Claire’s Story: Welcome, Just as She Is
– July 2019 –
“When I was 16 my therapist outed me to my parents as gay.
I acknowledged it. And they reacted VERY poorly to me coming out as gay.” Claire* paused. “It’s still hard. My parents don’t acknowledge it when we talk. They talk like I’m straight. They wish I was straight.”
Claire, who was born a male, comes from a middle class military family. They moved around a lot, but Washington is the most familiar place to Claire. It’s where she remembers the most things from her childhood.
“Switching schools, it was hard to make friends. I don’t know why, but I was really easy to pick on. So they picked on me.”
Claire and her parents fought, and sometimes she ran away when home felt too unwelcoming. Depression crept in. Once, she tried to commit suicide but survived. As she shares this Claire, who is normally cheery and bantering, grows quiet and still. These are painful years to remember. From age 16 to 18, Claire stayed in multiple mental health treatment centers, and was sometimes transferred from state to state.
When she graduated high school Claire moved out of her parents’ home. She began attending Olympic College in Bremerton and couch surfed at a friend’s home. “But then I overstayed and had to leave.” This was February 2019.
“The first night I was homeless I didn’t know the Oasis Shelter was open. So I slept outside. It was awful. It was snowmageddon [a storm that dropped over 20 inches of snow over two weeks]. That night was terrible.”
After that experience, Claire moved into the Oasis Youth Shelter. But not without hesitation. “I was always scared to go to shelters run by faith-based organizations. I was afraid of having religion shoved down my throat or that people would be upset with the way I am.” But Claire has found a true welcome and community at The Coffee Oasis.
“The staff here are way more inclusive than I ever expected anyone could be.” Claire says this warmly, with a big smile. “Inclusion goes beyond just not being rude. It means that if I need support for something that someone else may feel is weird or different, that instead of trying to change it they support me.”
Claire is still attending Olympic College full time despite the challenges of being homeless, and hopes to get her own housing in the near future. She also recently began a job internship at the Kitsap Regional Library! She is a bright light around the Coffee Oasis, engaging in witty banter with staff and befriending other youth who are struggling. “We’re all just kids. Everyone got hit with the wrong hand.”
*name changed to respect youth’s privacy