“Even though they comprise only 5 percent to 7 percent of all youth in America, LGBT youth represent up to 40 percent of all homeless youth. This figure is shocking in itself. But even worse is that this problem is driven primarily by family rejection at a time when these young people are physically, financially and materially dependent on their parents”.
An opinion piece by Cyndi Lauper for Rolling Stone
There’s been a lot of talk lately about a “fiscal showdown,” but frankly, I think the conversation could use some shaking up. Politicians repeat the same dry talking points about an abstract debt ceiling, “discretionary funds” and tax implications for people making an embarrassing amount of money. It all makes the consequences seem far removed from the reality of our daily lives. But what’s happening in D.C. right now isn’t just about numbers, and isn’t just important to talking heads. This is something different altogether.
The situation is this: If Washington can’t break deadlock on budget policy, automatic budget cuts are going to inflict real harm on real people that rely on federally funded programs. Those “discretionary funds” that amount to little more than numbers on a page to some go to support programs that improve the lives of many people who have been pushed to the margins of society. And what’s close to my heart – and why I’m paying attention to this fiscal showdown – is that the stakes are especially high for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth who need our help to stay safe.
Even though they comprise only 5 percent to 7 percent of all youth in America, LGBT youth represent up to 40 percent of all homeless youth. This figure is shocking in itself. But even worse is that this problem is driven primarily by family rejection at a time when these young people are physically, financially and materially dependent on their parents.
In most cities across the country, resources to help LGBT youth are already scarce, and every night, thousands of young people are left to sleep on the street and find their own way through the dark. Cuts in federal funding for the programs that already stretch every dollar to help these kids would make this bad situation even worse. To think that these youth, who have already suffered rejection from their families, could be turned away from programs meant to give them a safe place to stay is an absolute outrage.
And those cuts are just the beginning. If the fiscal showdown isn’t resolved by the end of the year, funding will be slashed for federal agencies working to combat bullying and school violence against LGBT students, and will reduce financial aid and job placement programs that are critical bridges for LGBT youth who want to start a career or go to college. This is unacceptable.
While some members of Congress have recognized that this budget issue is a matter of life or death for many Americans, including LGBT youth, the House majority continues to hold onto their vows to protect the wealthiest Americans from tax increases. I am one of those Americans, and I do not need protecting. I am fully prepared to pay my fair share to ensure our country gets back on track. And by the way, these are the same House leaders who last summer required the same type of wholesale cuts set to go into effect in return for raising our nation’s debt ceiling.
So, while this budget standoff may sound like a problem just for Washington bureaucrats, it is actually much bigger than that. It impacts every person, every community, all of us – gay and straight, young and old. And we need to do something about it.
We need to cut through the abstract jargon and tell Congress to set aside partisan differences and adopt a sustainable plan that protects life-saving services for LGBT youth and other marginalized populations, including senior citizens, people of color and women. If they can’t do that by the end of the year, then a short-term agreement delaying budget cuts should be put in place to give the next Congress a chance to agree on a long-term fiscal solution.
We all need to make sure Washington hears us on this one – for ourselves and for youth who are struggling and lack a voice of their own. There’s too much at stake to simply tune this out. We need to make some noise of our own.
When I was growing up in the ‘60s I was inspired and empowered by the Civil Rights Movement. Not only was the minority standing up for themselves and saying enough is enough, people in the majority stood alongside them as this country went through one of the most transformative periods in its history.
A moment like that is upon us again and this time the minority is the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. This time it is straight people who are beginning to stand side by side with their family, friends, co-workers and neighbors to say that this country is about equality, fairness and that never ending pursuit of happiness.
That is one of the reasons why we founded the True Colors Fund, to lend a helping hand in encouraging my straight peers to get informed and give a damn about equality.
While great strides have been made in recent years, when people can still be fired in over half the states because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender… when couples cannot get married simply because they love someone of the same gender… when young people are so bullied and tormented that they feel their only way out of that hell is to end their lives… it’s clear we still have a long, long way to go before we achieve full equality and acceptance in this country.
In particular, we need to help young gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Kids who are coming to terms with their sexual orientation or gender identity are often told by their families, peers, and other influential people in their lives that who they are is somehow shameful or unacceptable. They are often rejected and thrown out of their own homes.
As a parent, I cannot understand those who would kick out their kid simply because they are gay or transgender. Your child is a part of you, throwing them out on the street is like ripping out a part of your own soul. That is why the True Colors Fund continues to work to raise awareness about this issue and develop solutions to ending this epidemic. We will not rest until that percentage goes from 40 to none.
Everyone—whether straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender—should be allowed to show their true colors, and be accepted and loved for who they are. Everyone should be guaranteed equal treatment, at school, at work, in their relationships, in service of their country…and in every part of their lives.
It’s time for us all to join together and say enough is enough. I hope you will stand with us as we continue to move our work forward.
All my best,