As we transition from May, Mental Health Awareness Month, to June, LGBTQ Pride Month, it is important to recognize the intersectionality between these two important issues. LGBTQ youth, and especially transgender or genderqueer youth, experience unique forms of trauma and adversity. A report by the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall found that LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13-25 are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than non-LGBTQ youth in the same age bracket. A study by True Colors United found that while 7% of America’s youth population struggles with homelessness, 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. LGBTQ youth are far more likely to experience bullying, domestic violence, or discrimination from their own families than their cis-gender and straight peers. Because of these stressors, LGBTQ youth have increased rates of PTSD and are 62% more likely to attempt suicide.
LGBTQ youth may avoid interacting with agencies that serve homeless youth for fear of rejection or discrimination. That’s why Covenant House strives to create a safe, inclusive environment for all youth, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity. One-third of the young people we serve identify as LGBTQ. We stress the importance of using a client’s chosen name and pronouns with all staff and volunteers. Doing so is in itself an act of suicide prevention, according to recent research by University of Texas. Many Covenant House staff members attend trainings by True Colors United, an organization whose goal is to end LGBTQ youth homelessness. We sponsor events such as Pride Prom to encourage our young people to embrace all aspects of who they are. Our youth attend Pride events in our community, and we tailor our wellness programs to meet the specific physical and psychological needs of our LGBTQ youth.
For young people who experience higher-than-average rates of homelessness, abuse, sexual assault, and discrimination, Covenant House is a place of refuge, a place where young people experience unconditional love. We recognize that our young people are beautiful and we treat all of the youth who are in our care with the dignity and respect they deserve. Covenant House is committed to being a safe and supportive space for ALL young people, including those who identify as LGBTQ, during Pride and all year round.