It's Time to Transform our Approach to LGBTQ+ Victims of Trafficking
We can probably all agree that we want to prevent children and teens from homelessness, trafficking, and suicide. No matter your beliefs, I imagine you wouldn't wish this upon anyone, let alone a child.
Unfortunately, these are very pertinent realities for LGBTQ+ youth. Believe it or not, young LGBTQ+ people are disproportionately affected by human trafficking. So what can we as community members do to protect them from homelessness, trafficking, and suicide?
1. Understand Specific LGBTQ+ Vulnerabilities
Up to 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ+, despite making up just 5-7% of the general youth population. Factors like family rejection & discrimination are what most often force them to the streets.
More than 58% of homeless LGBTQ+ youth are victim to sexual exploitation, compared to 33% of their heterosexual & cisgender peers. They are also 7.4 times more likely to suffer acts of sexual violence than their heterosexual/cisgender counterparts.
Despite the high rates of sex trafficking this population undergoes, they often have difficulty finding resources tailored to their needs. This may be because facilities are not adequately trained on LGBTQ+ issues, safe houses may isolate them from their peers or place them in sex-segregated facilities that don't match their gender identity, or they don't offer LGBTQ+ specific trauma counseling and medications like hormone therapy. As a result these youth may feel unsafe, rejected, or misunderstood, and trans youth may experience gender dysphoria. These factors can push them back to trafficking, often in order to get the medication they need or due to the false sense of security a trafficker provides.
Suicide In the US, at least 1.2 million LGBTQ+ individuals aged 13–18 seriously consider suicide each year.
Youth whose families rejected them are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as their peers who experienced little to no family rejection.
Transgender youth whose gender identity is respected by those around them are half as likely to commit suicide. Therefore it is critical that survivor services such as safe houses use gender-affirming practices.
2. Love & Support the LGBTQ+ People in Your Life
When it comes down to it, the best way to prevent your LGBTQ+ loved ones from ending up homeless, trafficked, or worse, is to show them that you love & support them. If it's your own family member, make sure they know you're there for them. And if you know someone who has been rejected by their loved ones, become their chosen family. Ensuring that their sexuality and identity is respected & that they are loved is the one of the best methods to prevent LGBTQ+ people from seeking that external validation from traffickers, or from deciding their life is not worth living.
3. Increase Inclusivity Within Human Trafficking Organizations
Human Trafficking Task Forces
Task forces should build partnerships with LGBTQ+ organizations in order to exchange expertise and reflect the diversity of human trafficking victims & survivors that they serve. Human trafficking experts should educate LGBTQ+ organizations on the particular risks to the population they serve, while LGBTQ+ experts can educate trafficking organizations on the specific traumas and needs of LGBTQ+ people.
Human trafficking training organizations should collaborate with LGBTQ+ groups to educate LGBTQ+ youth on the risks of trafficking, safety planning tips, and resources if they find themselves in abusive or exploitative circumstances.
Through collaboration with LGBTQ+ organizations, service providers should be able to offer comprehensive services or referrals for LGBTQ+ youth. For example, well-prepared services providers should be able to help or refer survivors who are in the process of transitioning, require continued medical support, or need help changing their gender on identification documents. Additionally, sex-segregated housing placements should always correspond to the survivor's gender identity, and privacy should be available but isolation from others should not be required.
Celebrate Pride All Year Long
As Pride Month comes to a close, let's not allow our efforts to do the same. No matter the time of year, it's important to demonstrate our support for the LGBTQ+ community by putting our words into action.
The Trevor Project