Justin, 19

Justin is the youngest of six siblings. He grew up in a housing projects in the Bronx. His mother didn't spend much time at home. He was a street kid. 

From as young as he can remember he was picked on for "acting like a girl." His siblings would taunt him, telling him to "man up." He grew up quiet and withdrawn. 

As he got older, kids in school would beat him up. There were few places he could walk where kids didn't throw things at him. Books, rocks, and even full soda cans have been hurled at him. 

His mother forced him to go to school because it was her only way of feeding him. Justin dreaded the cafeteria and would stuff his lunch into his book bag or pockets to avoid having to sit and eat with the other kids. 

When he confided in his mother what was happening at school and on the streets, she told him to "toughen up" and that she didn't want a "girly boy" as a son. She too was trying to get him to change the way he acted.  

By middle school Justin was skipping school regularly and riding the subways throughout the city to avoid the bullying and his home. 

At 16, Justin was malnourished, had a fourth grade reading level and had no real connection with people. 

It was on one Christmas Eve when it occurred to him that he was homeless. He spent the day riding the trains watching people loaded with gifts and food on their way to celebrate the holiday. His only thought was that he didn't belong anywhere. 

One of our outreach workers made contact with Justin on the streets. Justin was reluctant to come in for care. It took several encounters for Justin to finally agree to visit our Drop In Center. His world changed. He had never walked into a room with youths his age without being bullied. He came into a place of LGBT acceptance and support that he had never imagined. 

Homophobia and transphobia not only affects our youths health and emotional well being, it places them at greater disadvantages in life. Nearly 30% of LGBT youth in our country skip school because of LGBT bullying. 9 of 10 report feeling unsafe at school and struggle to remain engaged academically. 

Justin is enrolled in our educational services. His reading is improving as is his connection with people. He will be spending this Christmas with us where he has a bed in our Emergency Shelter Program. He still doesn't say too much but he's making friends and knows he is supported and embraced for being who he is.