Musician Cyndi Lauper advocates for LGBT homeless young people. (Associated Press )
Cyndi Lauper has been singing about “True Colors” since the 1980s, and these days she’s speaking out for young people whose “true colors” have put them and their health at risk -- the thousands of young homosexual and transgender people who face the emotional and physical ordeal of homelessness.
The National Coalition for the Homeless estimates as much as 40% of the 500,000 to 1.6 million homeless youth are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, commonly referred to as LGBT. So her project is called Forty to None.
“That’s a big gap. They’re either kicked out or running away” from home, Lauper said in a telephone interview.
“Our kids are important and we’ve got to start standing up for them. I’m opening up my big mouth because I don’t see anybody else opening up their mouths,” said Lauper, a Grammy and Emmy award-winning artist.
The mother of a teenager, Lauper said many LGBT young people are forced from their homes by families that cannot accept them. They face higher rates of mental health issues, suicide and other problems.
“Here’s the kicker that’s going to make anyone say, ‘Whoa, wait a minute.’ They’re only on the street because they’re gay and transgender,” said Lauper, speaking with obvious passion. “Throwing your kid out on the street because they’re gay or transgender is like throwing your kid on the street because he’s brown-haired or blond or redheaded.”
But she’s got sympathy for parents, too, who may have trouble accepting their children or feel isolated by the news that a son or a daughter is gay or transgender. Families need a chance to work through these feelings before their irrevocably broken, she said.
Their health and their futures are compromised when they are forced to fend for themselves on the streets, said Gregory Lewis, executive director of the True Colors Fund.
But “even with just a tad bit of acceptance, the rates of all the kind of self-destructive behaviors drop off a cliff,” he said.
Lewis traveled the country to assess the situation, and said, “Everything we’ve learned in the past year has made it clear that homeless and at-risk gay and transgender youth are being left behind.”
Lauper had a friend who was thrown out of his home at the age of 12 because he was homosexual, she said. He worked as a prostitute to support himself and died of AIDS at the age of 27.
“When you're a kid and you think nobody loves you and nobody cares about you, you don’t care. You’ll do anything to eat today," she said.
Lauper hopes to raise money and awareness and inspire people to take action with Forty to None, part of her True Colors Fund, a nonprofit she founded. Her song "True Colors" includes these lyrics: “I see your true colors … And that's why I love you. … So don't be afraid to let them show.”