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San Francisco youth commissioner battles old foe: LGBT youth homelessness

Tuesday, November 29, 2011
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SAN FRANCISCO — Mia Tu Mutch, a 20-year-old transgender female in San Francisco, spends many of her days assisting LGBTQ youth, and facing an former foe of her own — homelessness.

Mia Tu Mutch

In a profile appearing in Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle, Mutch said she is amazed she survived high school, citing facing bullying from her classmates, constant thoughts of suicide, rejection from her Southern Baptist parents, and the very real prospect of ending up permanently homeless.

Mutch is from a small Southern town, and after being forced to come out to her parents as transgender, she survived a reparative therapeutic regime her parents enrolled her in at their church. Mutch said sees her current progress as nothing less than a miracle.

She began coming out as queer to close friends during her freshman year of high school. While she’s been wearing women’s clothing since junior high, she didn’t begin identifying as transgender until after high school.

But when her parents told her they would not provide her any money for college “unless you act straight and act like a man,” Mutch said, “I guess that means that I have to leave.”

She hasn’t spoken with her parents since.

Mutch said she moved to San Francisco at 19 in search of a more accepting environment but was faced with homeliness and joblessness as well as struggling to enroll in college and attend classes.

She said she made a point of looking as presentable as possible while attending classes at City College, fearing that her classmates might wonder where she had spent the previous night.

“I’m sure they had no idea that I was carrying a really big purse because all of my clothes were in there,” she says.

But despite the adversity, Mutch finally landed employment at a Goodwill store in the Castro, the first store of its kind to be staffed entirely by transgender employees.

Through this position and persistent volunteering, Mutch forged connections within San Francisco’s LGBT service provider community, helping her to land a job as a program assistant at the San Francisco LGBT Center, where she organized a weekly meal night for local homeless people age 24 and under.

Now she works at Lyric, a queer youth center in the Castro, and landed a seat on the city’s youth commission where she works to enforce the city’s LGBT sensitivity training at the shelters.

According to recent statistics released by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, as many as 40 percent of homeless youths in the United States share Mutch’s onetime ordeal because they identify as LGBT. A significant number of those young persons experience a much higher rate of drug addiction, mental illness and sexual abuse than their heterosexual homeless peers.

Mia thinks that the ultimate responsibility rests with the family when it comes to preventing queer youths from ending up on the streets.

“There’s still a lot of education that needs to be done working with parents,” Mia says. “They need to know that kicking their child out because they’re queer or trans should not be an option.”

Read David Wagner’s full profile of Mutch at the San Francisco Chronicle.

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