WATCH: Trans Youth of Color Talk Homelessness, HIV 'In Their Own Words'
"You have to go off your natural human instincts of survival," explains Aludein "Diamond" Marks, a 19-year-old intermittently homeless trans woman of color recently profiled by NBC News' "In Their Own Words" series.
She goes on to describe what she calls the "depressing" life of being a homeless LGBT youth: being kicked out by her mother, the rainy winter, sleeping on park benches, being at risk for HIV, and facing harassment for being a former sex worker.
Marks' interview, as well as several other with New York City-based trans youth of color, were included in NBC News' longer report on an often unspoken reality of LGBT activism: That "despite the gains made for gay rights in recent years, homeless LGBT … youth have benefitted little. Instead, their numbers on the streets have swelled," reaching nearly 40 percent of the total American homeless population.
Part of the recent uptick in LGBT youth homelessness is related to how the LGBT rights' movement has inspired young adults to come out earlier in life, despite the reality that many members of their parents' generations are often intolerant. There is also a direct link, activists told NBC, between increased homelessness and the increasing HIV rate among LGBT youth: without shelter and food, safe sex practices are deprioritized.
The report goes on to point out that there are only 4,000 beds dedicated to homeless youth — both LGBT and not — across the entire US. In New York City, shelters are forced to turn kids away and instruct them to sleep on the subway.
"We can't just go to our family resources like most people can, you know?" explains another youth of color, Steve Perryman, in the second video below. "It seems like it takes someone in our community a lot longer to bounce back from not having a job, not having a place to stay than it is for someone who isn't LGBT."