The Tory attack on queer youth. A call to arms.

Britain’s queer youth are under attack.

The Tories would have us believe that we are in a new age of freedom and safety, and that the fight is over.  Same-sex marriage has been held up as the holy grail of LGB equality. But the truth is, they are deliberately and knowingly forcing queer young people into destitution, homelessness, and in too many cases, to self harm and suicide.

On Wednesday, the government confirmed their plan to cut housing benefit for 18-21 year olds. Centrepoint youth homelessness charity estimates around 20,000 young people will be affected. These are young people who are already being hit hard by low wages, high rents and, thanks to another Tory scheme, will soon lose their access to Jobseekers Allowance (to be replaced by a workfare programme which will force young people to work for £1.91 per hour).

These young people will join the existing 80,000 who find themselves homeless each year, of which around one-quarter are LGBT.

The government justify their policy by claiming it is giving young people the push they need to make a good start in life. Cameron says this is what is needed to “abolish long-term youth unemployment“.

So, you’re 20. You’re working 30 hours per week on the £5.13 minimum wage in Brighton, earning £666.90 per month. You pay the average rent for a room in a three bedroom house, £512.30. You get the bus to work, but can’t afford to fork out for a monthly pass so pay the day saver rate of £4.20 per day.  That leaves £70.57 per month for EVERYTHING ELSE. That’s £2.27 per day, to cover all bills, food, toiletries, clothing, haircuts… Not much chance of socialising, as it would blow nearly two day’s budget to buy just one pint.

It’s pretty clear that, without a living wage and living rent, or adequate state support, work is not working as a way for young people to get going in life.

At the moment though, our Brighton 20-year-old is having her income topped up by a paltry £3.42 per day in housing benefit. Hardly enough, and clearly she is still in absolute poverty, unable to turn the heating on, and relying on a food bank. But, if she were to lose her job, or have her hours reduced, the housing benefit would go up a bit, and maybe, just maybe, she’d manage to cover a few week’s rent while she found more work. It is this safety net (albeit very weak and full of holes) that Cameron now plans to withdraw.

The Tories are making it completely impossible for young people to survive independently of their parents. They are carrying on as if they believe that all 18-21s have large, warm homes with loving welcoming parents to return to if times are tough. The thing is, they know that isn’t true.

Centrepoint have pointed out that there are all sorts of reasons why young people can’t return to their family home. One of those reasons is that they are queer, and no longer welcome with their parents.

A study by the Albert Kennedy Trust found that 69% of homeless LGBT young people have experienced abuse within their family. 77% say that being LGBT was the reason for their rejection from their parental home.

Our Brighton 20-year-old is gay. She has no family safety net. And the government is about to withdraw her housing benefit. The chance of her managing to keep paying her rent have just gone from low to zero. She’ll be homeless by the end of the year.

Homelessness and isolation are already killing young queer people.

52% of young LGBT people report self-harm either now or in the past, and 44% of young LGBT people have considered suicide.  For trans young people, the situation is even worse. Nearly half of trans young people have actually made a suicide attempt.The Royal College of Nursing guidelines for LGB suicide prevention and trans suicide prevention highlight homelessness and lack of social support as key factors increasing the likelihood of suicide attempts.

So, queer young people are dying. And homelessness is one of the things that is killing them. And the government knows this. And far from trying to help, it is doing everything it can to make the situation worse.

This is really happening. This is how life is for many young LGBT people right now. Journalist and campaigner Sarah Schulman calls on queer adults to act in loco-parentus for queer young people. They are under brutal attack. If we don’t fight for them, who will?

Schulman, S (1994) “I was a lesbian child” in My American History: Lesbian and gay life during the Reagan / Bush years New York, Routledge

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5 Responses to The Tory attack on queer youth. A call to arms.

