Jokes are supposed to be funny. They always start with a setup and then build to a crescendo where the plot twists and the listener bursts out laughing. Last week a "joke" went viral, but no one was left laughing.
The "joke" was a piece titled "PARENTS PUT 16 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER UP FOR ADOPTION AFTER LEARNING SHE IS GAY." It came from a site called Memoirs of DEACON Tyson Bowers III and had previous iterations on The Daily Bleach and Christwire. The site it came from featured other "credible" pieces such as "KENTUCKY MAN SUES MOTHER FOR NOT ABORTING HIM," "DANGERS OF PRIDE WEEK," "STUDY: LESBIANS MORE LIKELY TO EAT FISH," "AFRICAN AMERICAN SCIENTIST INVENT SYNTHETIC WATERMELON" and "GAYS BUILDING SECRET PENILE SHAPED RESORT ISLAND."
The piece was written as humor -- satire -- but none of the 72,000 who shared it took it that way. They believed it to be real.
Who could blame them? The article described the mindset of a homophobic couple from "Southern Carolina" who, upon learning that their daughter is gay, sought to put her up for adoption. Those who believed the story did so because, even though the story is fake, the mindset it describes is painfully and horrifically real.
The story sped through Facebook, and many people posted it, in most cases temporarily, only to take it down again, apologizing for having fallen for the hoax.
The most heart-wrenching thing to observe was the sweet souls who were willing to step up to help. Numerous people sought more information because they were actively looking to adopt the abandoned teen in question.
Here is some news for them, and for those of you who cared about the 16-year-old girl in the fake story: She exists. The story was bogus, the situation was a lie, but she is the truth. She is 16 and 15 and 14. She is lesbian, she is gay, she is bisexual and she is transgender. Her parents did not try to adopt her out; they simply kicked her out of the house and slammed the door behind her. She is our homeless LGBT youth. And not only does she exist, but she accounts for up to 40 percent of all homeless teens, even though only some 3 to 10 percent of all teens are LGBT.
Writer Cathy Kristofferson researched and wrote an important piece in which she paints an accurate and urgent portrait of the LGBT homeless teen. Of the disproportionate rate, she states:
Simple. Youth who come out to their parents are rejected by those parents at a rate of 50%, with 26% immediately thrown out of the house to become instantly homeless and many following soon after as a result of the physical and verbal abuse that ensues after their declaration. Empowered by the gains in equality and acceptance with the heightened visibility the adult gay community has welcomed of late, youth are emboldened to come out at ever-younger ages while still reliant on parents who are a flip of the coin away from rejecting them.Simple factors of 4 tell the story of parental rejection and its effect on queer youth homelessness:
Youth homelessness is bad enough on its own but being queer further compounds the difficulties. Devastating statistics like 62% of queer homeless youth attempt suicide only begin to tell the story of the additional hardship endured when compared with their heterosexual counterparts. Queer youth experiencing homelessness are:
- 2 out of 4 will be rejected by their parents when they come out
- 1 out of 4 will be kicked out by their parents when they come out
- 3 out of 4 homeless queer youth will say parent objections to their orientation led to their homelessness
- 3 times more likely to commit suicide, and 8 times more likely due to parental rejection
- 3 times more likely to turn to prostitution and survival sex
- 6 times higher incidents of mental health and substance abuse issues
- 7 times more likely to experience sexual violence at a much higher risk of victimization by rape, robbery and assault
So, yes, there was an article passed around the other day, and thousands were rightly outraged and cared. The article was a fraud, bur your feelings and mine were not. We need to focus not on the tomfoolery of the Internet but on the why, the reason behind our feelings.
The why is that there are real kids out there who need not only our indignation but our action. Last Christmas I suggested reaching out to them in the spirit of the season. Now I am suggesting it in the spirit of what is right.
If you wanted to adopt the 16-year-old in the story, find the real her and adopt her. If you wanted to send money, start a program or get involved, please do it. If you felt passion, please channel that passion into action.
If we don't, then the unreal story becomes real. It becomes an allegory for the progressive community who chose to adopt out its youth in need. We are better than that. Let's not have the next viral story be ours.