Kicked Out- a brief year in review

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Dec 312010

We went into print in January and 2010 has been a huge year for Kicked Out, filled with new partnerships, launch events, and incredible support from the community. A year ago tonight I was filled with anticipation for what the year would bring with this book, now sitting here a year later I’m overwhelmed by the year we’ve had.

Starting with our national release at the 2010 Creating Change conference in Dallas Texas Kicked Out and I have been on the road a lot this year with launch events in Boston, Baltimore, San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago and our NYC release events to name a few.  I’ve had the chance to meet and work with several of the contributors in person for the first time, and have had the privilege of sharing all of our stories with hundreds of people from current and former homeless queer folks, to service providers, and allies around the country.

Ozone house in Michigan became the first organization to start a ‘Kicked Out Fund’ which is a partnership between the anthology, our publisher Homofactus Press, and the agency. The direct service provider has the opportunity to purchase copies of Kicked Out at a discount and then can sell them as part of a fundraising campaign. Since launching the fund a few months ago Ozone House has already raised over $11,000 to support their work with homeless LGBTQ youth.

We ran the Come Out, Kicked Out campaign with new postings on our blog every day during the month of October. This campaign was about raising awareness about the epidemic of LGBTQ youth homelessness. We asked current and former homeless LGBTQ youth and allies to write, draw, or otherwise create a message about their experience and how they see this issue impacting their communities. The response both from participants and readers was outstanding and I’d encourage all of you to go take a look at it on the blog (it’s tagged comeoutkickedout).

Since the release we’ve had an outpouring of great media coverage both in the form of book reviews, as well as coverage of several of the events around the country. For a regularly updated listing of press the book has received click here

As the year is drawing to a close I’m overwhelmed with what a great year it’s been, and am looking forward to seeing what next year will bring. Looking ahead at 2011 I’m predicting a great year. I’ll be back on the road a fair amount bringing the book to new communities, we’re up for the Lambda Literary award and a couple of others (details coming soon) so *fingers crossed * . Most importantly I regularly have people come up to me at events, send me emails and facebook messages telling me how much this book means to them, how much less alone it has made them feel, or how it has changed their perspective on this epidemic.

I’d like to thank all the contributors for all their hard work. I’d also like to thank everyone who bought a copy of the book, read the blog, come to an event, brought me to your campus or community group, or otherwise been supportive of Kicked Out. 2010 has been a great year as a direct result of your support.

Happy New Year from Kicked Out!

eight homeless youth in New Orleans die in fire

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Dec 292010

All day I’ve been thinking about the devastating news I heard this morning- eight homeless youth were killed in New Orleans when just after 2am the barrel fire they had been using to keep warm in an abandoned warehouse spread engulfing the entire building. Eight  kids died last night because as a nation, as a society we have systematically failed them. Homelessness is a national epidemic, each year 2.8 million youth experience homelessness, with 40% of those youth being LGBTQ identified.  New Orleans like other cities is not equipped to handle the epidemic. According to some of the research I was doing today, there are an estimated 3,000 homeless people in the city with only 800 shelter beds available; even on a night like last night when temperatures dipped below freezing.

I’ve been reading all the news articles I can find, most at least somewhat offensive. The above photo is from the AP, and one of the only ones which is not a closeup of a body bag (I seldom see the media respond that way in the case of a “house fire”). Most articles have felt it important to call the youth who began to gather at the scene “scruffy” or comment on how their faces, hands, and clothes were dirty. They also asked gathering youth “why” kids were sleeping in an abandoned building, as if it wasn’t obvious.  Some articles are saying the youth who died were local artists and musicians, others say they were freight hopping just passing through. The fire department has stated they have been unable to identify the youth, but in one article a youth nearby told reporters that “Katy, Jeff, Sammy, Nicky, John and Mooncat usually stay there” and there were two dogs with them who also died last night in the fire.

A quote that stood out to me this morning, and stayed with me through the day came from the Fire Department representative who told reporters “they were so burned we cannot even tell their genders.” considering that trans youth are extremely over represented in homeless populations, this quote seems particularly insensitive as it’s quite possibly that the “authorities” would not have been able to determine their genders while they were living either.

The news articles I’ve seen also reference that friends of the youth created an alter for them beside the warehouse. I wanted to include a picture of that here as that seemed the most respectful thing to do, but none of the news sites I’ve found covering the fire seemed to photograph that. Instead, they called it a “so called alter” and desparagingly described it’s contents: beer cans, candles, a stuffed dog, and a sign that read “hungry and homeless.”

