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The "Gay Factor" 
In The Street Youth Problem

A 2006 Web Page (Access Via This Page): Street Youth - Aboriginal Youth Over-Represented in Street Youth Populations, especially in Canada. GLBT Youth Also Over-Represented and They Are Also at Greater Risk for Having Attempted Suicide. Latest Study With Good Sampling Methodology:

Van Leeuwen JM, Boyle S, Salomonsen-Sautel S, Baker DN, Garcia JT, Hoffman A, Hopfer CJ (2006). Lesbian, gay, and bisexual homeless youth: an eight-city public health perspective. Child Welfare, 85(2): 151-70. PubMed Abstract. Note: This is a USA 8-City One-day Sample - 670 Homeless Street Youth - 150 GLB Youth (22.4%). For GLB Youth, Attempted Suicide Incidence (Lifetime): 62.4%. For Heterosexual Youth: 28.8%.
From: The Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Factor in the Youth Suicide Problem.

See: Update 1998 & Juvenile Male Prostitution Information Links. - An example of gay street youth casualties from Sidney Australia: by the age of about 30 years, only 3 out of a group of 13 boys have survived (Alternate Link).

Increasingly, in the United States, it is being recognized that the street youth population has an over-representation of gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth. According to a 1992 Advocate article titled Throwaway Kids, The National Network of Runaway and Youth Services has estimated that "20% to 40% of the 1.3 million kids who become homeless each year" are "gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth." (48: 55) Kruks (1991) reports on an estimate of "25-35%" for Los Angeles, and 40% for Seattle (78: 516)(1) The latter estimate was the result of "a 1986 survey of street youth conducted by the Orion Center in Seattle." (134: 13) Dr. A. Damien Martin describes a major cause of this problem:

Most workers in the field have had to deal with those youngsters, barely into their teens and thrown out into the street to survive as best they can, solely because the parents discovered the child was homosexually oriented. Such parental responses should not be surprising. Like others in society, parents have been taught that gay people are sick, despicable, trivial, and dangerous, that homosexuality is one of the most shameful conditions known to man. Many parents cannot handle the guilt, shame and fear when they realize their child is one of "them." (88: 63)
Gay and lesbian street youth certainly have more problems than other gay and lesbian adolescents, and could therefore be at higher at higher risk for suicide. This was, in fact, the result of an unpublished part of the Schneider et al. (1989) study reported on by Kruks (1991). A sample of 53 gay street youth yielded a 53% attempted suicide rate and 47% of them had attempted suicide more than once. Given that about 160,000 street youth exist in Canada, we have certainly been experiencing a developing street youth problem, especially in larger cities.

As a rule, gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth will not reveal their homosexual orientation to school counselors, teachers, social workers, or even to their peers; and especially not when these youth may have been heavily penalized - such as having been thrown out of their homes - when such information became known. Uribe and Harbeck (1992) report that, for the 50% of the 37 gay youth who had attempted suicide, "the majority sought help outside schools. Without exception, those seeking help from private sources denied their sexual orientation to them." (154: 22) This situation has probably led many psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, social workers, etc., to believe that these youth don't exist, or that their numbers are few. This is not true. Professionals working with youth are probably seeing these "Often Invisible" youth on a daily basis.

By the 1980s, positive social changes were happening. Some gay and lesbian social workers were beginning to make an issue of their sexual orientation. This included coming out to colleagues and even, in appropriate ways, to clients. Others were also becoming sensitive to gay and lesbian youth issues, and especially to the many problems these teenagers may have. The result of one such case is reported by Mohr (1988) - a gay philosophy professor who described what one of his university students discovered about 10 years ago:

