Queer advocacy group says youth being "scapegoated" for Boystown crime

Sun. July 17, 2011 9:27 AM by GoPride.com News Staff

Young black man claims officer told him to go back to the south side

Chicago, IL - A new video by a queer rights advocacy group, asserts that youth, particularly young people of color, are being "scapegoated" for the recent increase of reported crimes in Boystown.

Video Action League says that homeless gay youth have been unfairly blamed for the "purported increase in crime" and that they wanted to give youth a space to "express themselves without the threat of being silenced."

"All the youth that hang around here are getting blamed for it," 24-year-old Cat, a lesbian who is homeless, said of the increased crime in Boystown.

"Our Youth Belong In Boystown," which was posted to YouTube on July 12, 2011, includes interviews with Cat and two African-American men, who have also been shunned by their family and community after coming out gay.

"When people constantly call the police on me and harass me, it makes me feel less than a person," said Tyrone Strickland, who has been staying in Boystown since leaving his South Side neighborhood when he was 15 years-old.

According to statistics provide by VAL, 26% of gay youth who come out to their families are kicked out of their homes.

The trio also shared their experiences since the community uproar over a violent mob attack was caught on tape in the North Side neighborhood, which is the hub for Chicago's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Joloni Lane, from south-suburban Country Club Hills, claimed two Chicago police officers told him and a friend, "...go back to the south side, where you belong."

Each of those interviewed agreed that additional safe spaces for gay youth are needed citywide. They also expressed appreciation and gratitude for programs already in place at Center on Halsted and Broadway Youth Center.

"All I want to do is just be a part of something bigger than me, something better than myself," said Strickland.

VAL says homeless queer youth is an issue that should be widely addressed.

"It's so important that we advocate for safe spaces for youth that aren't 21 so they have a community they can go to," Lindsey Dietzler, co-founder of the Video Action League, said at the end of the 7 minute video.