For #Pride2018, we will be creating a series of social media posts to bring awareness to the issue of trafficking of LGBTQ+ youth.  Although Pride is a time to celebrate, there are populations within the LGBTQ+ community who are fighting for their basic rights. Let’s honor Pride by increasing awareness and garnering support for the most vulnerable LGBTQ+ youth. Below is some background information about trafficking and LGBTQ+ youth.

What does LGBTQ+ mean?

LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning. The “+” encompasses all other diverse gender and sexual identities. Check out the Gender Unicorn for more information.

What is human trafficking?

Human Trafficking is the practice of exploiting people as commodities in conditions of sexual and labor servitude. Sex trafficking is defined as profiting from sex work by providing drugs, using false or misleading statements, withholding or destroying government documents, debt servicing, force, a plan or pattern of coercive conduct, or other acts. Federal law automatically recognizes persons under 18 who have been sexually exploited as victims of sex trafficking.

The term “survival sex” is a term often heard within the homeless youth LGBTQ+ community. Survival sex is a term often used when referring to the use of sex in exchange for money and/or material goods including food, drugs, and shelter. When a youth under the age of 18 is involved in this form of exploitation, the youth is automatically considered a victim of sex trafficking. LGBTQ+ youth are 3-7 times more likely to engage in survival sex to meet their basic needs compared to non-LGBTQ+ youth. Youth can be introduced to survival sex by peers or by exploiters.

Why are LGBTQ+ youth more vulnerable to sexual exploitation than their non-LGBTQ+ peers?

LGBTQ+ often lack familial and social supports, and many are kicked out of their homes because of their gender and/or sexual identities. Therefore, LGBTQ+ youth experience homelessness more frequently than non-LGBTQ+ youth. In 2010, 20-40% of the homeless youth population was estimated to be LGBTQ+.

In recent years, societal changes have lead to youth feeling more comfortable coming out as LGBTQ+, but these youth are continuing to experience homelessness at the same rate, with no increase in beds at LGBTQ+ safe shelters. This leaves more LGBTQ+ vulnerable to living on the streets, and therefore more vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

Discrimination and abuse from family, peers, community, social service agencies, and law enforcement often deter youth from seeking shelter and resources from traditional sources. LGBTQ+ youth are 7.4 times more likely to experience sexual violence compared to non-LGBTQ+ youth.

What Resources are Available?

If you or someone you know is a survivor of trafficking, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

If you or a child or youth you know is homeless or a runaway, call the National Runaway Safeline.

More resources about trafficking and LGBTQ+ youth:

Surviving the Streets of New York: Experiences of LGBTQ Youth, YMSM, and YWSW, Engaged in Survival Sex from the Urban Institute.

Sex Trafficking and LGBTQ Youth from Polaris.

Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in New York City.