Like many, the recent tragedy in Orlando, Florida left me shocked, saddened, and immobilized to some extent. But as my first emotions have yielded to grief and commemoration, the reality of the seemingly endless gun-related violence is sinking in. The post-event scenarios have become routine; shock yields to anger and outrage, hollow sentiments produce empty gestures, positions harden, and little is accomplished in terms of meaningful actions to remedy the carnage.
Left with no hope for an end to the violence, we brace ourselves for the worst. Gun sales have skyrocketed, metal detectors have become common place, and just this week the Hillsides campus had a mock lock-down drill.
My greatest concern is for our residents who have been traumatized by violence and especially for those who identify as LGBTQ and have been marginalized and threatened because of their sexual identity.
- Consider the following statistics from a recent study:
19% of youth in the Los Angeles County foster care system identify as LGBTQ, double the percentage of LGBTQ youth not in foster care in LA
- Youth who identify as LGBTQ and are in foster care are twice as likely to report poor treatment and are more likely to live in group homes and to have more foster care placements
- More than 18% reported experiencing discrimination related to their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity/expression
- The percentage of youth who identify as LGBTQ who were hospitalized for emotional reasons (13.5%) was nearly triple the percentage of similar hospitalizations for other youth (4.2%).
Other research shows: About 26 percent of youth who identify as LGBT are forced from their homes because of conflicts with their families of origin over sexual orientation or gender identity. Physical violence is also a concern for the same population.
- 30% of youth who identify as LGBT reported physical violence at the hands of a family member after coming out as LGBT
- 43% of youth, who identify as LGBTQ, experiencing homelessness are forced from their homes because of conflicts with their families about their sexual orientation of gender identity; 32% of youth who are homeless and identify as LGBTQ have experienced physical, emotional, or sexual abuse at home over their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Youth who identify as LGBTQ and are in foster care are less likely than other youth to find a permanent home, whether through reunification with their birth or kin families or through adoption.
Given these overwhelming statistics and the unchecked violence directed at the LGBTQ community in Orlando, what hope is there that those in our care who identify as LGBTQ will not be victims of violence in some form?
No matter whether you are an innocent kindergartner, a high school student, college coed, moviegoer, bible study member or identify as LGBTQ, no one should have to live at risk of being a victim of gratuitous violence.
Incredibly those who argue against reasonable fire arms controls point to mental illness or extreme ideologies as the reason for such violence. As valid as these arguments may be, access to fire arms is the reason for the extent of the violence.
For all the children and youth we serve, but especially in the last couple of weeks for those who identify as LGBTQ, we provide a safe place for them to discuss their fears and concerns. Our assurances, however, are limited by the inability of our society to be outraged by senseless violence, move beyond a collective paranoia, and mobilize our disgust at such horror into concrete actions to end the savagery that has become commonplace.
Once again, a call to action is raised: Rather than stand by and tolerate the well-honed arguments justifying the possession of fire arms capable of mass devastation, we must speak out, identify the madness, and demand an end to the violence on behalf of all those for whom we care.