A whole new life: Homeless LGTBQ
Stories about coming out to homosexuality are unique to each individual depending on the reactions of their family and society. Many of these stories end in homelessness, as the resulting rejection of their sexual preference commences a new stigmatized life. But not all gay youth is necessarily homeless because of family turndown. Samantha’s anecdote, as published in The New Yorker (Aviv, 2012), includes dreams of independence and a better life. Searching to get away from the lack of emotional support from her parents regarding a history of sexual abuse by a family friend, she encounters the real problems and struggles of living in the streets of New York City.
This paper attempts to review selected details of her journey, along with theories and relevant studies that can deepen understanding of these issues. It shares my own opinions as I analyze the implications of adolescence in a homeless, LGTBQ condition.
Being a Teenager
Feeling invisible. The way Samantha described high school evidences how peer relationships take the center stage as considered by Lesser & Pope (2010). Having few friends, she felt unappreciated. A good reason why this social circle is important is because developmental contextualism suggests that the more supportive an adolescent’s environment is, the less discomforting family situations can be (like her parents’ disbelief regarding her complaints of sexual abuse). The result (running away) manifests the psychological developmental crisis Erickson (1959) describes teenagers going through.
It starts with having to establish trust in the larger world. In this stage, we see Samantha getting information of homeless shelters, as she knows she is going to leave the safety of her home. The next crisis is autonomy in choosing one’s path; deciding to go to college, for instance. It also involves taking initiative, like running away, in Samantha’s case, and responsibility for her goals.
Cognitively, transitioning through the stage of being emotionally passionate (Lesser & Pope, 2010) evidenced by her poems impregnated with feelings, she reaches the stage of looking towards the future (18-19 years old): she dreams of going to college. Another cognitive reality is that the frontal cortex of the brain has not yet fully matured (Frontline, 2002). Teenagers tend to feel invincible, thinking that nothing bad can happen to them, therefore frequently engaging in risky behaviors (like running away from home).
Samantha lived with both her parents and younger brother. She would get along fairly with her brother, but was somewhat distant from both parents. Family interaction and dynamics can be decisive during teenage years. It can inflict or resolve emotional distress. One study described by Herrenkohl, Lee et al (2012) found a significant association between low family cohesion and substance use. This explains Samantha’s relationship with drugs: she felt emotionally out of...