James, 18


When James was 14, he developed a crush on a classmate. He wrote the boy a note and planned to give it to him. His mother found the letter and confronted him. James confided that he was gay and begged her not to tell his father.

James grew up in the south, in a small town outside of Mobile, Alabama. He went to church on Sunday with his mother, father, and three brothers. His father was known in their village as a leader in the church.

When confronted with the fact that his son was gay, James' father resorted to emotional abuse, telling his son he was sure to die of AIDS and would go to hell for his lifestyle. He encouraged his other sons to rough up James to teach him how to be a man. The abuse worsened over the next three years.

At 17, James met a man on the internet who bought him a bus ticket to New York. James saw the opportunity as an escape. Upon arriving in New York, James was met with the reality that the man was looking for more than a friendship. When James turned down his advances, he was kicked out.

James ended up on the street, sleeping on trains, and searching for food in garbage cans or through begging on street corners. He spent his first Thanksgiving in NYC at a soup kitchen. He was connected to the Ali Forney Center by one of our Outreach Specialists on the streets.

James has been in our care for a year. He is thriving and works part-time at a fast-food restaurant while completing High School. In spite of the abuse, he misses his family and home. He wants to go to college and be successful, with the hopes that his parents will accept him.

However, that may turn out; the Ali Forney Center will be here, helping him every step of the way.