At age 17 Lowrey’s family kicked her out of her home after she came out. As a teen growing up in Clackamas Oregon, she looked to her local library for answers. But resources for LGBT homeless youth were (and remain) scarce.
“There was nothing there that spoke to what I was going through,” explains Lowrey. “I made this promise that if I made it through it I was going to write a book. …Years later, I revisited that dream.”
Recently Lowrey has edited an anthology of 34 essays by current and former homeless LGBTQ youth. The result is a stunning and poignant look at homelessness in the US today.
“The contributors are diverse as the epidemic itself,” Lowrey explains. “They come from every community… It runs the full spectrum from people grew up in ‘dysfunctional families’ to people who grew up in stereotypical, perfect American family.”
Many of the contributors have never published their work before — some hesitated to tell their stories at all. Though the reality of these stories may be hard to grasp, Kicked Out gives readers an inside look at a world that would otherwise be overlooked. Lowrey tells of one young woman named Eternity who wrote her story in a series of 37 text messages, which Lowrey published as is.
“This epidemic does not discriminate on gender, race, class, disability, or geographic region,” Lowrey clarifies.
“Homelessness occurs here in New York City and in the smallest town.” She goes on, “I hesitate to say one experience is easier or harder. There are different challenges in each city.”
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force says, “LGBTQ youth are three times more likely to participate in survival sex.” “Survival sex,” Lowrey explains, “is one strategy for survival involving the sex industry — either exchanging sexual acts for money or for food and shelter.” These teens’ barriers to health care access make HIV and STDs a particular challenge.
In “Framing Federal Policy to Benefit LGBTQ Homeless Youth,” Kicked Out contributor Richard Hooks Wayman addresses the simple steps adults can take to help curtail the epidemic of youth homelessness within the queer community:
There is a role for the LGBTQ community to play in ending youth homelessness—a role for advocacy, a role for sustained giving to youth services, and a role in reaching out and building relationships with vulnerable queer youth. LGBTQ adults can ensure that vulnerable, homeless youth are not assaulted in street environments and not recruited into the commercial sex industry through strip clubs and prostitution. LGBTQ adults have the opportunity to reflect on their own behaviors and consumption patterns by not supporting businesses or venues that encourage the sexual exploitation of youth through erotic dancing, escort services or prostitution.