2014 Religious Trends
Pastoral Care of the Queer Person: Questions for the Synod
Editors' Note: This article is part of the Public Square 2014 Summer Series: Conversations on Religious Trends. Read other perspectives from the Catholic community here.
San Francisco's Archbishop Cordileone was met with strong opposition to his participation in the recent March for Marriage. In response he wrote a letter stating, "Please do not make judgments based on stereotypes, media images, and comments taken out of context. Rather, get to know us first as fellow human beings."
The question must be asked, are we as a Church getting to know our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, or do we make judgments based on stereotypes and media images?
The media often paint an image of the LGBTQ community by showing radical and flamboyant images from gay pride parades, but does that truly reflect the reality of this population?
The research paints a very different image than the media. It's not an image of parties and parades; rather it shows a marginalized population disproportionately experiencing homelessness and abuse. It has become common knowledge among homeless social service providers that as many as 40 percent of the homeless youth population identifies as LGBTQ. According to a Center for American Progress report, "LGBTQ youth continue to be disproportionately represented among homeless youth in our country, and their experiences of homelessness continue to be characterized by violence, discrimination, poor health, and unmet needs."
Many factors contribute to the issue of homelessness for queer youth, but commonly it is precipitated by a lack of support or understanding from their family and communities. Experiencing discrimination in their home, school, religious community, and/or the social systems can have a detrimental effect on them. This lack of social support is a contributing factor for the high risk of physical health issues, mental health issues, substance abuse, and suicide.
Homelessness is difficult for everyone; for queer youth without some support system the strain puts them at especially high risk as many—lacking safe and solid options—end up exchanging sex for money, shelter, and basic needs. They are more likely to be robbed, attacked, sexually assaulted, and to have HIV/AIDS. The resultant instability and stress in their lives mean many queer youth struggle with mental health issues. Often they are dealing with trauma that results in anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues. Substance abuse becomes common. There is also a higher rate of suicide among queer youth.
Kelley Cutler is a social worker and advocate for the homeless working and worshiping in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.