Pull For Pride
Young Transgender Women of Color Face the Highest Risks
A lot of young LGBTQ people experiencing homelessness have similar needs, but LGBTQ youth are not a monolithic population. Within the acronym, the needs of youth can differ significantly depending on their identities.
This concept is clearly demonstrated when it comes to the experience of young transgender or feminine presenting non binary youth of color. A young black trans woman, for example, experiences multiple marginalizations that other youth may not. She lives at the intersections of multiple oppressions- racism, misogyny, transphobia. This means she has more obstacles to face, and is at higher risk for violence and harm than other LGBTQ youth.
In general, transgender women of color are 51% more likely to have experienced homelessness in their lifetimes than trans people of other races. They are five times more likely to experience chronic homelessness than the general population.
For transgender youth, surviving on the street or in the shelter system is even more complicated than it is for queer cisgender youth. If a person’s gender marker on their identification does not match their gender identity and presentation, they are immediately outed to shelter staff. (Many homeless youth don’t have identification to begin with- a whole other complicated issue). Shelter staff may also be ill prepared to competently serve trans people or outright hostile toward trans youth, resulting in mistreatment and further harm to youth already in crisis.
Transgender youth are at higher risk of sexual violence in the shelter system, especially transfeminine youth in shelters for men and boys. Some leave the shelter due to poor treatment or unsafe conditions. Some youth may resort to dressing in a way that’s expected of their assigned sex just so they can secure shelter with less risk and complication.
Without a place to feel safe, young trans women of color are at higher risk for becoming victims of violence. They may sleep on the street or engage in sex work, which also increases their risk of violent victimization and the experience of chronic health issues like HIV. In New York City, 1 in 2 transgender young women living with HIV contract the virus before age 24.
This is a direct correlation to the lack of safety and shelter that they experience.
Hate crimes are most often perpetrated against queer and trans people of color- and transgender women of color bear the highest brunt of this violence. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs has documented a steadily rising number of homicides of transgender women of color, many of them under 25. The current life expectancy for a transgender woman of color is 35 years old.
For these reasons and more, homeless LGBTQ youth, especially young trans women of color experiencing homelessness, deserve our attention and care.
-Erica Smith, M.Ed. for Women’s Strength Coalition
Sources: National Center for Transgender Equality, True Colors Fund, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, HRC Foundation, Trans People of Color Coalition, 2014 NYC HIV/AIDS Surveillance Data
In accordance with our mission of using our collective strength to benefit the world in a meaningful way, The Women’s Strength Coalition’s June 2018 Pull for Pride Fundraiser will benefit select organizations that provide direct support to LGBTQ youth struggling with homelessness.
Learn more about our beneficiary organizations below:
About The Author
Erica Smith is a sexuality educator with a M.Ed. from Widener University’s Center for Human Sexuality Studies. Based in Philadelphia, she works primarily with young women and queer and transgender youth in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. She writes, consults, and teaches on a variety of human sexuality topics and has been recognized by Lambda Legal and Women’s Way for her advocacy for LGBTQ youth and young women. Erica began lifting in 2008. She has experience competing in powerlifting and strongman, but kettlebells are her first love.