Young people are getting kicked out of their homes at an alarming rate for coming out and we have to do more to protect them.
By Jamie Wareham
National Student Pride Director of Communications
One of my greatest fears is becoming homeless. Losing a safety net of a warm house that protects me from the cold and gives me a much needed escape from the growing grips of a scary world – it would be devastating. So I count myself lucky, because LGBT+ people disproportionately make up the UK’s youth homeless population.
Vulnerable young LGBT+ people are getting kicked out of their homes when they come out and it is destroying their lives. That’s why this year, with Albert Kennedy Trust, National Student Pride will be putting young homeless voices at the core of our event. And let there be no mistake, new figures show 45,000 18-24 year-old people in the UK registered themselves homeless last year.
The figures from Albert Kennedy Trust show that, out of all young homeless people in the UK, one in four are LGBT+. That means just shy of 12,000 young LGBT+ people have a safe place to live. Listening to the panels at National Student Pride over the years I’ve volunteered, and now mentor the young people who run it, it’s clear that, despite young LGBT+ people’s incredible resilience, they are suffering.
The figures make the LGBT+ representation hugely disproportionate. They also show coming out is the reason nearly four in five young LGBT+ homeless teens are kicked out.
Chair of Student Pride Hatti Smart says: “The figures from the Albert Kennedy Trust are truly devastating. I’m lucky my mum was very supportive when I came out. But for many, it’s a different story and they are kicked out of their homes.” Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has called the figures a national scandal, while the government says it is helping to build new homes.
Last year, when anti-bullying campaigner Paris Lees was discussing sex education with Year and Years singer Olly Alexander at our panel, it was clear just how important validation is for young people. If you are kicked out of your home, at an age when you are your most vulnerable by your parents who have long been your protectors – where do you go?
It’s clear that, even with global advances in LGBT+ rights, we still have much to talk about – especially if we are internalising that hate at such a young age. That’s why Student Pride continues, providing a platform for debate and discussion, driven by students. The 2016 event was a huge success with over 170 universities and colleges from across the world attending.
Providing a safe place for discussion is the core of our event because there are so few places to talk about our identities. Last year, Education Minister Justine Greening listened to years of campaigning from across the community – and made sex education compulsory, days after our event.
National Student Pride is also proud to host the biggest LGBT student careers fair of its kind. Not only is it an integral part of the daytime event, but it also provides the opportunity for employers to reach into the incredible diversity of LGBT students. Corporate sponsorship is essential to keep the daytime event free and therefore accessible to all regardless of age, wage or background.
Steered by a group of graduates, activists and former speakers, every single person who contributes to Student Pride does so entirely voluntarily. The event is driven by a group of students who ask for nothing in return. The event began at Oxford Brookes University in 2005 as a response to the Christian Union’s ‘Homosexuality and the Bible’ talk. Student Pride continues this mantra in its 13th year.
Student Pride is returning to the University of Westminster’s Marylebone campus opposite Madame Tussaud’s and continues to host its club events with G-A-Y. The venue which, over the years since we started collaborating with them, has improved their gender neutral toilet facilities and, despite a difficult end to the year in 2016, is working closely with UK Black Pride and us to make their clubs an inclusive space for BAME people.
Every year we shine a spotlight on prejudice by engaging with partners because we believe that conversation and words have an inextricable power to change lives. What’s clear is the need for our marginalised community to look in on itself. We’ll be proudly calling for action to tackle the homeless youth crisis. But this year we’ll also cover being beyond the binary, body confidence and bisexual erasure.
So please join us for the biggest conversation of what it means to be LGBT+ in 2018 – only with your voice can we shape our future, together.
Tickets for the event are on sale now. The daytime festival at the University of Westminster is free and open to all (not just students) – club nights at G-A-Y and Heaven are £5 for a weekend wristband, and for exclusive film extras, click www.studentpride.co.uk/tickets.