I practiced high jumps off the swings with a boy on my school playground. I knew I was expected to like boys, being told that’s what girls did, but all I wanted to do was jump farther than him off the swings.
My mother’s fear of me becoming pregnant could find me with no home? Wandering the streets? Scavenging for food and shelter? I did not even come out as queer yet. Coming out was 10 years later, and thank goodness I was then 21 and living on my own.
My mother’s threats also included not talking back to her, not finishing my dinner, not getting the top grades in school, having chapped lips in our Midwest winters and the list goes on.
As an immigrant, there is no denying my mother was fearful of so many possible ways she may be judged. And in the early ’80s, one of them was having a daughter that was seen as sexually promiscuous.
Helping crime victims
Pride Weekend 2022, a 22-year-old transwoman of color goes on a date with a cisgender man. Thankfully, she is picked up off the highway at the end of the night as she is running for her life, unclothed and somehow having survived a gunshot to the head. Her date intended to kill her.
The phone call came into our organization, asking if we would be able to house her as she was couch-surfing before this horrific night. We would have to wait three weeks, when she was discharged from the hospital, to take her in. She turned 23 in the hospital, just a few days after being shot.
Rainbow is being refunded for one year by the California Office of Emergency Services’ Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) fund, which is the reason our Houseless Transitional Youth Program is able to exist (https://www.rainbowcc.org/homeless-transitional-youth-program).
Congress created the VOCA fund in 1984 to provide federal support to state and local programs that assist victims of crime.
In the United States, 4.2 million youth experience homelessness each year, with LGBTQ youth 120% more likely to experience homelessness than their non-LGBTQ peers (https://truecolorsunited.org).
Like True Colors United, Rainbow is committed to changing these numbers by education and implementing innovative solutions for youth homelessness that focus on the unique experiences of our LGBTQIA+ young people. If we can ensure that services are safe for and affirming of the most impacted young people, we can be confident that they’ll be safe and affirming for everyone.
We believe that youth homelessness is a community issue. Real change can happen when people come together with a shared vision. Send questions and comments to email@example.com.
Kiku Johnson is Rainbow Community Center’s executive director. As a man of color and trans experience, Kiku has invested his life engaging and elevating youth and adult voices of marginalized intersectional identities. Send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.