Tyler Oakley, the longtime gay vlogger who recently appeared on the social influencer makeover episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, just premiered the second season of his series Chosen Family which focuses on stories of “queer resilience” that often get overlooked. His latest episode covers homeless LGBTQ youth and the services the L.A. LGBT Center offers to help them reach their potential.
“On any given day, there are 6,000 youth ages 18 to 24, struggling with homelessness in Los Angeles County,” Oakley reveals at the start of his video. “A staggering 40% of them are LGBTQ.”
Several homeless youths at the Center inform Oakley that LGBTQ youth are sometimes kicked out by their families for coming out. Openly queer and lacking a stable home address, workplaces are often reluctant to hire them, leaving them to fend for themselves on streets where others may harass or hurt them for sport.
One young person named Sage says that they hate the word “homeless” because of all the associations and stigma surrounding the word. Sage tells Oakley that homeless people don’t always look like the stereotypical conception of a person digging through a trashcan.
“You also have everyday folks who are just going through something,” Sage says.
Another young man named Michael says he wishes people would treat homeless people not with pity but with respect. “The sidewalks that they walk on every day,” Michael says, “those are the beds that people lay their heads on at night. It’s not safe. People die.”
Here’s the Chosen Family episode about homeless LGBTQ youth:
Other queer people, like successful trans actress Alexandra Grey, grow up in foster care. Rejected by their foster families for coming out as LGBTQ and unable to depend on other family members for support, Grey and other queer teens come immediately to the L.A. LGBT Center to receive help from their services.
“A lot of people think of the Los Angeles LGBT Center as a shelter,” says Kevin McCloskey, Director of Education & Youth Development at the Center. “But it’s so much more than beds. We have programs that serve the whole youth from employment, education, youth development.”
In addition to providing shelter, the Center also provides clinical health services, mental health services, a place where young people can rest and engage with staff throughout the day, an education center where young people can work towards their GED or high school diploma and even scholarships to continue their study at college.
The Center also provides a safe haven, a place where young people can be themselves without hiding, where engaged staff members feel like family members and role models in a new, loving and accepting home.
“A piece of all of us needs that encouragement,” Grey tells Oakley. “We need to hear from someone that, ‘Oh you can make it,’ or ‘I believe in you enough.’ Or someone to make me feel like I was worthy enough or that I had potential.”
Grey says that if she hadn’t had the Center’s encouragement, she wouldn’t be here today.