Research Scientist, Centre for Addiction & Mental Health (CAMH); Assistant Professor, University of Toronto
Dr. Alex Abramovich has been addressing the issue of LGBTQ2S youth homelessness for over 10 years. He is an internationally recognized leader in the area and one of only a few Canadian researchers studying the phenomenon of queer and trans youth homelessness. Over the years, Alex has advocated continuously for policy and practice changes to improve the lives of LGBTQ2S youth.
Alex is a Scientist at the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), and an Assistant Professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. His program of research focuses on LGBTQ2S youth homelessness, access to mental health services, the experiences of LGBTQ2S youth in shelters and housing programs and the ways broader policy issues serve to create oppressive contexts for LGBTQ2S youth.
He has worked closely with municipal and provincial governments to develop strategies that address the needs of queer and trans youth experiencing homelessness and is committed to research that successfully and ethically engages the community and situates LGBTQ2S young people experiencing homelessness as knowledge makers and creators.
Today, May 17th marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT) -- a global celebration of gender and sexual diversity. This year, 2017, the theme is focused on families. We know that family support is critical to the health and well-being of LGBTQ2S young people. We also know that not all LGBTQ2S young people receive support from their families of origin, and that the consequences of family rejection can have a lasting negative impact on youth.
Homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia remain rampant in most institutional settings, including schools, healthcare facilities, and shelters and housing programs. LGBTQ2S youth remain largely overrepresented in the homeless youth population, with estimates as high as up to 40 per cent of homeless youth identifying as LGBTQ2S.
The holiday season is truly a magical time of year. It is a time for giving, reflection, and appreciation. Many individuals and organizations come together and show thanks by donating what they can to those in need. Unfortunately, the holidays will not be magical for everyone, especially not for a high proportion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and 2-Spirit (LGBTQ2S) youth who have experienced familial, societal, and institutional rejection. The holidays can be an especially lonely time for many, particularly for those without a safe place to call home.
The month of Pride is a time for LGBTQ2S individuals to not only say who we are; but to also celebrate and be proud of who we are. Pride month is meant to remind us that we are real and that we matter, however, not all members of our community are seen; not all are celebrated; many are silenced and marginalized, made to feel that they are not real and that they do not belong.
On March 11, 2015, Toronto City Council finally approved funding for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and 2-spirit (LGBTQ2S) youth transitional housing. Although I am extremely disappointed that LGBTQ2S youth homelessness has been inadequately addressed for so many years, I am grateful that there is more understanding and awareness of this social justice crisis. I am also grateful that more organizations are now committed to developing campaigns and programs for LGBTQ2S youth experiencing homelessness.
The youth I have spoken to over the years have described Toronto's shelter system as a dangerous place for LGBTQ youth because of prolific homophobia and transphobia. I have heard stories of youth living in parks because they did not feel safe in the shelter system due to daily threats of homophobia and transphobia.