Carmen, 20

 

Caution, this case study describes transphobic violence and abuse, and may be triggering for some readers.

Carmen's first night on the streets as a homeless transgender woman ended with her first visit to the ER. She had fallen asleep on a park bench when two young men dragged her from the bench and started kicking and punching her. "That's not a woman, that's a man!" was the only thing she remembers hearing repeatedly as they pummeled her. She spent the entire attack holding her arms over her head to protect her face, by the time it was over they had ripped her clothes off and torn open the garbage bag where she had her only possessions strewing her things throughout the park as they ran laughing and calling her a faggot.

After graduating from high school, Carmen started to affirm her gender and began living as a woman outside of her home. Carmen would travel several miles away from her neighborhood and find a public restroom where she would put on woman's clothing and make up. Slowly Carmen began to embrace herself and started arriving at home presenting more and more in her true gender. On the day of her attack in the park Carmen arrived home to find her belongings outside in a garbage bag with a letter from her mother telling her that she needed to move because did not approve of the way she was "living her life." Carmen tried to let herself in but the locks were changed. Carmen was in shock. Her first stop was to a huge warehouse shelter in NYC. Carmen barely made it inside without being harassed by men outside the shelter. As she was waiting to speak to someone at the shelter a fight broke out between the dozens of other homeless kids in the courtyard.

At 20 years old Carmen had never experienced violence. Carmen still numb about being kicked out of her home was now in shock at facing her reality of being homeless and having to fear for her safety. Carmen would be attacked three more times on the streets before being connected to AFC by a hospital social worker.

Upon arriving at our Drop In Center, Carmen was connected to mental health services and AFC's transgender support services which includes hormone replacement therapy at our on-site medical clinic, Beauty School Support Group that addresses gender identity and self care, self defense training specially designed for homeless LGBT youth and even a Career and Education Readiness Program with specific supports for transgender individuals entering the workforce.

Violence is no stranger to homeless LGBT youth, in fact homeless LGBT youth are 8 times more likely to experience violence on the streets than their non-LGBT counterparts. In the United States transgender individuals experiences unemployment at nearly four times the national average. AFC offers the nation's largest and most comprehensive services for homeless LGBT youth.

Carmen is doing better now. She is living in our Transgender Housing Program and is working a retail job. She wants to open a beauty salon solely for transgender women in NYC. AFC is here to support her dreams and help her every step of the way.

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