"I don't care who you worship or what you believe. I don't care who you sleep with. If you are helping hurting people, you're my friend and I will support you". ~ Mark Horvath
Homelessness is a critical issue for transgender people, with one in five having experienced homelessness at some time in their lives because of discrimination and family rejection. As a result, an estimated 20-40 percent of the more than 1.6 million homeless youth in the United States are members of the LGBT community. Unfortunately, transgender people facing homelessness also face discrimination from agencies that should be helping them. Nearly one in three (29 percent) report being turned away from a shelter due to their transgender status, according to Think Progress.
As many of you know, I love and support any group of people who are discriminated against and that are not given the same opportunities the rest of us take for granted. When I started to work with homeless people, and really started to research homelessness, my heart just broke for our LGBT friends. As a Christian, I blogged about why I support gay rights a few times [ My new gay friend and Why I Support Gay Rights]. To me, it's a human rights issue. I get so mad when I hear how many of our LGBT friends are treated poorly just because they are trying to be themselves! We are all HUMAN and we should treat all other humans with respect. Sadly, that is not the case. More often than not, a transgender person is forced into sex work as the only means to survive. Often that leads to jail, which leads to homelessness. Once homeless, LGBT people are discriminated by other homeless people and staff at homeless shelters.
This past week I was honored to be asked to speak at TRANS: THRIVE. I didn't know I was to speak until I arrived and Erin introduced me to a room of maybe 20 new transgender friends. I didn't know what to say. There is no way I could even fathom the pain and suffering each one of my new friends experiences on a daily basis. I said a few words as to why I was there, and explained my work. I then asked for the room to teach me about transgender homelessness.
What happened next was gorgeous. I mean, I think it's gorgeous when any group of people take off their masks and become intentionally vulnerable. The stories I heard that day forever changed me. I knew of the discrimination, but this was my first time listening to people share how they were abused and what they had to do everyday to survive.
The following interview is with Nikki "Tita Aida" Calma, Program Supervisor:
The following interview is with Erin Armstrong. Erin is the program coordinator for TRANS: THRIVE and also video blogs under the name Grishno. I have huge, crazy respect for Erin. It's not easy video blogging period, but Erin has decided to use YouTube as an activist tool somewhat like what I do to fight homelessness.
I am grateful to TRANS: THRIVE for allowing me to join their community for a few hours. As you saw, I cried in the videos, I cried that night, and I get emotional every time I think about the wonderful people I met that day. Many of the women were homeless and many survive by working the streets. I admire their strength and the courage it took for them to allow a stranger into their world. If we are ever going to truly end homelessness we must embrace the LGBT community. I am not asking you to understand, I am simply asking you to have compassion for all the wonderful people in this world!
NO ONE should be forced into a life of prostitution simply to get some food, and NO ONE should be homeless!