Just as there is a school-to-prison pipeline in this country, so too, this grim report reveals, is there a home-to-homeless paradigm for many young people.
Life on the streets is tough. It is tougher still for LGBT—or, as writer, activist, and former counselor Berg would have it, LGBTQ, the last element meaning “questioning”—kids, who constitute as much as 40 percent of the population of young homeless people. Those numbers vary, and the author is fuzzy on them, but two things are evident: there are far too many homeless children, and, naturally, the gay children among them are stigmatized. Interestingly, Berg raises the prospect that advances on other fronts in the struggle for gay civil rights may be causing the kids to come out early, exposing themselves to the sort of familial rejection that puts them at risk of being turned out onto the streets. There aren’t many surprises in the narrative; indeed, there are turns that have by now become cliché, from the disaffected, alcoholic grown-up who is himself saved by trying to save at-risk young people to the crack-addicted but heart-of-gold sex worker. Still, some of Berg’s portraits are arresting: “Pimple-faced and slinky, Christina is a cocoa-colored sixteen-year-old transgender Latina from the Bronx who thinks she’s a white girl from the suburbs. Her Britney Spears infatuation is all-consuming.” Packed full of case studies that are unpleasant from start to finish—all group homes and ransacked lockers, beatings and diseases—Berg’s narrative moves from the clinical to Barbara Ehrenreich–style journalism as it progresses. His fraught encounters with individuals become universal, offering a touch of hope even as the parental refrain continues to sound: “no faggot is going to live under this roof.”
Particularly important for caseworkers and social service specialists, who, by Berg’s account, are likely to encounter more young people in the LGBTQ population in the near future.