Je’Jae, 24 years old (non-binary)
“At 18, I was sent to Israel on some heritage trip like a lot of young Jewish people do. The religious community where I lived forced me into it. It was also a period where I was really struggling with my sexuality. And within an environment that was telling me that I should feel ashamed, I started feeling really suicidal.
I went through 2 years of shaming from our Rabi “therapist” in Israel. It’s what they call “Conversion Therapy”. In other words, it’s only physical and emotional abuse. I felt scared and trapped. It took me nearly 2 years to have the courage to leave that place and to tell my “therapist” that I didn’t want to hide anymore nor I wanted to be a part of this community. This man, who was supposed to be my mentor, shamed me. He said that I would grow up being alone, that I was a sick and an unnatural person.
When I came back from Israel, as I was more open about my gender identity, my mum really started to have greater problems with me and she became even more emotionally abusive. And a year and a half ago she locked the door on me.
That’s when I became homeless.”


A 2017 study by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago found that LGBTQ youth become homeless at a significantly higher rate than the adolescent population as a whole. They have a 120% higher risk for homelessness. 

About 40% of youth experiencing homelessness in NYC and other large cities identify as LGBTQ.

LGBTQ communities often get reduced to stereotypes and youth is a vulnerable part of it. Not only are they dealing with pressure from friends, peers at school, and society trying to tell them what “normal” looks like, but too often, kids who come out to their parents as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are rejected or thrown out of their homes.

I wanted to give LGBTQ youths a voice. I wanted to put a face on this under-discussed issue and get the public to understand the tragic scope of this problem and the profound influence that family acceptance plays in the lives of LGBTQ youths.

This project was published in the HuffPost

Alexander, 24 years old (man with trans experience)

“I started transitioning at 18. In Florida, at the time, trans identified people were not really protected. I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and also gender identity disorder. Nowadays they categorize it as gender identity dysphoria. It’s a big difference.

My mum was not accepting of me. But me liking someone of the same sex or gender was not the biggest issue. The problem was more me representing very masculine. She said to me once: “ if you are going to like girls then why don’t you look like one?”She couldn’t understand.She was abusive both verbally and physically. After a while, it got to a point where it was too much. I couldn’t be myself. So I left.

My time as a homeless was hard. I didn’t know if I was going to make it. Many times I thought my mental health was not going to allow me to get out of this situation. What kept me going is the knowledge that I had goals. I really wanted to get out of the shelter system.

For a lot of people what is missing is the hope. And hope is necessary to get out of these situations.”


Rose, 19 years old (trans woman)
“I realized from a very young age about my trans identity because I was surrounded by a lot of things in my childhood that forced me to mature early. I think that is why I began transitioning so young at age 13.
After my parents’ death, I socially came out. When I started transitioning, I was mostly on my own because I didn’t have anyone to talk to. So it took me a while to figure things out. I knew about hormones, and I wanted to go on them but I couldn’t see a doctor. At 14, I managed to get black market hormones. But since I wasn’t able to get a steady supply, it didn’t last long. Only at 17, I was able to really start and stay on hormones.
For a while my cousin took care of me, but she didn’t know how to help me and she didn’t have any understanding for me being trans. That made things tense and difficult between us. So last summer, I came to the Ali Forney Center to try to get myself together.
To get money, I was doing sex work. I did it on and off because I have a lot of social anxiety in general so trying to find clients to have sex with for money was difficult for me. I would get a lot of money for it… but then I wouldn’t see anyone for weeks after that. And when I was really broke, I just went back on doing it. Sex work is very prevalent in the trans community.” 


Cyrus, 18 years old (trans-male)

“I didn't even know what being gay or being trans meant until I was about 15 years old because it was a bad thing to know in my family. Even though I knew my whole life that I was attracted to women, I didn't know there was a label and I didn’t know it was normal.

Before I came out as trans I was identifying as a lesbian. And when my parents found out, it didn't go well at all for me. They deleted all my social media accounts and they wouldn't let me leave the house alone. I was not allowed to see my friends anymore. So, after a while, I got so angry that I got into a huge argument with my mum. We got a little bit physical and my dad decided to send me into a psychiatric hospital. In total, I went to 5 of them.

Because I wanted to further my transition, get surgery and start hormones, I knew I couldn't stay at home. My dad doesn't want me confusing my younger siblings or our family members.

So I had to go.” 


Eli, 17 years old (gender non-conforming)

“I grew up in an Orthodox family. So when I was discovering my identity, I had to keep a lot of things secret and during my last year of high school I came out to my parents. They weren't supportive of it. They thought it was a phase that would go away or something that I should religiously keep under wraps and not act on it.

Most of the times, they pulled the insanity card saying things like I am not thinking clearly or people that I am around changed my point of view... This has been really hard for me mentally.

I was sent to a religious school in Israel. But I got kicked out after just 2 days because of my gender identity. I told one of the social workers there, because I didn’t want to keep it secret anymore.

I booked a plane ticket and instead of going back home, I came here to New York City.

I guess you could just say I ran away.” 


Frankie, 19 years old (non binary trans)

“My parents tried to ignore what they called “my life style” and pretended that it would go away. Growing up, I started to be more unapologetic with who I am. I wasn’t hiding. So the tension at home just kept rising until one day my mum just exploded on me. She told me to leave and not come back.

Being homeless is very scary. You have no security and you can only keep what you can hold in a bag or a suitcase. Money is also a problem. I did sex work for a few months. It was dangerous. I had a lot of encounters that were very bad but I made money from it. And I was able to buy food. Now I am lucky I don’t have to do it because I have a stable housing and a job.” 

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