Callie Thornton
Abuse of LGBTQ children


ATRANSGENDER teen girl and Lambda Legal Defense have filed a lawsuit against the city's Youth Study Center and Department of Human Services. The girl alleges that despite being diagnosed with gender identity disorder she was housed with males and subjected to constant verbal and physical abuse.

In fact, according to the suit, one Youth Study Center supervisor told this petite girl that he would not call her by her feminine name until she had her genitals removed. Of course, the language he used was much more crude.

Last spring, DHS held a meeting for young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) and who find themselves in the foster-care system. About 100 people attended. Half were clients and half social-service providers. Several transgender teens spoke about being harassed at the Youth Study Center and in group homes.

Phillip (not his real name), who recently turned 18 and is in college, spoke to me about seeing an effeminate boy being beaten up in a group home. The supervisors put the child in a room with the bullies to fight them. The boy ended up being beaten again. Philip also claims to have witnessed effeminate boys being sexually abused by other boys at residential treatment facilities.

Carrie Jacobs, executive director and co-founder of the Attic Youth Center, said she's seen an increase in young people coming out at earlier ages. Jacobs said that, when she was young, they didn't have words for the feelings they had. Now they do - but going public has consequences. And it's particularly thorny because foster parents are rarely trained to deal with gay youth.

According to Jacobs, "Foster parents may take on the care of a child when he is 3 years old and then when the youth turns 14 or 15 and comes out he may get kicked out." Jacobs suggested that when the state is contracting with a foster parent, "they might want to make clear the reality that some youth will come out as lesbian, gay or transgender."

LGBTQ youth in the foster-care system and residential treatment facilities can be forced to endure child abuse by the very people paid to look out for their welfare.

Transgender youth, in particular, are targets for physical and sexual abuse with no recourse for rescue or escape. If an LGBTQ child avoids going to school or leaves foster care due to fear of being beaten up, then the child is delinquent. If an LGBTQ child is assaulted and fights back, the child can be prosecuted as a criminal.

Where other adolescents are offered college and careers, all too often LGBTQ youth are offered the streets, drugs, sexual abuse, solicitation and worse. There is no way that this can be tolerated as either moral or ethical.

Cei Bell is a Philadelphia writer.
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