ACLU at CMU shows film highlighting issues facing LGBTQ homeless

The American Civil Liberties Union hosted the documentary "Lost in the Crowd" which tells the story of homeless youth in New York City that are apart of the LGBTQ community Tuesday evening in the Park Library Auditorium. (Kaitlin Thoresen/Staff Photographer)

The American Civil Liberties Union at Central Michigan University hoped to raise awareness about the unique challenges facing homeless LGBTQ youth in cities during a film screening Tuesday night in the Park Library Auditorium.

Released in 2009, "Lost in the Crowd" follows a group of LGBTQ youth that lives on the streets of New York City.

Produced by Susi Graf, the innovative documentary delves into the dreams and desires that kept the youth going through the many trials they faced in their fight for survival in a hostile environment.

Winning high praise from movie critics, "Lost in the Crowd" is recognized for the insight given into the constant sense of danger and emotional disorders faced by homeless people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.

The American Civil Liberties Union showed the documentary in honor of National Poverty in America Awareness month.

Brynn McDonnell, co-chair of CMU's ACLU chapter, said the organization wanted to take this time to demonstrate how poverty is both a social and a civil rights issue.

"The American Civil Liberties Union has done a lot of work with LGBT, equality and civil rights issues," the Rockford native said. "We really want to stress that this is an issue and that 20-to-40 percent of homeless youth identify themselves as LGBT."

McDonnell said homeless LGBTQ youth find themselves facing challenges most straight homeless people do not.

"Many homeless LGBT face the issue of being thrown out of their homes, making them more vulnerable," McDonnell said. "They are also faced with bashing and discrimination, such as being turned away from shelters because of religious or sexuality issues."

The movie's website says most of the people featured in the movie are homeless because of their sexuality.

"Most of the kids say that the reason they are homeless in the first place is because they have been rejected from their families for being gay or transgender," according to the website.

The ACLU at CMU chose "Lost in the Crowd" above other films for the seven years of dedicated production put into creating the documentary.

"We want people to be aware that poverty is a big issue, especially in Isabella County and the surrounding areas," McDonnell said. "And we want to show who is affected by poverty; there are over 300,000 LGBT youth that experience homelessness for at least one night."

McDonnell was among other first-time viewers of the film. Many viewers commented that they had never heard of the film, but were amazed at what they learned from it. Most agreed the film was sad but inspiring as well.

"Lost in the Crowd" has reached out further than just the affected parts of New York City over the years. The documentary won the Best Film award at the Vox Feminae Film Festival in Croatia in Nov. 2011 and the 2010 Award of Excellence for Feature Documentary and Viewer Impact at the Indie Fest.


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