WaPo: Gay and transgender teens find refuge at home created for them

We saw this article in the Washington Post and thought it was a great example of what governments can do to help LGBT youth.

In Room 8, the carpet is stained and the walls are bare, except for strips of tape that once held someone else’s photos. But to the 21-year-old getting dressed this morning, the room offers a measure of freedom she has never had: a place where, without judgment, she can slip on a flower-print blouse and shave her face. A place where no one knows Guy Jones, only Sarah Feliciano.

“How does this look?” Sarah asks, sweeping a cobalt blue powder over her eyes. Foundation the color of “soft copper” covers the rest of her face, hiding any hints of a shadow that monthly laser therapy and a daily shave might have missed.

In the three-story brick house in Northeast Washington, there are eight bedrooms, each filled with a young person who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. And like Sarah — a transgender woman who until February was sleeping at Reagan National Airport, washing her hair with shampoo fished from the trash — each ended up homeless or close to it.

As the District takes significant strides to advance the rights of LGBT residents — for example, recently legalizing same-sex marriage — the youths who pass through the Wanda Alston House tell of the vulnerability the community still faces. The house, named after an LGBT leader and mayoral adviser who was killed in 2005, is one of a handful of transitional houses in the nation that cater to people who experts say are more likely to become homeless and who, once in that category, pose challenges most shelter systems are unequipped to address. Should a transgender female be placed in a shelter with men or women? Where should a transgender male who still has the anatomy of a woman shower? What about a young gay man?

Recently, two teenagers repeatedly punched and kicked a transgender woman after she used the women’s restroom at a McDonald’s in Baltimore. It was a brutal act, caught on tape, that resulted from what seems a brief crossing of paths. In a homeless shelter, interactions are more immersed. Everything is shared: rooms, showers, dinner tables.

Read the whole story at the Washington Post.



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