One of the most up-tight suburbanite women in the class, someone who made dramatic strides through the three weeks in shedding mental and social encrustation's [related to learned homophobia], works part-time in a local shelter for runaways. She told them that she was taking the course, described it to them, and told them how it was changing her views. Apparently, her convictions were taken as authentic, for many of the runaways came out to her. Previously they were completely closeted to the shelter's authority figures, even though their being gay was the cause of their being on their own. For, as applied to gay youth, 'runaway' is usually a complete misnomer; usually it's a case of "beaten up and thrown out." Now these 8- to 17-year-old 'runaways' meet Wednesday evenings for gay rap-sessions supervised by my ex-student. [This is happening "in a little Midwestern town" which, according to the author, may prevent these youths from seeking 'refuge' in larger cities like New York where they would face much greater risks to their health, mental health, and lives.] (96: 291-192)
Gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth have serious problems inflicted on them, and their problems are often similar to those experienced by children growing up as members of a traditionally hated minority group. A major difference nonetheless exist, as noted by Martin (1988):
...each minority group suffers specific exigencies related to their group... But gay and lesbian adolescents have special problems too. Black, Jews, and Hispanics are not thrown out of their families or religion at adolescence for being black, Jewish, or Hispanic - gay and lesbian kids are. (88: 60)
This information on gay, lesbian, and bisexual street youth comes from the United States, but Martin was writing the above in the first Canadian book about Gay and lesbian youth: Often Invisible: Counselling Gay & Lesbian Youth published by Central Toronto Youth Services in 1988. Canadian and American cultures share similar homophobic and homohating nature, and we can expect them to have similar related youth problems, including family intolerance. Therefore, some Canadian parents will also throw their gay, lesbian, or bisexual offspring out of their homes, and these kids may become street youth forced to find ways to survive, just like American gay and lesbian street youth must do.

The media in Calgary rarely reports on the existence of gay and lesbian youth, and there has been a general silence about the prostitution activities of gay, bisexual, and even heterosexual male street youth. This phenomenon exists, and it has been well documented in the history of western societies. Related information, however, is usually reported only when a serious crime is involved. For example, from June to August, 1991, there were news items in Calgary about a 54-year-old male, James Clarke, "a known child molester," who was shot to death while he slept by one of three adolescent males living in his home. Yet, the Calgary media never did an investigative story about the phenomenon of boys who sell their sexual services as a way of surviving and/or making money because they are on the street.

Gay youth - which includes gay street youth - are often attracted to older males, and gay street youth are often seeking stability and "love." Typically, these situations are called "sugar daddy" relationships, and they often cause considerable emotional damage to these vulnerable teenagers. Having always felt hated by society, and knowing they are even hated by their parents, gay or bisexual street youth can end up meeting someone who pretends to love them. Kruks (1991) describes the situation:

The "sugar daddy" usually presents himself to the youth in a loving caretaker manner. For street youth who have a past history of rejection and/or abuse, the promise to be loved and cared for is a compelling one. [These gay street youth usually have many of these relationships and] each of these is a cycle of falling in love, believing that life will now be wonderful forever and that this older adult truly loves the young person, discovering that in fact it is just sex that the adult wants, feeling the impact of one more betrayal, and ending up on the streets again. This whole cycle lasts an average of 1-2 months, and the youth often becomes extremely suicidal at the end of each cycle. (78: 518)
Uribe and Harbeck (1992) reported that 2 out of their sample of 37 gay males in high school admitted to being involved in a "sugar daddy" relationship (154: 22), and such situations exist in both Calgary and Edmonton - to an unknown extent(2). While writing this section, however, the Calgary Herald (34) published important information which gave Albertans a glimpse into the world of male prostitution in Calgary, especially juvenile male prostitution. The information confirms that male prostitution in Alberta's cities is similar to the situation described in American cities, and also in British cities as was studied and described by Dr. J. D. West in his 342-page 1993 book Male Prostitution (156).

Male prostitution is varied, and most of it is invisible - except for street workers who, themselves, are often invisible. For example, Staff Sgt. Ross MacInnes noted that, "on a busy night [in Calgary], there may be five (male) prostitutes on the stroll." Yet, the results of a recent survey by a social agency revealed that "...there were more than 40 male prostitutes working Calgary streets, not all at the same time. [That] nine of them were under 18." (34)

Although services are available for female prostitutes, the same does not apply for male prostitutes, including juvenile male prostitutes - or "hustlers" as they prefer calling themselves. According to Allyn Gandell, the executive director of the Alberta Safe House Society, a haven for youth on child welfare: "If you're a gay male working the guys stroll, there are zero services(3) for you to the best of my knowledge." Randy Diddams, supervisor of the Exit outreach program reports that "most [of these boys] have been through abusive situations. They're trying to survive financially and in other ways." MacInnes notes that "many of the males do it for affection and love. The girls (prostitutes) do it for the bucks, but the boys may do it for love." Diddams adds: "I know more males who give it away on the streets than females. The guys seem to need that immediate acceptance and care." (34) [Related information.]

The idea that juvenile male prostitutes "do it for affection and love," and even because they "need that immediate acceptance and care," is troubling. The suggestion made is that these boys have somehow learned that being used sexually means being accepted, loved, and receiving affection! But experiences are often relative and, given the world of hatred in which these youth grew up, it is not surprising for them to have these feelings with respect to being sexually used. At least, the men using these boys are not rejecting and hating them because they are gay or bisexual, which was their fate in our society and schools.

