One of the very first post I wrote on this blog addressed what I see as a form of child abuse: LGBT youth being raised in conservative Christian homes (the same, of course, holds true for conservative Muslim and Jewish homes). The enemies of LGBT rights and equality time and time again claim that gays make unfit parents when the truth is that it is they, the Christofascists and other religious fundamentalists who are unfit. Sadly, even as gays are find increased societal acceptance, religious conservatives continue to disown their gay children and throw them out literally on the streets. Indeed, some reports indicate that the number of homeless LGBT youth is growing. For children under age 18, I believe that such parental behavior ought to result in criminal prosecution of the parents, but unfortunately this almost never happens. A piece in Rolling Stone looks at the moral bankruptcy of religious conservatives and the toll it is taking on literally hundreds of thousands of LGBT youth. Here are highlights:
[Jackie] she got a call from her older brother. "He said, 'Mom and Dad don't want to talk to you, but I'm supposed to tell you what's going to happen,'" Jackie recalls. "And he's like, 'All your cards are going to be shut off, and Mom and Dad want you to take the car and drop it off at this specific location. Your phone's going to last for this much longer. They don't want you coming to the house, and you're not to contact them. You're not going to get any money from them. Nothing. And if you don't return the car, they're going to report it stolen.'
Jackie's story may be distinctive in its particulars, but across America, it is hardly unique. Research done by San Francisco State University's Family Acceptance Project, which studies and works to prevent health and mentalhealth risks facing LGBT youth, empirically confirms what common sense would imply to be true: Highly religious parents are significantly more likely than their less-religious counterparts to reject their children for being gay – a finding that social-service workers believe goes a long way toward explaining why LGBT people make up roughly five percent of the youth population overall, but an estimated 40 percent of the homeless-youth population. The Center for American Progress has reported that there are between 320,000 and 400,000 homeless LGBT youths in the United States. Meanwhile, as societal advancements have made being gay less stigmatized and gay people more visible – and as the Internet now allows kids to reach beyond their circumscribed social groups for acceptance and support – the average coming-out age has dropped from post-college age in the 1990s to around 16 today, which means that more and more kids are coming out while they're still economically reliant on their families. The resulting flood of kids who end up on the street, kicked out by parents whose religious beliefs often make them feel compelled to cast out their own offspring (one study estimates that up to 40 percent of LGBT homeless youth leave home due to family rejection), has been called a "hidden epidemic." Tragically, every step forward for the gay-rights movement creates a false hope of acceptance for certain youth, and therefore a swelling of the homeless-youth population.