How to support LGBTQ+ youth trafficking survivors?
LGBTQ+ youth are disproportionately vulnerable to trafficking due to homophobia and transphobia. Many LGBTQ+ youth grow up in unsupportive households, which can cause a traumatic upbringing. Some youth are kicked out of their house or are forced to run away when they come out. This can lead to increased vulnerability due to trauma and/or a lack of housing.
Support more LGBTQ+ welcoming or centered shelters
When LGBTQ+ youth are kicked out of their homes or need a place to stay, many shelters explicitly or implicitly deny access to these individuals. Existing shelters need to be made safer for LGBTQ+ survivors through training and education for staff. Training staff who are not within the community to understand the issues creates a more inclusive environment. Shelters hiring LGBTQ+ staff with lived experience is also incredibly important. Elders are able to connect with youth and encourage them to be their authentic selves. Creating safe shelters for LGBTQ+ youth makes them less vulnerable to traffickers who may use shelter as a control mechanism.
Increased education about trafficking
Educating youth on what human trafficking is critical. Teaching LGBTQ+ youth about human trafficking can help prevent trafficking and/or provide survivors the term for what happened to them. A lot of the education around trafficking prevention does not include specific information for LGBTQ+ youth which leaves them without these tools and makes them more vulnerable.
Actively oppose homophobia and transphobia in your community
The root of LGBTQ+ youth’s vulnerability to trafficking is the homophobia and transphobia they face. Within a world that tells LGBTQ+ youth that they are immoral and expendable, being susceptible to trafficking is not uncommon. By resisting and calling out homophobia and transphobia in your community, you are telling LGBTQ+ people that they are safe with you.
Use inclusive and correct language
Being intentional about which words and pronouns are used is critical. By using affirming language, it can help LGBTQ+ youth feel more accepted and improve their mental health. Using proper terminology is necessary to make LGBTQ+ youth and survivors feel safe and welcome.