earlier tonight a large crowd gathered in Union Square for a rally in support of homeless LGBT Youth. Sandra Bernhard opened the event by sharing how in her neighborhood she has often encountered kids who are staying at the Ali Forney Center, a shelter specifically for LGBT youth. “They’re up-beat, they’re smart, they have great potential. Everyone needs a little guidance now and then. It’s up to us to take them in and do some damage control,” she said.
One of the event’s prominent speakers was Lt. Dan Choi, who brought an incredible emotional resonance to the crowd, urging everyone to join him in cheering for LGBT Youth and equality. “I have a message to all the LGBT Youth wondering if it’s worth it to come out,” he said. “You deserve to be treated like a full person. You are my heroes. Say it with me, I am somebody. I am somebody. I am somebody and I deserve full equality right here, right now.”
The damage experienced by LGBT Youth was evident in the statistics alone. NYC Council Member Lewis Fidler cited sobering figures about the number of homeless children in New York City, and added that a significant percentage of these children are LGBT. Putting a face to the numbers were several gay youth who stood up to tell the crowd their story. Most had experienced a similar trajectory. Having grown up in conservative, religious households, when they came out to their parents or guardians they soon found themselves on the street. Organizations working to help LGBT youth like the Ali Forney Center took them in, and now some were even working for the same organizations that had given them a lifeline when they needed it most. A representative from the Center for American Progress, a think tank that is dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through progressive ideas and action, reminded the crowd that while New York City LGBT Youth are fortunate to have resources dedicated to them, the same is not true in many parts of the country. She herself was homeless from the age of 15 to 18 years old, and did not have access to the Internet or resources that could inform her LGBT youth services even existed. For this reason her organization believes the issue of homeless LGBT Youth should be a federal issue.
Another speaker who shed light on the adversity faced by LGBT youth was a woman named Desiree from FIERCE, an organization that builds the leadership and power of LGBTQ youth of color in New York City. Many kids from the group were present in the crowd, and their enthusiasm was tangible as they shouted their approval for Desiree’s impassioned words. She cautioned that many kids are not represented in the statistics and may be homeless in a different sense of the word. “If you feel unsafe at home, have to couch-surf with friends, don’t feel safe to express your sexuality or gender expression at home, you’re at risk,” she said, before leading the crowd in a cheer.
Carl Siciliano, the Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center, closed the event by reminding everyone of a hate crime that occurred last Thursday. Graffiti was sprayed on the outside of the shelter that read, “We don’t want gay people here,” and, “Gay people here.” Carl denounced the crime, and said the crowd today proved we are willing as a community to stand up for LGBT youth and rally against homophobia. While the hate crime upset many of the shelter’s residents, Carl said some were not shocked because at such a young age they had already experienced considerable violence and discrimination. “This is what we as a community have to fight,” he said. “Homophobia is what makes homes hostile to kids, and destroys bonds between families… We have to open our eyes to its effects on LGBT Youth. We have to demand that our youth be protected, it’s our obligation.”
This echoed the words of Council Member Fidler who earlier told the crowd to, “Contact your elected officials. A phone call, a letter, an e-mail. Even one, two, three, four calls or letters is enough sometimes to make them take notice of an issue like this.” Lt. Choi noted that in the course of American history, “Asking never worked.” For immigrants like his parents, or the civil rights movement, “asking” was not what brought about change. “Telling,” he said, was our obligation, to demand from our leaders equal rights and support for the community. “Love is worth it,” he said.
This is the sort of issue I care more about, more than marriage equality anyway, and want to work on. I think the number of beds for homeless youth in Maryland is about six. And that is for all homeless youth, not just the LGBTQ youth. Also requesting tags: homelessness and social welfare.