MLK Day of Service: Building Bridges Alongside Casa Youth Shelter
Post submitted by Gary Michael Zager, Clinical Director at Casa Youth Shelter
In the days leading up to MLK Day of Service on January 20, HRC and its partners, including Casa Youth Shelter, are working to increase national attention about LGBT youth homelessness through service activities in over 15 cities.
Stay tuned to the HRC Blog throughout January as our members, supporters, and allies share their stories about why they are participating in MLK Day of Service and the work that we are doing together.
Rickie* came to Casa Youth Shelter at age 16 after running away from her parent’s home.
Though Ricki initially identified herself as male, she explained during the intake process that she left home because of her father’s intolerance of her desire to live as a female. Rickie then pulled a yellow dress from a suitcase and asked the staff if she could wear it.
Rickie was running away due to the conflict that her transgender identity had created in her home. Her father wanted a son and was attempting to control Rickie’s very personal sense of self.
Many families struggle to readjust their dreams and aspirations for their transgender children, so we began with family counseling to help Rickie’s father accept his child’s gender identity. We connected the family and Rickie to support groups at The Center of Orange County, an agency advocating on behalf of the Orange County LGBTQ community.
After several weeks of shelter care and many family-counseling sessions later, Rickie was able to return home, where her family has slowly become accepting of their child’s identity. Rickie’s mother is now an advocate for transgender rights.
Casa Youth Shelter accepts youth who are at risk of or have run away regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, though LGBT youth are among the most vulnerable in our country. Up to 40 percent of homeless and at-risk youth are LGBT. Many cite family rejection as an issue, and LGBT youth are eight times more likely to commit suicide if rejected by family member.
Casa Youth Shelter does not believe that their identity or orientation is a diagnosable condition, nor do they need to be changed. Our goal is to work with the entire family, helping them to deal with their unique stressors.
This January 20, we hope you will join HRC and Casa Youth Shelter in the fight against LGBT youth homelessness. To join this event in Orange County, California, please visit www.hrc.org/MLKOC.
And for an MLK Day of Service event near you, check out, http://www.hrc.org/campaigns/martin-luther-king-jr-day-of-service
*Name changed to protect client confidentiality