Homeless LGBTQ and ‘survival sex.’
A 2016 study of the New York LGBTQ youth by Urban Institute defines ‘survival sex’ as trading sex for basic needs or money. It is common to find youth engaging in ‘survival sex.’
when they have no other “viable means for meeting their basic needs.” The same report provides little data regarding the pervasiveness of survival sex within the homeless population besides the size of the LGBTQ homeless youth population in New York. The study also estimates 40% of New York’s homeless population comprises the LGBTQ-identified youth. Urban Institute’s study attempted to know why and how the homeless population decides to participate in sex work and their feeling on the subject.
The stud indicates that most of the respondents agreed to sex because of cold or hunger. Half of the homeless LGBTQ claim that a friend introduced them to survival sex during their time of need. About half of the homeless LGBTQ population in the United States trade sex for a place to stay, meaning that they would not engage in survival sex if they had alternative shelter.
Nearly all the interviewed homeless LGBTQ youth claimed that their clients paid them in cash. Some of them got warm beds, food, clothing, and drugs as a result of survival sex. Those who received money went ahead to buy food, weed, clothing, cigarettes, and toiletries.
According to the survey, 80% of the respondents supported survival sex as a way to find food and a place to stay. Many homeless LGBTQ-identified youths believe that survival sex is one way to make money that one can own and not call it a ‘hand out.’ They see sex work as a legit job despite disapproval by many in their communities.
Almost none of the participants liked survival sex due to the danger and stigma that comes with it. Many face rejection and criticism from their street families and friends. They all wanted or thought of quitting sex work, but the idea of starving and cold in the streets kept them from walking away. In some cases, temperatures may drop below freezing, and the shelter turns LGBTQ youth away, claiming a shortage of beds. In such instances, this population will feel neglected and that no one cares for them. Many LGBTQ-identified youths in the streets claim that the only way they can walk away from sex work is to have a comfortable job and a place to stay.
Some activities and critics have pointed out that the recent acceptance of gay rights has led to an increased number of homeless LGBTQ-identified youth. “Young people feel more comfortable coming out at a younger age. However, that doesn’t mean that the adults in the situation are getting any more accepting of it,” said Meredith Dank, a senior researcher at the Urban Institute. Reports also ibdicate that most of the LGBTQ-identified youth find themselves in the streets, homeless when their families force them out. Most families do not accept LGBTQ’s sexual identity and orientation. These youths believe that they will get support they need once they come out of their homes. However the reality in the streets is that there is no supportive envrionement due to undersources organizations with limited beds.
Carl Siliciano, the director of the largest organization fighting for the rights of the homeless LGBTQ in USA, Ali Forney Center mentions one of the leading causes of sex work in the streets is a systemic failure where states do not provide safe shelter for the homeless LGBTQ-identified youths in the country. The director also mentions that a ciety like New York is investing millions in homeless youth shelters but nearly none of them specialize in the homeless LGBTQ youth. It means that harassment and gay-bashing is still common in the streets of these cities. LGBTQ-identified youth seem frighetened to got to the sheketers therefore finding themselves engaging in survival sex.
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