All day I’ve tried to find the words to talk about this tragedy, and I still haven’t found them.  This story hits close to home as I remember the traveling kids, the artists, the kids with dogs who I knew years ago, and all the kids who are still out there in the cold tonight.

under construction!

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Dec 282010

I’m getting ready for a big fancy relaunch of the site, all kinds of new content, easier to navigate pages etc. etc. etc.  all kinds of fun stuff!  I plan to have the relaunch ready within the week. please be patient in the meantime while things are getting worked on, and if you’re looking for information and a link is broken or you can’t find it feel free to email me at

Another way that New York’s psych hospitals are broken.

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Dec 262010

One of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked, since I started performing ’348′ and talking about my experiences as a “troubled teen” within the psych industry is, “why didn’t/don’t you sue them?”  This question comes from a belief that a legal battle could shut down an abusive facility, or at the very least eliminate future abuses.  Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

First, of course, there’s the statute of limitations– any allegations have to be made within a certain period of time, in order for charges to be made.  In my case, that period is long over.  Why not pursue it earlier then?  Fear can be a very strong deterrent.  Many teens emerging from such facilities are reluctant to speak honestly about their experiences, because they are terrified of being sent back.  By the time they are legally adults, they can’t build the case, and facilities have been known to throw massive roadblocks up to any requests for files or patient information.

Beyond this— for the individuals who DO decide to sue— private and public mental health hospitals and facilities have powerful legal teams (you need to, in that business).  It’s unusual for the case to make it to court.  And, then, it’s even more unusual to win.

Today, I read a sobering article about what happens (in NY, at least) to individuals who DO win in their suits against abusive public psych hospitals:  the hospital can then bill them for the abusive care!  In one case, in which a woman was raped while institutionalized, “the judge ruled that a hospital might be negligent on some days while providing valuable services on others.”  This essentially makes the facilities immune to any sort of punitive damages— they can simply recover their losses by sending the abused patient a bill!

You can read the full article here:

It is difficult to build an accountable mental health system when hospitals and facilities cannot be effectively penalized for abusing their patients.  Facing this sort of situation…. is it any surprise that many survivors of institutional abuse decide to not pursue their case?

Asking and Telling.

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Dec 192010

Yesterday, the Senate voted to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  This long-awaited decision signals a victory to many LGBT people, ending a discriminatory practice that has silenced soldiers, ended careers, and perpetuated homophobia.  Of course, as some LGBT activists both celebrate the end of DADT, it’s important to remember that the repeal is not a victory for all queer people.  Really, I’m skeptical as to how much of a ‘victory’ it is for queers in general– while I understand the desire to eliminate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, I’m critical of the desire to join the military.  Don’t disenfranchised queer youth already face enough violence?

Regardless of your feelings about the military, the repeal of DADT is not a success for all LGBT people.  Quite simply, trans- people still  cannot enlist/serve because we are still pathologized with a psychiatric diagnosis, “Gender Identity Disorder.” Let that be a reminder to all who trumpet the repeal as a LGBT/queer victory; I, for one, am grateful that trans folks are still protected from any future drafts…however unlikely those might be.

Kicked Out goes to Detroit

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Dec 082010

As a teenager when I first became aware that queer youth homelessness was not only bigger than myself, but much  bigger than the community of queer kids i met in Portland Oregon one of the first organizations I heard about was The Ruth Ellis Center in Detroit Michigan. Detroit is just about as far from Portland as you can get, but that didn’t stop their reputation for being one of the oldest and best direct service agencies helping homeless queer kids.

I’m so excited that this weekend I’m going to be heading up to Detroit to spend some time with the great folks at the ACLU of Michigan and the Ruth Ellis Center!  I’ll be talking on Friday night at the ACLU (co-sponsored by the Ruth Ellis Center) about the Kicked Out anthology and storytelling as a tool for activists working to create social change.

If you’re in the Detroit area I hope that you can make it out!

Friday, December 10 at 5:00 p.m.
ACLU of Michigan Offices
2966 Woodward Avenue
, Detroit

I’ll also be doing a book signing at the Five 15 bookstore on Saturday afternoon at 3pm. Their address is: 515 S. Washington Ave. Royal Oak.

This will be the first time I’ve flown since the new TSA screenings were put in place and as a queer person the invasiveness of them is  making me pretty uncomfortable and anxious. That said I’m so excited about heading to Detroit. I’m going to get to facilitate a writing workshop for the youth at Ruth Ellis Center on Saturday also which I’m really looking forward to.