Coming Out: LGBT Youth Homelessness
By Blake Keller
Michael McGuire has known he’s been gay since he was just five years old. After moving to an apartment with his mom and sister after his parents got divorced, McGuire lived across the hall from a boy he liked. As the two hung out, McGuire said there was an immediate attraction.
“I don’t know how many days we were just friends for, but it was an imediate pheromone connection kind of thing.”
But at an adolescent age, McGuire wasn’t sure what it meant, but as he continued to move around, he knew.
“All my life I was just very sexual, and I knew what I wanted… and that was boys.”
McGuire had an understanding relationship with his mom growing up.
“I think my mom knew me better than I knew me so we never ever had a conversation of like, Mike, maybe you should do sports… she’d buy me Barbies my whole life.”
On the other hand, McGuire described his dad as a military figure, who encouraged McGuire to be in Boy Scouts and to hide his true self from his dad.
McGuire was 13 years old when his mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was no longer McGuire’s legal guardian. McGuire went on to live with his father, but went missing for three days. McGuire says he “absolutely hated and feared [his] dad.” McGuire finally went to his father’s, looking different than the last time they saw each other, this time with jet black hair and blue eye shadow. That’s when his dad knew he was gay. Then, things got violent. McGuire’s father shaved his jet black hair, got physical, and after multiple fights, left bruises all over his body.
This is a look inside one person’s journey to coming out. The five percent of the LGBT community in the U.S. faces an unprecedented amount of challenges when deciding whether or not to come out publicly to family, friends, peers, and employers. LGBT youth have the potential to face the harsh rejection of their family when coming out and most turn to homelessness. Family rejection based on sexual orientation and gender identity is the leading cause that contributes to LGBT homelessness, according to The Williams Institute at the University of California, Law School.
Those who do experience poor living situations or homelessness turn to drugs and alcohol, like McGuire did in high school, that ultimately left him in rehab. An estimate of 20 to 30 percent of the gay and transgender population abuse substances, compared to 9 percent of the general population, according to American Progress. Being LGBT doesn’t cause substance abuse, but the prejudice, rejection, and bullying the LGBT youth experience make them turn to drugs and alcohol. A Human Rights Campaign report said that 26 percent of LGBT youth’s biggest problem is not feeling accepted by their family, trouble at school with bullying, and the fear to be out.
On top of facing homelessness, the LGBT youth are twice as likely, or 62 percent of LGBT youth, to attempt suicide, the National Alliance to End Homelessness reports on their website. McGuire had a bout of depression himself. In high school, McGuire, who wasn’t necessarily homeless, but didn’t like where he lived, suffered from depression and thoughts of suicide.
“I was cutting myself. I was taking prescription pills, taking drugs, anything to not feel like I lived there.”
While most don’t ever get to see the bright side, McGuire said that his stint in rehab made him realize that fighting with his dad wasn’t worth it.
“I just took school more seriously and I impressed my dad that year… he realized that, this is my son, I need to love him rather than change him.”