LGBTQ Connect (by The HIV Story Project)

"Award-winning filmmaker Marc Smolowitz directed & produced this short video for various nonprofit partners in San Francisco that collaborated on the 1st ever LGBTQ Connect - an event designed to help the City’s LGBT Homeless population. It was held on Oct. 7th, 2013 at the SF LGBT Center; hosted by The Mayor’s Office of HOPE, Project Homeless Connect, and AIDS Housing Alliance; Sponsored by Metta Fund, Sass Social Justice Fund of Horizons Foundation, Dignity Fund, Haas, Jr. Foundation"

Why Homelessness Is A Major LGBT Issue

By Scott Keyes on October 24, 2013 at 9:02 am

Sassafras Lowrey

Sassafras Lowrey

Sassafras Lowrey had no choice but to run.

Ze grew up abused, “the recipient of wandering fingers, of broken promises, black eyes, and manipulation.” (Sassafras prefers the gender-neutral pronouns “ze” and “hir.”) When ze came out, at 17, ze wasn’t met with love. Ze was told how to be “fixed.” So, like thousands of LGBT youth every year, Sassafras left.

But the “safe” adults ze ran to also soon asked “if [ze] was over that whole gay thing.” Sassafras wasn’t straight, and because ze wasn’t going to pretend to be, ze found hirself homeless for the second time.

Living on the streets presents enough challenges in and of itself, but it often creates new ones, like when Sassafras was kicked out of hir high school because they had never had a homeless student before and didn’t know how to handle it. (Other parents complained to the administration that ze was “leading their kids down a path to hell.”)

On hir 17th birthday, Sassafras had a home, a family, and an education. On hir 18th, ze had none.

Sassafras’ story is tragically common. As a new report from the Center for American Progress details, LGBT people, especially LGBT youth, are at a far greater risk not only of winding up homeless, but being abused on the streets as well.

This is true even in some of the most tolerant areas of the country.

In San Francisco, for instance, approximately 1 in 6 residents identify as LGBT. Among the city’s 6,436 homeless residents, though, nearly 1 in 3 are LGBT.

There are many reasons why LGBT people are more likely to wind up on the streets.

LGBT youth are coming out earlier than in the past — the average age is now 13. In cases of family rejection, LGBT youth often have nowhere to go.

Other factors can exacerbate problems at home for LGBT youth as well. These include bullying and poor performance in school to drug abuse and mental illness, which occurs more frequently among LGBT youth. In addition, many wind up in the juvenile justice system, instigating a malevolent cycle between jail and the streets.

Though not pleasant for anyone, homelessness can be a particularly tough experience for LGBT individuals. They’re more likely than straight homeless people to have a substance abuse problem. They’re more likely to be robbed, physically attacked, or sexually assaulted. They’re far more likely to have HIV/AIDS.

In fact, homelessness is a major force exacerbating the HIV/AIDS problem, Brad Vanderbilt of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, told ThinkProgress. For many LGBT homeless people, “the push to attend to medical care has to be set aside because the search for housing is the primary concern,” he said. In addition, many LGBT people living on the streets resort to sex work to survive, which increases their risk of contracting disease.

Organizations like Project Homeless Connect and the Family Acceptance Project are working to address the LGBT angle of homelessness. PHC held its first ever LGBT homelessness services fair in San Francisco this month, bringing in dozens of service providers to address the needs of LGBT individuals living without a permanent home. More than 600 people, as well as an additional 400 volunteers, showed up for the all-day event. The Family Acceptance Project, meanwhile, works with families and their LGBT children to decrease the chances of rejection, the leading cause of homelessness among LGBT youth.

For Sassafras, family was what caused hir to be homeless, but it was also what ultimately saved hir. After relocating to Portland, Oregon, ze walked into a queer youth center and found home. “I survived because of the queer family that I created” there, ze wrote. Sassafras went on to write an award-winning novel about the experience, hoping to help the millions of other LGBT people across the country who continue to grapple with homelessness.

REPORT: Antiquated Family Policies Hurt LGBT Families of Color

Our guest bloggers are Jerome Hunt and Aisha C. Moodie-Mills.

Today, a coalition of public policy and family advocacy organizations released “LGBT Families of Color: Facts at a Glance,” which sheds light on the disparate impact of outdated laws and family policies on LGBT families of color and their children. The publication explores the challenges that LGBT Families of color face on a daily basis and dispels the myth often perpetuated in the media that LGBT families are largely white and middle class.

According to “LGBT Families of Color,” there are roughly 2 million children in the United States being raised in LGBT families and 41 percent of these families are people of color. Both black and Latino same-sex couples are more likely to raise children than white same- sex couples. Black lesbians for example are twice as likely to be raising children as their white lesbian counterparts. The report also notes that:

Children of color, in particular, are more likely to be raised in diverse family configurations that include de facto parents and are more likely to be raised by LGBT parents. Therefore, antiquated laws have a disproportionately negative impact on children of color.

An alarming number of LGBT families of color are living in poverty. For example, 32 percent of children being raised by black same-sex couples are living in poverty compared to 7 percent of children raised by married heterosexual white parents. Yet many of these families, simply because they are LGBT, are denied access to safety net programs and federal and state tax benefits that would improve their economic situations.

