Bringing Courtney Home by Lindsey Forss
Bring Courtney Home
by Lindsey Forss
English – Creative Writing Major
Member of UWEC Campus PRIDE
While most of us went home at the end of the Fall 2011 semester to a loving (though admittedly occasionally dysfunctional) family for a barrage of holiday festivity, one of our classmates went back to screaming. Courtney Dunn, a freshman this last fall here at UWEC, stumbled into a nightmare when she returned to her home in Racine, WI and was unexpectedly outed to her parents. She had left on the table a letter to her girlfriend, and the very same night she returned for the holidays, found herself being forced into a chair and screamed at for hours for simply being herself.
She was no longer their daughter.
She was a lesbian.
For the next twenty-four hours, Courtney endured the onslaught of her family's hateful words. They even called in a preacher to sit her down and tell her how she felt, how she loved, was wrong. Her parents had taken away her cell phone, her laptop, her car, and emptied her bank account of all of her hard earned money. She felt she had no choice but to flee from her family to be the person she has always been. Finally, she had a moment to break free. She gathered a few of her belongings into a backpack and ran out the back patio door.
Running out the back door, her dad ran after her grabbing her backpack, she hit him away and continued to run. When her dad found her walking down a street, he threatened to her that the “police were after her and that she would be sent to a mental institution.” She ran behind a tree until he passed and continued on her way. Originally planning on going to the homeless shelter, she fortunately passed by a Salvation Army who welcomed her in and allowed her to use the office phone and internet to connect with her girlfriend. Her girlfriend readily came to get her. She spent Christmas without her family. Though she is now free to be herself, she is constantly in the process of facing the unknowns of a life completely separate from the world she used to know.
Most people reading this are inclined to believe that these sorts of stories are the ones left for young adult novels and the soaps. But this is not a cliché. This is Courtney's life – a life she shares with a shocking number of young people across our country.
Many Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) youth are facing homelessness in America after coming out to their families. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 20% of homeless youth are LGBT – a staggering percentage considering only 10% of the entire United States youth population identifies as LGBT. Suicide rates among homeless LGBT youth are even more severe at 62% as compared to 29% of the general homeless youth population.
But statistics are inhuman. They are calculating and robotic, and do not live and breathe and feel the emotional pain that these young people face as they come to terms with their sexuality and are rejected for it. This is not a far-off problem; youth in the Midwest experience homelessness as a result of their family's disagreement for their sexual orientation – Courtney is one of them. Courtney's story strikes a chord because we know her. We know her as the smiling, always positive girl who was simply happy to be in a place where she could be herself.
Courtney was unable to return to UW – Eau Claire this semester after her parents cut off all emotional and financial ties with her. She's now living with her girlfriend's family and is working hard to get herself up on her own two feet. She's working two jobs and looking at taking on a third so as to afford her schooling for the Fall Semester of 2012. Throughout this whole ordeal, Courtney has kept an extremely positive attitude. In a letter sent to the on-campus LGBT activism and social group, Campus PRIDE, Courtney wrote:
“I have learned that family is not necessarily who you are related to or who you grew up with, but family is those people who truly care about you and your well-being. A true family (of any kind), loves unendingly, supports wholeheartedly, and cherishes you for being you.”
Campus PRIDE has been keeping in contact with Courtney to see how she is doing. It is our goal, as we hope it is also yours, to bring Courtney home to her family – the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire campus community. No matter what your views might be on homosexuality or gay rights, we can all agree that no one deserves to be without a sense of family. She deserves a place where she can be open and loved, and Eau Claire is that place.
Campus PRIDE will be selling buttons to help raise money for a small scholarship we'd like to present to Courtney. If you're interested in helping more with Campus PRIDE's efforts to bring Courtney home, or would like to learn more about LGBT homelessness, please visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/UWECCampusPRIDE.
Help put a face to the phrase LGBT homelessness – tell Courtney's story.
And let's bring Courtney home.