Lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) youth experiencing homelessness are incredibly resilient. One common manifestation of that resilience is the structured ways they care for themselves and each other through the creation of queer families. These created families often pick up where their biological families have failed – providing consistency, care and support. Beyond meeting the immediate presenting needs of LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness, one of the most important things advocates and providers can do is to listen and respect the ways that LGBTQ youth build and define what family means to them.
The birth families of many LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness are unsupportive, abusive, or otherwise not part of their lives. Thus, the queer kinship networks they construct, often with other LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness, take over the care-taking and supportive roles. These families provide social and emotional support, safety, and a sense of belonging that youth need to survive and thrive amidst challenging and unstable circumstances. The families that LGBTQ youth build take many forms. Informal connections, tightly bonded street families, and house/ballroom families whose connection and responsibility goes far beyond voguing are all common examples.
Often, queer families built by youth mirror “traditional” family structures with youth considering one another (regardless of age) mother or father, brother, sister etc., though this isn’t true in all cases. While some created families have clear hierarchy that mirrors a “traditional” nuclear family, others are more egalitarian. In order to best meet the needs of LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness, it is essential that service providers and advocates respect the families as defined by the youth they are working with, in the same way that they would respect a youth’s chosen name or pronouns.
For many LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness, the families that they construct are the first time they have experienced healthy and affirming family dynamics. These created families can play intricate roles in a youth’s social and emotional welfare and development, and be key allies in ensuring they remain connected to agency supports, care and other services.
- LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness are incredibly resilient. An embodiment of that resilience is through the creation of their own families.
- Respect youths’ definitions of family, and who they consider family in the same ways you would respect the chosen names and pronouns of any youth
- Queer kinship networks, and created families in all of their diverse forms are frequently a primary source of support for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness.
- Queer families take many forms. Some, but not all mirror "traditional" family structures. Talk with youth about what their queer families mean to them.
Young adults reported that they feel more comfortable talking with their chosen family about sex and sexuality