The Other Side of the Rainbow: Homeless GLBTQ Youth

Follow us throughout the fall for posts which highlight library resources and information that supports the Tiny: Streetwise Revisited exhibit at the Central Library and its community programming.

This is my second year on the Rainbow Book List Committee whose charge is:

“To select from the year’s publications, books that reflect gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans-gendered/queer-questioning (glbtq) experience for young people from birth to age 18 and to annotate selected titles.”

Ultimately that means for the past two years I have dedicated myself to reading and evaluating fiction and nonfiction titles for and about GLBTQ youth. A little while ago, I was asked to suggest fiction titles that included GLBTQ youth who are homeless. As I was asked this, I immediately thought about the fact that there are 1.6 million youth experiencing homelessness in America, 40% of those youth identify as LGBT when LGBT identified youth only make up about 7% of the total population of youth. The numbers are staggering – “more than 1 in 4 teens are thrown out of their homes” when they come out. If fiction were to reflect reality, it would mean that of all the books published about homeless youth, forty percent of those titles would include LGBT protagonists, and 1 in 4 fiction titles about LGBT youth would include these teens being asked to leave their home for revealing that they identify as LGBT.


Taking a look at the amount of books reviewed by the Rainbow Book List Committee over the past 4 years, that amount of queer fiction and nonfiction published for youth 0-18 took a definite jump this past year. In previous years titles reviewed for the list were hovering around 150 (2013, 150 titles; 2014, 150 titles; 2015, 140 titles), but in 2016 the number rose to 250 titles. This is to say that representation of GLBTQ youth in fiction and nonfiction titles is going up, and that is an exciting thing!

However, last year’s list is comprised of 40 titles, and only 4 titles included youth who identify as LGBT and are either kicked out, or leave their home because they feel unwelcomed in their living situation: Fans of the Impossible Life, Lair of Dreams, Alex as Well, and When Everything Feels Like the Movies. One youth, Andrew from The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley enters homelessness because the rest of his family dies in an accident. So although GLBTQ books are definitely on the rise, the challenges faced by the protagonists are not representative of realities for youth identifying as LGBT.

These books depict the varied experiences of homeless and insecurely housed teens. Fictional works featuring homeless characters are listed first, followed by nonfiction titles. This list was created by a librarian at The Seattle Public Library for the “Streetwise Revisited: A 30-year Journey” exhibit, September 15th through November 3rd, 2016 at the Central Library: Streetwise Revisited: Teens and Homelessness

~posted by Shelley M.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: