Home > Advocacy, Awareness, LGBT News > Give someone a reason to give thanks this Thanksgiving! :: Release Dorothy!

Give someone a reason to give thanks this Thanksgiving! :: Release Dorothy!

November 23, 2010



As my partner and I were driving home from work this afternoon our conversation turned to Thanksgiving.  Talk of Turkey Day’s past, favorite foods and traditions inevitably followed.  All great memories, and I started getting hungry just thinking about the indulgences of our American holiday.  Shortly afterwards, I started to get a sinking feeling in my stomach.  As much as I and many American’s love the holiday and the comfort of good food, friends and family there are manyLGBT folks who’s day is less festive.  I was reminded of some excerpts of local articles I’ve recently read about LGBT youths in my adopted state of Utah:

LGBT youths who experience high levels of family rejection are eight times more likely to attempt suicide, six times more likely to experience depression and three times more likely to use illegal drugs than those who don’t, according to Ryan’s research, which has been published in the medical journal Pediatrics.  via Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons.

Throw Away Kids:

Nationally, between 20 and 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, according to a January 2007 report released by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. In 2007 these numbers held true for Utah according to a survey the Homeless Youth Resource Center, conducted of its drop-in clients. But in January and February 2008 something strange happened: the numbers jumped to slightly over 50 percent.

“We have an estimated 3,000 homeless youths in this state. Roughly 900 to 1,200 are self-identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” Metzler, a transgender woman who has herself been homeless for the past 11 months, wrote in a Deseret News letter to the editor on Aug 7. “Many are forced to escape from a home plagued with abuse and hate. At some point parents must be held accountable for throwing their children’s lives into chaos.” via ‘Throw-Away Kids’ : QSaltLake – Utah’s Gay and Lesbian News and Entertainment Magazine.

If these numbers aren’t bad enough LGBT youths have little choice but to engage in ” Survival Sex”

40-60 percent of homeless youth have experienced physical abuse and 17-35 percent have experienced sexual abuse. These young people are much more vulnerable to survival sex, prostitution, and sexual exploitation.

Homeless girls face a significantly greater risk of being raped or assaulted than homeless boys.

Sexually exploited youth rarely report their situation or ask for help.

LGBTQ homeless youth experience are at a greater risk of sexual exploitation than non-LGBTQ homeless youth.

Long-term psychological effects from sexual exploitation are more likely the longer a youth remains on the street following an assault.

Sexual exploitation of homeless youth is not a city or coastal issue – research shows it is just as common in rural and Midwestern communities.

One study noted that of the youth engaging in survival sex, 48 percent reported exchanging sex for housing or food, 22 percent traded sex for drugs, and 82 percent traded sex for money.

If these numbers don’t trouble you, then maybe this will: the research brief concludes by pointing to the complete lack of community-based resources for victimized homeless runaway youth. In other words, their plight is largely unknown by most of America and there are few specialized services to help them.via Homeless Youth and Survival Sex | Poverty in America | Change.org.

Even among the ‘It Gets Better’ crowd, these LGBT youths are falling through the cracks.  There’s limited LGBT youth resources available because of protective state laws who’s intent is admirable, but in practice often does more harm than good.  In 2008 it became a 3rd degree felony thanks to former Governor Huntsman to parents to abandon their children.  However, what’s worse? Living on the street, or returning to a home where you’re not wanted and who knows the atrocities occuring behind closed doors. 

The good news in all this sad and drepressing news is that there are places that can help.  For instance, on a holiday which should be full of inclusion around caring loving people Utah pride Center is there to help:

Looking for some where to call home this Thanksgiving? The Utah Pride Center with the help of donations from the community are sponsoring the holiday for our LGBTQ family right here at the Utah Pride Center. We will have a scrumptious meal, games, movies and a fun time with great friends! Meal will be served from 1:00 – 3:00pm. To donate, volunteer, or attend please contact volunteer@utahpridecenter.org

via Utah Pride Center | The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Community Center – Feast with our Family- Thanksgiving 2010.

If you are alone, and no family or friends to celebrate Thanks, visit the Utah Pride Center.  It’s a great resource for Thanks Giving, and any day of the year you need help.

For those of us more fortunate, maybe it’s time to stop, take a look around, and make an impact.  I’m not saying you need to start an outreach center, but look out for your fellow human being. 

Earlier this summer I recall stopping by my local Seven Eleven to grab a few items.  I was approached by a youth who obviously had limited financial means, and he asked me for some change.  I graciously apologized as I rarely carry any cash these days.  He gave me a grimmace and I walked into the store. 

When I returned, he was still there.  I stopped, and I looked at him and asked “so why exactly do you need change?” In the back of my mind I was assuming the natural teenage vices… cigarettes, alcohol, maybe candy.  He said, I need it for gas.  I looked at him and said gas huh.. he said yeah, I ran out.  I looked at him and said come on in with me.  I went to the ATM and withdrew 20 dollars.  I gave it to him and asked him if that would be enough.  He looked at me in shock.  He thanked me and left the store. 

When I walked out, he was no where to be found.  I thought, Mr. Phil, you my friend just got scammed.  I shrugged it off, and got in my car. As I was backing  my car out of the parking spot I noticed an older car in disrepair pulling up to the pump.  Out came the boy I’d given the 20 dollars to, and he began filling up his car.  I pulled up next to him and asked if that was going to suffice or if he needed more.  He looked at me and said no sir, you’ve done more for me than the past 50 people who’d  walked by him and he thanked me once again for the help. 

As I pulled away, I have to admit, I felt good for a moment, then I realized, I hope that if I’m ever in that position, that someone would do the same for me.  I’m not ashame to say that I cried right then and there.  I cried because 50 people walked by him, mistrusted him the same way I did initially, and didn’t take a chance on our youth.

The bottom line is that chartity is a one on one experiment.  Sometimes you make an impact, sometimes you might get taken.. but who are we to judge which act will have the greattest impact, either immediately or long-term.

As we begin a holiday season full of food, fun, friends and family. Take a moment to look around you, recognize those who aren’t fortunate enough to enjoy the same privileges and help your fellow man, youth and LGBT person in distress.  It’ll pay back 1000 times over your lifetime, and if your lucky, far beyond…

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  May your day be everything you want it to be, regardless of where you’re at in your life.

Peace- Phil