The number of unaccompanied homeless youth in the United States is alarming, with some experts comparing it to an epidemic. Studies indicate that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, youth comprise a disproportionate percentage of these young people–approximately 40 percent. In some regions, 25 percent to 37 percent of LGBT high school students are or have recently been homeless. Unfortunately, little research considers the unique experiences of transgender youth, a group that includes minors as well as young people in their late teens and 20s. The information that is available indicates that transgender individuals experience a range of health and wellness disparities compared with their cisgender peers. Family rejection; inadequate social services; and discrimination in housing, employment, and education make it difficult for transgender young people to secure a safe and affirming place to live. Once homeless, transgender youth too often find that shelters are unwelcoming or unavailable, health care is inaccessible, and law enforcement systems are unhelpful. As more youth transition at earlier ages, they become both more visible and more susceptible to family rejection and societal discrimination. Surveys suggest that increasing numbers of transgender youth are homeless–or at least that a larger share are outing themselves to service providers. For instance, one study of service providers working with LGBT homeless youth found that more than three-quarters reported having worked with transgender clients in the previous year–a significant increase over 10 years before, when fewer than half reported serving homeless transgender clients. Immediate attention to these young people is vital to improve their health and safety.
By Hannah Hussey, Center for American Progress, 2015