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Navigating the System: How LGBTQI Youth Who Engage in Exchanging Sex Seek Support

Hanser, Raviva S.; Columbia University. Institute for the Study of Human Rights

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) youth straddle a fine line between childhood and adulthood that can make accessing support and exerting independence challenging and complex. Legal definitions based on age are fluid and are nether grounded in neuroscience nor consistently applied. For LGBTQI youth who engage in exchanging sex, navigating systems of support may be infinitely more complicated since ambiguities in the law create a framework in which youth engaged in exchanging sex may be designated both a victim and a criminal.

This influences the dominant narratives which situate LGBTQI young people who engage in exchanging sex between static and opposing narratives - vulnerable or at-risk youth in need of protection versus risky or deviant youth engaged in criminal behavior. These narratives lead to a structural incoherence emphasizing youth’s presumed deficits resulting in unintended barriers for the institutions who aim to support them.

Through exploratory qualitative research centered on learning from young people as experts in their own lives and experiences, this study highlights the resilient and strategic ways that LGBTQI youth navigate their environments and a complex web of support services. Data from this research suggest that in an environment where youth can be criminalized, service providers may be not be as effective at meeting the needs of this population whom they aim to serve. By approaching youth from a strength-based perspective, researchers and advocates alike can better support LGBTQI youth who engage in exchanging sex.

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More About This Work

Thesis Advisors
Nettelfield, Lara J.
Degree
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
November 2, 2018
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