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Voices from the Street: Alyssa

Being young and homeless is tough. Being young, homeless and on the receiving end of folks questioning your gender makes life even more challenging.

Twenty-year-old Alyssa Downing (left) was born male. But she identifies as a woman. Being transgender wasn’t the only reason Downing got kicked out of her Seattle home. But it likely played a role.

After failing out of college three times and failing to get a job, her parents gave her 30 days to move out. “Around 15 days into it, I got really depressed,” says Downing. “I downed a bunch of pills.”

She wound up in the hospital. When authorities determined she was no longer suicidal, they released her but, “my parents wouldn’t let me back home so I was discharged pretty much to the street.”

Downing remained homeless for about a year, spending nights at various youth shelters in Seattle. She's had people mock her, or refuse to acknowledge her as female — she doesn’t want to wear dresses until the hormones kick in and her body becomes more feminine — but she says she's lucky she's never experienced any physical violence.

Alyssa Downing told us her story in an office at ROOTS, the young adult shelter just off The Ave in Seattle’s University District where she had just spent the night. Just click below to hear it.


This story was produced by Crosscut's Florangela Davila. Photo credit: Florangela Davila.

The Crosscut series "Voices from the Street" can also be heard on KPLU-FM.

You can find more "Voices from the Street" conversations here. To follow all Crosscut's Kids@Risk coverage, go here.

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