For the past several weeks I've been volunteering at a Sunday meal for homeless GLBT youth. It's really enjoyable and not just because I have a thing for three of my fellow volunteers. (Yeah, that's right, three). ;( I really like some of the attendees as well, although because they are generally younger and more homeless than I, no matter how attractive they were I wouldn't say I had a thing for them. Which is not to say I don't like homeless people (my thoughts on such people were partially addressed in a previous post) but rather that the power dynamic would be inappropriate.
I especially like Levi, who's about the same age as my brother Matt (who's currently living as an exchange student in Germany). He also has similar elements to his personality, such as being a silent complainer. It's hard to describe exactly what I mean by 'silent complainer' but I know what I mean, and, as always, I think that's the most important thing.
But to try, both Matt and Levi have complained to me about the families they live with. Matt lives with a relatively wealthy family (his host mother is a doctor and I think his host father is an automobile salesman). He has two host siblings, a younger brother and sister. He complains that his younger siblings are spoiled; that they steal from his parents. He complains that the family always fights. Matt's family is very dysfunctional.
Levi lives in a foster home. His foster mother is about the same age as I am. She's not married or employed. According to Levi, the required 'source of income' that allows her to be a foster parent is food stamps. His foster family also includes two brothers but he said they aren't around much. He complains to me that his mother smokes pot and uses ecstasy and keeps the house poorly stocked with food.
Neither Matt's "parents" nor Levi's "mom" are very authoritarian. Matt is allowed to stay out as late as he wants with the only rule being that he be home and up for breakfast the next morning at 9am. Levi's mother doesn't have any idea where he goes half the time. She's completely unaware that he's involved with the Sunday meal where I met him, for example.
Both kids are political. Matt's shaken the hand of two presidents. He also specialized in hit pieces when he was the editor of his school newspaper last year. Levi volunteers at the office of Christine Quinn, the gay leader of New York's City council. He doesn't like Paterson. He was disappointed though, when Thompson lost the mayoral race because it meant there couldn't be a black governor, pres., and mayor. (I, for the record, didn't even realize Thompson was black).
Matt had to be prodded quite a bit in order to be convinced to leave his home in small town Oregon and set out for Germany. In the end, it was a great decision for him: according to him, he's 'been an adult for the last three years' and there's no way that my parents would have ever given him the type of freedom he enjoys in Germany. Which apparently the German teen takes for granted. I'm not trying to mock him, at any rate, because he's an exceptionally developed kid for his age.
So is Levi. From what I can gather, Levi made the choice to leave his family and join foster care. At least, I'm pretty sure he wasn't kicked out as soon as he came out to his family. He mentioned something about having to go to prayer groups and each week being asked 'Are you any less gay yet?'. In the end, I think his decision to leave was good, but it's tough to say. From what I can tell, his real mother loved him... although maybe a little too much. He told me she used to scrub his skin really hard with a bleaching cream when he was a little kid. Now his facial coloring is a little patchy.
He had to leave a younger sister behind. He told me she really looks up to him and his mother completely cut off contact for fear that Levi would turn her gay. (Which doesn't completely make sense, because she's a girl and Levi likes guys). Levi's older brother has tried to contact him but Levi didn't respond because his brother isn't all that sensitive to gay issues. While he was 'reaching out' to Levi I think he might have said some offensive things.
I'm not quite sure that there's a point in comparing Matt and Levi. Except maybe that, I wish that when I was their age I had been doing something nearly as exciting as either of them, rather than whatever the hell it is I was doing (which if I devoted space to a description would seem rather boring indeed). I never complained as they do when I was their age. So, I'm not sure what the moral of the story is but I think I'll pretend that this all means I'm a better person than they both. ;(