  1. Maybe, just maybe, if immigration was not so high then there may be more jobs for our young people, queer or otherwise. If the immigration pressure was taken off housing and employment and also if the education system was of a better quality then people, no matter what their gender or sexuality would be better off. The old, the young, the straight and the not-so-straight of Britain are the big losers from the sort of immigration that we’ve seen in recent years. Young people deserve to have lives independent from their parents but the answer is not to just chuck taxpayers money at young people but to create the conditions where they can not just survive but thrive. Dealing with the current immigration disaster is one way of making things better. You say you live in Brighton, well good for you, but remember you are not living in the sort of areas where LGBT people live in fear of attack from imported peoples who want the whole world to live by the rules and mores of the 7th century.

    The problem isn’t the Tories, it’s the fact that there are deep seated problems that need to be sorted out.

    • Thank you for your comments.

      I agree that there are deep seated problems.

      To be specific:
      Low wages: the young woman I described was getting paid wages too low to live on. This is not caused by immigration. It’s caused by unregulated free market capitalism. We need a living wage, which is enough, as you say, to thrive on, not just survive. We need this for everyone. No one should be paid so little they need a government top up, whatever their age, or their immigration status. Putting the onus on people to find a better paid job (as the changes to Job Seekers Allowance and introduction of Youth Allowance will do) places the blame on the people being underpaid and exploited, not the employer. Similarly, blaming immigrants for “driving down wages” makes about as much sense as blaming whales for illegal whaling. It is the people who pay wages who are driving them down, not the people who receive them. By dismantling trade unions the government now plans to make this even easier.

      High rents: Her rent was far to high compared to her wages. This is caused by an unregulated rental housing market, which allows landlords to do as they please. To solve this we need rent controls, long term tenanc.ies, and landlord registration schemes. I’d recommend The Living Rent Campaign for information about this. Again, the responsibility lies not with the people paying rent, but the people charging it.

      Homophobia and transphobia: Clearly, and very sadly, homophobia, and certainly transphobia, are still alive and well in Britain. 25% of young homeless people are LGBT, and 75% of those have been rejected by their families because of their sexuality or gender identity. However, to suggest these problems have been brought into the country by immigrants is just ignorant. Britain has a substantial and deep history of persecuting and discriminating against LGBT people. Homosexuality was made illegal in Britain in 1553. It did not become legal until 1967. It remained a mental illness until 1973. The government only acknowledged that being trans is not a mental illness in 2002. It was perfectly legal to discriminate against LGB people until 1999, and many trans people were not protected at all until 2010. Interestingly, all these improvements in the rights of LGBT people in Britain have coincided with becoming more culturally and ethnically diverse, not less. While it is likely the case that some people who have been brought up in countries in which LGBT people are vicously persecuted may retain those views, (of course some are themselves LGBT, which is why they are here), it’s clearly untrue to claim that immigration is responsible for the persecution of LGBT people in Britain. In addition, on the subject of “importing” homophobia, British people took it all over the world when they themselves emigrated and colonised.

      I agree I am relatively lucky to live in Brighton. I mostly feel safe walking down the street. I’ve lived in quite a few cities in the UK, and the most safe I’ve felt, apart from in Brighton, was in Hackney where I grew up – a borough where 49% of people are not White British.

  2. townsia says:

    There are many deep-seated problems that need to be sorted out and immigration isn’t one of them. Even if immigration stopped and every immigrant was deported this would not have the slightest effect on all the crises that are hitting us and getting worse. Put blame where it is due on the politicians. They are to blame for the crises in housing, jobs, education, the NHS, welfare, the financial meltdown. Expelling immigrants will not create investment in the future and, to my knowledge, young people of whatever gender and/or sexuality, are not cowering in fear of being violated by mediaeval foreigners with antiquated views on morality and ethics.

  3. Jack Guy says:

    Reblogged this on Pipe Dream Manifesto and commented:
    It’s important to remember marriage isn’t the be-all and end-all of LGBTQ+ rights

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