This past week, there has been a massive media flurry about marriage equality, with both Delaware and Rhode Island both passing marriage equality laws and the Minnesota House voting to legalize same-sex marriage. News networks have been lauding the progress made by the LGBTQ movement, and to be fair, I was pretty excited myself. I mean, three states in one week isn't too shabby. I was starting to think that, just maybe, LGBTQ equality could become a reality in the United States.
Then I saw this infographic.
According to the infographic jointly put out by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Human Rights Campaign, 1.7 million young Americans experience homelessness every year, and of those, 20-40% are LGBTQ-identified. Which means that at a minimum there are 340,000 LGBTQ youth who experience homeless on an annual basis, and there could be as many as 680,000 LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness this year alone.
Now I know that infographics can often be based on somewhat-questionable statistics, but still, how are there that many homeless LGBTQ kids?
More importantly, WHY ARE WE NOT YELLING ABOUT IT ALL OF THE TIME? IT MAKES ME SO MAD THAT I JUST WANT TO LEAVE CAPSLOCK ON FOR THE REST OF THIS BLOG POST. But I'll spare you, because I would like you to keep reading (and I don't want to be known as that-blogger-who-types-in-all-caps).
After reading more about the epidemic of LGBTQ youth homelessness, I can't help but think that marriage isn't all that it’s hyped up to be. I mean, yes, it's obviously important that LGBTQ families have the ability to be recognized under federal and state law, but given the scope of the obstacles faced by LGBTQ youth, shouldn't we shift our focus at least a little bit?
How did we even decide that marriage was the most important issue for our community anyway? Perhaps it's my youth speaking, but I can't see what the logic was behind that decision. I mean, critiques of marriage itself aside, why did we decide as a movement that the most important civil rights issue of our generation was the right to march down a church aisle, sign a contract, throw a big party, and take a glamorous vacation with our life partner?
I think it's time that we have a more holistic movement, and I know that I'm not the only one who feels that way. I think it's time that our community stops focusing exclusively on gaining access to nuptial agreements and starts focusing on gaining access to safe homes for LGBTQ youth. I think it's time that we stop parading around like gay marriage is the be-all-end-all of our movement and begin to acknowledge that gay marriage is only one step on the journey to equality.
And more importantly? I think it's time that the national media stop acting like our movement will be over once same-sex marriage is achieved. Because even after same-sex marriage is legal across the country, there will still be hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ kids out there looking for a safe place to sleep.
As a strategy for our movement, marriage is something, but it ain't everything. We've got to focus on the kids too.