It is a tragedy to recognize that what our society does to these boys is essentially worse than what the men who sexually use them are doing. But who is responsible for these boys becoming prostitutes? Research work is now available to answer this question, as it is done in Boyer's 1989 paper Male Prostitution and Homosexual Identity. In a two-year study of 47 juvenile male prostitutes from Seattle, Washington, Boyer's major conclusion - as suggested in the paper's title - was that juvenile male prostitution was, in great part, the product of boys who had become victims of society's anti-homosexual indoctrination. Basically, juvenile "male prostitutes 'practised' being gay. As prostitutes, they enacted the myths and reflected the images of stigma they had learned [from society.]" (15: 177)

These "images" are also well learned by heterosexual male youth in Calgary schools, as gay youth have reported. Somehow, many heterosexual teenagers have learned that a gay male youth will want to have sex with every heterosexual male they see. That they would do so, if it was desired by heterosexual males, and that the sex role of gay males is equivalent to the female sexual role. This is why the commonly reported heterosexual male taunts of suspect gay males often includes the expressed belief that gay males want to perform oral sex on all males - for free! Gay males are therefore perceived to be worse than female prostitutes who at least get paid for what they do.

As much as many heterosexual male youth have been taught to believe this negative homosexual stereotype, the same applies for a significant number of gay adolescents. The result of this has been devastating, and juvenile male prostitutes are only manifesting one of the problems caused by this socially taught negative stereotype. Gay youth, and especially gay and bisexual street youth, have suffered incredible emotional abuse while growing up; which makes them very vulnerable to being sexually used (and abused) mostly because such abuse will be given the "love" label. Within themselves, however, they know this is not love; but they must avoid recognizing this fact because it could devastate and even kill them. Hence, their very common use of drugs and alcohol to cope with the reality of what they do, and the denials often needed to survive. The result of this situation was best expressed by Boyer's 1989 description of a gay youth's street life:

Matthew prostituted daily for six months. Prostitution was his primary means of support. His drug usage increased as he needed to 'take his mind off his problems.' As time went by, Matthew became more depressed and suicidal. He was hospitalized once after slashing his wrists... (15: 177)
Over the years, I have met a number of juvenile male prostitutes living in Calgary and Edmonton, and most of their lives were tragedies. As a rule, they were school dropouts, and some had been sexually abused as children. One began prostituting himself on "the hill" in Edmonton when he was 14 years old, which is the age most of these boys are reported to have begun prostituting themselves (15: 156). Another had worked the streets, had acquired a clientele, including two closeted airline pilots, and had become part of the more invisible world of male youth prostitution.

Unfortunately, WE - which includes school systems - are the ones essentially responsible for what these boys become. But accepting responsibility will not happen in the near-future, mostly because WE have yet to accept responsibility for the general abuse including the physical violence - which has been inflicted on gay and lesbian youth in our society, and in our schools. In fact, educators and educational authorities have not even been at the important stage of accepting that major gay and lesbian youth problems exist. This was discovered in my 1991 investigation of Alberta professionals in education (148: 27-32; Appendix D is file "1991.htm" at this website.).

Often enough, the situation is so bad that educators and education authorities haven't even recognized the reality that gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth exist. This fact was emphasized in Coleman and Remafedi's conclusion to their 1989 paper "Gay, lesbian, and Bisexual Adolescents: A Critical Challenge to Counselors:" "Progress is being made with the simple affirmation that adolescent homosexual activity and identity do indeed exist." (29: 39)

Once this happens, and schools become gay/lesbian-positive environments - because counsellors and teachers have been educated and trained to effectively address the concerns and problems of these youngsters - a significant part of our socially created youth problems will be addressed. The expected result of this development will be a lowered school drop-out rate, improved academic performance in schools, a reduction of the street youth population and adolescent convictions, and a significantly reduced youth suicide rate.
 

NOTES:

1. Lower Canadian and American estimates for street youth who are gay, lesbian or bisexual are given in Appendix B, and they are deemed to be gross underestimates. It is noted that even the 20 to 40 percent estimates would be underestimates. 

2. A 17-year-old gay youth reported, in March 1994, that he had thrown him out of his home when he was 12 because his stepfather discovered he was gay. Since then, he has survived by living with a small number of older males with whom, in sequence, he developed relationships. These relationships gave him a home which then permitted him to continue his education. He is doing very well in school but reported having a major problem. He is often depressed and engages in sexual activity with a number of males to counter feelings of depression. To date, he has not sought help for this problem, but boys with such problems are not told that help would be available for them. 

