Despite plenty of hardships, many homeless LGBT youth across the nation are using a resource many people take for granted to find themselves a new home and a new place to belong -- the Internet.
In a new mini-documentary published by news website Vocativ, three young people staying in Atlanta's Lost-N-Found LGBT shelter share their stories of coming out to their families and how the Internet helped them express their feelings and cope with being homeless.
"If I hadn't had the Internet, I probably would not have come out," said Spencer, a 22-year-old transgender man and YouTuber who got kicked out by his conservative, religious family. "I probably would not have considered myself transgender. I would have just been this masculine female."
"First thing I did was I paid my phone bill three months in advance," said 23-year-old Matthew, who was thrown out of his home after coming out to his minister father. "I was able to get online and just find somewhere, some resource to get that once chance, just that one opportunity. My phone really saved my life throughout this entire experience."
The documentary points out that there are many Internet and social media resources dedicated to helping LGBT youth, who since they make up 40 percent of the homeless youth population nationwide.
"All of the homeless kids I met in Atlanta told me the same story: when they were kicked out by their parents, the only thing they had left is a bag of clothes and their phones," said France Costrel, the Vocativ producer who created the video piece, in a statement to The Advocate. "They had nowhere to go and no one to speak to. As a result, the online communities became one of the only ways they could still connect with the world. While their families rejected them, they found acceptance on social media and in online communities."
"In these spaces, they meet other people with the same issues and fears," Costrel continued. "They can feel normal and share their 'true self' because there is no stigma. Spencer, one of the characters in the piece, was able to connect with other FtoM transgender youth on Tumblr and YouTube and was inspired to come out through those connections. They also shared tips with him and told him about a shelter so he could find a safe place to sleep. These communities can literally feel like a lifeline for people who would otherwise feel utterly lost and alone."
Watch the emotional mini-doc on LGBT youth homelessness below.