To Heal LGBTQ+ Youth, First Put Your Mercy On

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These blogs are part of a five-part Pride Month series, Pride with Mercy. They grew out of the Sisters of Mercy’s Chapter 2017 Declaration challenging each of us to respond to those who suffer from oppressive systems and to “become better educated and to participate in engaged dialogue on issues of gender identity and sexual orientation.” We encourage you to forward these posts to someone who might need to read them. Together, may we grow in our tolerance, acceptance and understanding, and extend a hand of welcome to the LGBTQ+ community.

By Sister Jeanne Christensen

We know our God comforts all people and shows mercy to the afflicted. Some believe that God has forsaken them, forgotten them. God promises, “I will never forget you.”

Earlier this year, during Lent, the Sisters of Mercy in the West Midwest Community were invited “to put your Mercy on.”  What does this mean? How can we put our Mercy on during June Pride Month?

For some, it may mean looking for ways to understand the challenges LGBTQ+ persons face every day. They may find it hard to listen to the story of a young person bullied because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. Others may be struggling to understand and support a family member or friend who has come out as transgender. Others may contact their legislators urging them to pass bills that provide equality and safety for LGBTQ+ persons. Some sisters may be praying for LGBTQ+ youth, their siblings, parents or other family members.

For others, it is adopting a posture of compassion when love and kindness seem to be in short supply and fear of those considered “other” forms divisions and prohibits meaningful relationships. Some may collaborate with organizations or groups who provide direct services or assistance to LBGTQ+ persons.

“Putting my Mercy on” calls me to active participation in easing the plight of those who suffer. It reminds me to listen carefully to God speaking to me through those I serve who are most vulnerable—to listen with integrity, compassion and without judgment.

Homeless LGBTQ+ Youth

As a justice advocate against human trafficking, I know that among the most vulnerable are runaway youth, especially our LGBTQ+ youth. If runaways or homeless youth are on the streets without a safe place to go, their abduction is likely within 48 hours. They often run from or are forced out of terrible home situations. Many believe nothing could be worse. Unfortunately, they are usually wrong.

Too many LGBTQ+ youth still face significant challenges during adolescence and early adulthood, fighting discrimination, misconceptions and abuse by peers, family members and others in their communities.

Up to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+.

Of these:

  • 46 percent ran away because of family rejection (placing them in precarious financial situations in which they must trade sex to survive)
  • They are 7.4 times more likely to experience acts of sexual violence than their heterosexual peers
  • They are three to seven times more likely to engage in survival sex to meet basic needs, such as shelter, food, drugs and toiletries

At Risk of Human Trafficking

Without adequate community support, youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ+) may be at particular risk for sex trafficking.

How can we, in Mercy, assist LGBTQ+ youth who may not have access to anti-trafficking services because they are unaware of services in their area, the community lacks resources (e.g., bed space, funding) or they are concerned that providers are not LGBTQ+ friendly. How do we assist these youths, alleviate their isolation, fear or loneliness? When Pope Francis spoke of human trafficking, he called it “a crime against humanity for its violation of human dignity and freedom” (April 11, 2019). How do we address this travesty?

When you see a person you suspect is being trafficked, will you respond with compassion? While it is important to be careful not to put them or yourself at risk, it is equally important to respond. You can call the National Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888), local law enforcement or some other appropriate authority such as mall or airport security. Whatever you do, do not look away or remain silent! I have not! I tell others: “See something, say something.”

God’s Comfort and Care

I know God comforts all people and shows mercy to the afflicted. God promises, “I will never forget you.” We, too, must give comfort, show mercy and never forget those most vulnerable among us. Are you called “to put your Mercy on” in partnership with the Sisters of Mercy and others?

What healing would you need or desire in your response to “put your Mercy on?” How can you show Mercy to others? In ordinary or extraordinary ways?

What is God inviting you to do?

The Polaris Project is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization that works to combat and prevent modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

Click here for Polaris Project data and resources about LGBTQ+ youth and sex trafficking.

For more information, visit

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