3. At best, a "BAD DATE LISTING" is available. The information sheet is headed with: "The Following Information is Provided by Sex Trade Workers for Sex Trade Workers and this is supported by the Calgary Status of Women Action Committee and the Calgary Association of Women and the Law. 08/02/94" The period between May 20 to July 25, 1994, contains the following reported abuses. (Some of the information has been deleted or re-arranged, and all locations are given as: "Boys Stroll 13th & 7th.") "ATTEMPTED ASSAULT (May 20) 160 lbs 40 year old Caucasian. Agreed on price - $100.00. Date took boy to his house - wants to tie up boy. Date got violent after he came and wanted to hit boy with baseball bat. Boy defended self by kicking him on side of head. BASHERS (June 9) Four 18 to 20 youth in white car. Waving knife and yelling at guys working stroll. Police were called and the car left. They are usually out 11:00 - 12:30 p.m.. ASSAULT (June 17) 35 year old 170 lbs Caucasian with beard in 1994 Chevy. Offers to pay $150.00 but does not pay hustlers - beats them up instead. STABBING (June 19) 250 lbs 25 year old Caucasian. Agreed on price and place. Date drove off. Later date stopped and stabbed boy in face and legs. Bad date was later spotted at a club, police were called, and he was arrested and charged. BASHERS (June 20) Four 18-20 year old males (different than above.) Drove around the block, stopped in church parking lot - circled block and came back and chased complainant. Threatened complainant with bodily harm. BASHERS (JULY 2) EARLY 20s, all over 6 ft, 180-200 lbs. Yelled "faggots" and took chase after two working guys. They got away. ATTEMPTED ASSAULT (July 12) 165 lbs, early 30s. Wanted a blow job for $20. Boy refused. Date pulled a knife, drove around for 1/2 hour then let boy out. RAPE (July 25) 180 lbs East Indian. Agreed on price, then took boy to his home and raped him condomless. He did not pay. Drove boy back to stroll."
 

Update 1998:

There is an important story yet to be written about teenage gay males who are only sexually and emotionally attracted to older males. Generally, GLB communities and their supporters refuse to intelligently address this reality, thus implicating them at the root cause of related problems.

At a preliminary meeting (August, 1994) of a small group of professionals gathered to form the multidisciplinary group (See: Update 1996), I noted that something will also have to be done about the adolescent boys who make contact with the gay community and "often only get fucked both physically and psychologically." Unfortunately, the powers-that-be have refused to address this issue using the excuse that these relationships are "inappropriate" and therefore unacceptable, thus warranting only (mindless, but politically correct) condemning responses.

The boys on the street, however, are only a small part of this reality and, along with other boys also relating sexually with men (most often gay/bisexual-identified), they are the gay/bisexual males most likely to contract HIV at the youngest age and they are generally being ignored - as in pretending they do not exist - in safer sex education programs. Relevant information is located in the section For Journalists, Advocates, and Activists.

As a rule, male youth prostitution has been ignored in Calgary for reasons presented on the CBC radio program IDEAS with reference to a major male youth prostitution 'event' which had occurred in London Ontario. An expert on prostitution is introduced: "At the University of Calgary, Augustine Brannigan is a professor of sociology. He's one of Canada's leading experts on prostitution." He describes what was learned in Calgary about male youth prostitution after this comment made by the interviewer: "Another view is that prostitution, especially for boys, can be an adventure: whether you're part of a group of friends, or you're working the park and the streets. Here's what the police found out in Calgary. Professor Brannigan:"

"The police engaged in undercover sting operations on the gay stroll. They intercepted the customers of the boys, and they discovered that the male and female strolls were radically different.

The motivation for engaging in prostitution in the two strolls is quite different. The females are financially motivated. They’re very concerned about making money very quickly, and transacting the date with the utmost haste and the maximum amount of return.

On the gay strolls, many of the young men who engaged in hustling activity are doing it not so much out of financial pressure (that’s there, I don’t want to deny that) but they’re also doing it because they’re working thru their sexual identities. [Boyer(1989) reports on the same phenomenon existing in the State of Washington (15)].

Many of these young guys have bisexual feelings or gay feelings and gravitate to the stroll because that’s where you meet other guys with the same inclinations. That’s also where you can meet other men who are cruising these areas.

