It’s funny the way we choose to care about certain things, the way the color of a dress or Kim Kardashian’s hair can so fully penetrate the public consciousness while so much real human suffering goes unnoticed. While Kim’s hair has steadily grown brighter and a pleated dress changes colors before our eyes, approximately 400,000 gay and transgender American youth, many of them barely teenagers, are fighting to survive homelessness every single day.
According to the Center for American Progress, between 20 and 40 percent of all homeless youth are gay or transgender. Conversely, only about 5 to 10 percent of the overall youth population identifies as such. It is hard to come up with accurate numbers because homeless youth can so easily go unaccounted for, but these are the generally agreed upon statistics.
Homeless LGBT youth have often been tossed away by unaccepting families, and many have been abused or victimized in other ways as well. The Huffington Post recently published a story on how many of these youth have been forced to turn to “survival sex,” the exchange of sex for food and shelter.
I am writing this because I want to announce a recent partnership between Now What? and the students of the Illinois Institute of Art, students who I am proud to say are using their artistic gifts to inspire all of us to accept people for who they are. This Thursday, March 12th, the students will put on their annual fashion show, called Pulse, a student-run production dedicated to “changing and rising above the challenges we face as evolving humans on the journey to becoming our ideal self.”
This year’s theme is called Exposed, and the proceeds will benefit 360 Youth Services, an organization based in Naperville, Illinois that, as the website explains, “provides life-changing services through prevention education, counseling, and shelter.” 360 has a special LGBTQ transitional living program for homeless LGBTQ youth as well as an LGBTQ collaborative for professionals and members of the community to come together and discuss important issues.
The show will take place at 8pm at the Meadows Club in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, and I urge anyone in the area to buy a ticket, to spend 20 dollars and help change a child’s life. We have made so much progress when it comes to LGBTQ rights in this country, but we have so much further to go. This show is meant to inspire us to be ourselves and to let others do the same, but there are people out there who just cannot be inspired, and it is up to us to come together and protect the victims of their ignorance.
I know that there is so much human suffering every day, and that we cannot pay attention to all of it all the time, but if you are reading this blog, then these kinds of issues are something you care about. So if you can, please help these Illinois Institute of Art students help other young people feel worthy. These are youth who have probably been made to feel like they should repress the pieces of themselves that make them most beautiful, youth who have probably been made to feel like wastes of space. Help these students help 360 Youth Services give all homeless youth, not just those who are gay and transgender, a place to grow and a place to sleep.
You can visit the Pulse website to purchase tickets, learn more information, and make donations.