Read More

Gay kids more likely to be poor
Calls for changes in US law and policy to help gay families out of poverty
Afghanistan worst place in the world for women, but India in top five

And yet US officials claim to have improved the plight of women in Afghanistan…


Survey shows Congo, Pakistan and Somalia also fail females, with rape, poverty and infanticide rife

  • The Guardian, Wednesday 15 June 2011 
  • India-worst-place-women-sunflower A woman works at a sunflower field at Kunwarpur village, east of Allahabad, India. Her country has been ranked the fourth worst in the world for women. Photograph: Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP

    Targeted violence against female public officials, dismal healthcare and desperate poverty make Afghanistan the world’s most dangerous country in which to be born a woman, according to a global survey released on Wednesday.

    The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Pakistan, India and Somalia feature in descending order after Afghanistan in the list of the five worst states, the poll among gender experts shows.

    The appearance of India, a country rapidly developing into an economic super-power, was unexpected. It is ranked as extremely hazardous because of the subcontinent’s high level of female infanticide and sex trafficking.

    Others were less surprised to be on the list. Informed about her country’s inclusion, Somalia’s women’s minister, Maryan Qasim, responded: “I thought Somalia would be first on the list, not fifth.”

    The survey has been compiled by the Thomson Reuters Foundation to mark the launch of a website, TrustLaw Woman, aimed at providing free legal advice for women’s groups around the world.

    High maternal mortality rates, limited access to doctors and a “near total lack of economic rights” render Afghanistan such a threat to its female inhabitants. “Continuing conflict, Nato airstrikes and cultural practices combine to make Afghanistan a very dangerous place for women,” said Antonella Notari, head of Women Change Makers, a group that supports women social entrepreneurs around the world.

    "Women who do attempt to speak out or take on public roles that challenge ingrained gender stereotypes of what is acceptable for women to do or not, such as working as policewomen or news broadcasters, are often intimidated or killed."

    The “staggering levels of sexual violence” in the lawless east of the DRC account for its second place in the list. One recent US study claimed that more than 400,000 women are raped there each year. The UN has called Congo the rape capital of the world.

    "Rights activists say militia groups and soldiers target all ages, including girls as young as three and elderly women," the survey reports, "They are gang raped, raped with bayonets and some have guns shot into their vaginas."

    Pakistan is ranked third on the basis of cultural, tribal and religious practices harmful to women. “These include acid attacks, child and forced marriage and punishment or retribution by stoning or other physical abuse,” the poll finds.

    Divya Bajpai, reproductive health adviser at the International HIV/Aids Alliance, added: “Pakistan has some of the highest rates of dowry murder, so-called honour killings and early marriage.” According to Pakistan’s human rights commission, as many as 1,000 women and girls die in honour killings annually.

    India is the fourth most dangerous country. “India’s central bureau of investigation estimated that in 2009 about 90% of trafficking took place within the country and that there were some 3 million prostitutes, of which about 40% were children,” the survey found.

    Forced marriage and forced labour trafficking add to the dangers for women. “Up to 50 million girls are thought to be ‘missing’ over the past century due to female infanticide and foeticide,”, the UN population fund says, because parents prefer to have young boys rather than girls.

    Somalia, a state in political disintegration, suffers high levels of maternal mortality, rape, female genital mutilation and limited access to education and healthcare.

    Qasim added: “The most dangerous thing a woman in Somalia can do is to become pregnant. When a woman becomes pregnant her life is 50-50 because there is no antenatal care at all. There are no hospitals, no healthcare, no nothing.

    "Add to that the rape cases that happen on a daily basis, and female genital mutilation being done to every single girl in Somalia. Add to that famine and drought. Add to that the fighting [which means] you can die any minute, any day."

    Monique Villa, the chief executive of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, said: “Hidden dangers – like a lack of education or terrible access to healthcare – are as deadly, if not more so, than physical dangers like rape and murder which usually grab the headlines.

    "In Afghanistan, for instance, women have a one in 11 chance of dying in childbirth. In the top five countries, basic human rights are systematically denied to women.

    "Empowering women tackles the very roots of poverty. In the developing world when a woman works, her children are better fed and better educated because they spend their money for their family."

    The survey was based on responses from more than 200 aid professionals, academics, health workers, policymakers, journalists and development specialists chosen for their expertise in gender issues.

    Each country was also ranked in terms of six risk factors including: health, discrimination and lack of access to resources, cultural and religious practices, sexual violence, human trafficking and conflict-related violence.

    In terms of individual risk categories, Afghanistan was deemed to be the most dangerous for health, economic/discrimination and non-sexual violence; the Congo is most plagued by rape and sexual violence; and India has most problems with trafficking.

    "You have to look at all the dangers to women, all the risks women and girls face," said Elisabeth Roesch, who works on gender-based violence for the International Rescue Committee in Washington.

    "If a woman can’t access healthcare because her healthcare isn’t prioritised, that can be a very dangerous situation as well."

    The TrustLaw website has been in existence for some time, linking up local NGOs and social entrepreneurs with established law firms who are prepared to offer legal advice on a pro-bono basis. The groups are vetted by Transparency International.

    More than 450 law firms are already involved including some from China. Among those that have recently benefited have been the charity Riders for Health, which delivers medicine to remote villages, and reviewed its contracts in Nigeria.