One of the things that made it difficult for the police to succeed in making arrests is that when they would pick up some of the young boys, the young boys would check them out, show some attraction to them, and offer in many cases to have sex without money. To have sex for affection. So the police after about 1988 simply stopped policing this stroll, and we find that the arrests have been confined to the heterosexual strolls."

[By 1998, however, this laissez-faire situation was changing, and a related information update will soon be located here.]

The interviewer comments on the London situation: "That's in Calgary. In London, police developed a powerful lever to pry apart the connection between boys and boys, and boys and men..... Source: The trials of London - Part 3.  The Trials of London supplies important  information about the world of adolescent male prostitution, including boys who know that few men would resist them if they are attracted to a particular man and act accordingly. In the available literature, some gay men, reflecting on their activities as boys, have used labels such as "adult abusers" to best describe their endeavors in seeking out men for sexual experiences. See the book, The Gay Report, for related information.
 

Internet Links to Juvenile & Young Adult Male Prostitution Information

Bibliography:

15. Boyer, Debra. Male Prostitution and Homosexual Identity. In Herdt, Gilbert, ed., Gay and Lesbian Youth. Harrington Park Press, Binghamton, N.Y., 1989, pp. 151-184.

29. Coleman, Eli, and Remafedi, Gary. Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Adolescents: A critical Challenge to Counselors. Journal of Counseling & Development, September/October, 1989, Vol. 68, pp. 36-40.

34. Dawson, Chris. Girl charged with pimping. Calgary Herald, October 8, 1993, p. B-1.

48. Galst, Liz. Throwaway Kids. The Advocate, December 29, 1992, pp. 54-57.

78. Kruks, Gabe. Gay and Lesbian Homeless/Street Youth: Special Issues and Concerns. Journal of Adolescent Health, Vol. 12, 1991, pp. 515-518.

88. Martin, A. Damien. Chapter 7: The Stigmatization of the Gay and Lesbian Adolescent. In Schneider, Margaret S. Often Invisible: Counselling Gay & Lesbian Youth. Central Toronto Youth Services, 1988, pp. 56-70.

96. Mohr, Richard D. Gays/Justice. Columbia University Press, New York, N.Y., 1988.

134. Seattle Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth. Report on Gay and Lesbian Youth in
Seattle. November, 1988.

148. Tremblay, Pierre J. Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youth Need Our Help. November, 1991. Addressed to The Honourable Jim Dinning, Minister of Education in Alberta. Fifty copies of the document were made and distributed to professionals in education, and in the youth problem prevention field. Later Version: Appendix D added in December, 1991. The homosexuality factor expected to exist in the male youth juvenile delinquency problem in minority groups is explored. Fifteen copies of this document were made. Pages 27-32 reproduced in Appendix D as the unedited version of Tremblay, Pierre J. Education, Suicide Problems for Gay Kids. The Alberta Gay and Lesbian Press, July, 1991. p. 28; August, 1991, pp. 28-29.

154. Uribe, Virginia, and Harbeck, Karen M. Addressing the Needs of Lesbian, Gay, and bisexual Youth: The Origins of PROJECT 10 and School-Based Intervention. In Harbeck, Karen M., ed., Coming Out of the Classroom Closet. Haworth Press, Inc., Binghamton, N.Y., 1992, pp. 9-28.

156. West, Donald J., MD, LittD, FRCPsych; with de Villiers, Buz, BA, LLB, MPhil. Male Prostitution. Harrington Park Press, New York, N.Y., 1993.


Relationship of sexual orientation to substance use, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts,
             and other factors in a population of homeless adolescents.
             Noell JW, Ochs LM.
             J Adolesc Health 2001 Jul;29(1):31-6
             (PubMed Abstract)

Challenges faced by homeless sexual minorities: comparison of gay, lesbian, bisexual,
              and transgender homeless adolescents with their heterosexual counterparts.
              Cochran BN, Stewart AJ, Ginzler JA, Cauce AM.
              Am J Public Health 2002 May;92(5):773-7
              (PubMed Abstract)

Leslie MB, Stein JA, Rotheram-Borus MJ. (2002). Sex-specific predictors of suicidality among runaway youth.
Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 31(1): 27-40.
(PubMed Abstract) "348 adolescent runways (197 boys; 56%African American; M age = 16)... Twenty-five percent of the girls and 14% of the boys had attempted suicide at least once. Male suicidality was mainly predicted by individual characteristics: identifying as gay, emotional distress, fewer conduct problems, and avoidant reasons for drug use."


Email:   Pierre Tremblay: ----- pierre@youth-suicide.com ----- (403) 245-8827
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