By Paul P. Jesep/TRT Columnist*
Everyone loves a stocking stuffer. It doesn’t matter if it’s small. Size isn’t important. Don’t be embarrassed if it’s modest. There is no such thing as too small. Don’t worry about its staying power. Do what you can with what you have. The depth and quality of love is expressed in many ways. Just the effort says you care.
If you’re looking to complete your gift-giving with something special or add a little bit extra in the stocking this year then please consider doing it in the spirit of the holiday’s meaning. A donation to AliForneyCenter.org in the name of a friend or family member will go a long way to lessening the consumerism that has become the reason for the season.
The Ali Forney Center in New York City takes care of homeless LGBT and Searching youth. These are teens who have been rejected, abandoned, and emotionally abused. They are our greatest treasure, our brightest hope, and are some of the most vulnerable among us.
According to Carl Siciliano, executive director of the Ali Forney Center, “LGBT youth homelessness has become an epidemic.” In an article, Siciliano refers to a 2010 report by the Center for American Progress: “as much as 40 percent of the entire homeless youth population in our country is LGBT. Even in a place as liberal and accepting as New York City, an LGBT teen is eight times more likely to become homeless than is a straight teen.”
Siciliano has worked with homeless LGBT youth for over 17 years. This tireless advocate and his committed team have witnessed firsthand “the suffering of thousands of these teens.”
“I have no doubt that this twofold phenomenon of family rejection and homelessness,” he observes “is the most terrible expression of homophobia in our times.”
Most unfortunate, however, is the response from the LGBT adult community. Siciliano notes that the response has been “appallingly little. In the entire country, fewer than 250 shelter beds have been established for more than 100,000 homeless LBGT youth. Protecting homeless LGBT youth does not register on the radar of the political priorities of our movement. Our national advocacy organizations devote few, if any, resources toward homeless LGBT youth, and have developed no national strategy to respond to their horrific plight.”
Although LGBT and Searching adult advocates have made things like marriage equality, military service and DOMA priorities, the homeless youth have been forgotten.
“I strongly believe,” writes Siciliano, “that if we truly made the safety and welfare of these kids a strong priority, then LGBT-supportive politicians would not dare try to throw them in the streets and jeopardize their lives to resolve their budget challenges.”
State and city budget cuts have slashed programs for homeless youth programs by 50 percent. If every reader of The Rainbow Times made a gift in someone’s name this holiday season in any amount then he or she can take comfort knowing that the world is a little less cold and harsh. You can play a direct role in giving meaning to the holiday designated to celebrate love, peace, goodwill and fellowship.
Sicilaino offers a challenge to the LGBT and Searching adult community. “I hope that we will become the community that our children need us to be.” Yes, LGBT and Searching teens are our children. Please consider offering a donation in someone’s honor this holiday season at AliForneyCenter.org.
*Paul is an attorney and a seminary trained, ordained priest in greater Albany, NY. He is also author of “Crucifying Jesus and Secularizing America – the Republic of Faith without Wisdom.” Email questions about faith to [email protected]