LA LGBT Center’s Resistance Squad Volunteer Kate Ryan
According to the US Centers for Disease Control, about 8% of American high schoolers identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Compare that number to the 19% of foster youths and the 40% of homeless youths who identify as LGBT, and it’s easy to see we have a problem. Despite being overrepresented in their respective populations, LGBT foster and homeless youths are dangerously underserved. On top of the stress of trying to secure stable housing, LGBT youths have to worry about finding services that aren’t dismissive or dehumanizing — a burden no child should be left to shoulder alone.
As the laws in California currently stand, child welfare agencies are not obligated to provide gender‐affirming care. This oversight leaves many health care providers unequipped to treat gender dysphoria, which is medically recognized as the discomfort and distress a person feels when he/she/they do not identify with the gender he/she/they were assigned at birth. When LGBT foster and homeless youths don’t get the quality care they need and deserve, they are more likely to experience chronic homelessness as adults. They are also more likely to be overly criminalized.
While it’s wise to prioritize immediate housing needs first, ensuring LGBT youth have access to LGBT‐specific services helps address problems with the system as a whole. Assembly Bill 2119 plans to do just that by clarifying that foster youth have the right to access‐gender affirming care. It will also define gender‐affirming care as health care that respects a patient’s gender identity and alleviates distress associated with gender dysphoria. Additionally, Senate Bill 918 will create an Office of Homeless Youth and a $60 million grant program if passed by California legislators.
Please note: This post reflects the views and opinions expressed of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect those of the Los Angeles LGBT Center.