Standing Up for LGBTQ Youth

February 27, 2018

LD 912 An Act To Clarify the Scope of Practice of Certain Licensed Professionals Regarding Conversion Therapy proposes to ban practices seeking to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Shame and abuse drive LGBTQ youth into the streets and shelters, and put them at risk for exploitation—conversion therapy is a blatant human rights violation resulting in further isolation and trauma for these vulnerable individuals. Contact the Labor Commerce Research and Economic Development Committee and urge them to protect Maine’s youth.

The Preble Street Anti-Trafficking Coalition (PSATC) provides services to women and men, transgender individuals, and children who have been forced into all types of human trafficking. People who have been forced to perform a variety of different work—including prostitution, domestic services, agricultural and restaurant work—through sexual, physical and/or psychological violence. All here in Maine.

Of the 157 total victims of human trafficking that Preble Street serves, 15% identify as LGBTQ.

Alison is a victim of human trafficking. She shared with Preble Street that she’d always had a rocky relationship with her family because they wouldn’t accept “who she was.” This shrunk her safety net and she ended up battling the homelessness and substance use disorder which led to her trafficking.

Daniel is a victim of human trafficking. He has a history of homelessness and was a client of the Preble Street Teen Center several years before connecting to PSATC after being trafficked as an adult. He recently had a poor experience with a clinician who was very invasive and chose to focus on his sexual orientation instead of his repeated sexual trauma while being trafficked for commercial sex.

Preble Street Teen Services meets the urgent needs of homeless and runaway youth—providing shelter, meals and connection to healthcare, treatment for mental health and substance use disorders, vocational/educational resources, and stable housing they need to achieve stability.

Of a total 195 youth served by Preble Street Teen Services in 2017, 33% identify as LGBTQ.

Jules came to the Preble Street Teen Services at age 18. Jules identifies as gender non-conforming. Jules left home when they no longer felt safe, then went on to live in a domestic violence situation, and eventually found their way to Preble Street where they could be safe.

Eric came to Preble Street Teen Services at age 17. When he identified as gay, Eric’s parents rejected him, and he went to stay with his grandparents and siblings. After serious homophobic physical abuse from his siblings, Eric went on to live with an intimate partner who was so abusive Eric had to be treated at the Emergency Room. Eric regularly participated in high risk sex work for income to put himself through school.

Victoria arrived at Preble Street Teen Services at the age of 17 after being kicked out of her parents’ home in Aroostook County for identifying as a trans woman. She reported feeling isolated in her rural community and that she did not have resources. Victoria has self-advocated to get connected to hormone therapy.

Michael came to Preble Street Teen Services at age 16. Michael identifies as a trans man. Michael had an extremely volatile relationship with his parents and step parents, who did not accept their identity. Michael repeatedly attempted to mend their relationship with their parents and return home. They returned to Preble Street several times over 4 years after experiencing verbal abuse by their mother and physical abuse from their mother’s partner, mostly related to their identity. Michael has since made a legal name change, and has been on hormone therapy for approximately two years while receiving counseling at Day One.

First Place provides permanent supported apartments with structure and services for young people as they gain the knowledge and self-confidence to live successfully on their own and break the cycle of homelessness.

First Place has supported 23 youth in housing since the program began, all of whom were literally homeless when they entered the program.

  • Of these 23, 15 (65%) identify as LGBTQ
  • At least 10 (43%) identified their sexual orientation and/or gender identity as a sole, primary or significant reason for their homelessness—all became homeless for the first time at age 19 or younger
  • Of these 10, 8 (35%) were chronically homeless before entering the program
  • Of these 8, 4 (nearly 10%) became homeless for the first time before the age of 18 (the youngest became homeless at age 13)­­
  • At least 2 (9%) stated that they have experienced sexual exploitation/engaged in survival sex while homeless in order to meet their basic needs—we expect that number is actually higher as many do not wish to identify themselves as having experienced sexual exploitation due to shame and stigma

First Place has also provided rapid rehousing support as part of the Maine Transitional Living Collaborative to 11 young people between the ages of 18-21, all of whom identify as LGBTQ and are either homeless or at immediate risk of homelessness when we began working with them. Each of these young people has reported that their sexual orientation and/or gender identity was a sole, primary or significant reason for their homelessness.