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Ka'Lil, 18 years old, Englewood
LGBTQ Youth Series from Windy City Times
by Bill Healy

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The area where Auburn Gresham and Englewood meet is a thriving gathering spot for LGBT youth. Some of these young people engage in sex work.

Ka'Lil is 18 years old and gay. He lives in Englewood with his mother, who is not supportive of his sexual orientation.

Windy City Times reporters met Ka'Lil while driving around his neighborhood at 2 a.m. on a Thursday. We gave him a $10 Walgreens gift card for his time, a rarity in journalism, but in this instance, a gesture of solidarity.

Windy City Times: What's it like living with a mother who is not supportive of the fact that you are gay?

Ka'Lil: It's hard. It's like hell. What's a good analogy? It's like you're a chicken, and you live in a house full of dogs. It just doesn't mix.

I've been to a shelter cause I been kicked out for being gay. To me it was better than where I was/am. You know what you're going into, being gay. You're at a shelter with a whole bunch of straight people so you already have a guard up, so I really didn't mind it.

I always knew I was gay. I've never had an attraction to females. I first came out when I was 14. [My mom] didn't like it then, and four years later we still don't get along. We still argue. It's hard. [Laughs quietly.]

WCT: You seem smiley right now. Why is that?

Ka'Lil: I feel like in my state, it's better for me to smile, even when I'm angry. It's better for me to smile than to be upset and complain about it. Because I always think: There's somebody worse off than I am. I'm still blessed to have a place to live. Although I don't have a good relationship with [my mother], I'm not gonna let that one situation piss me off.

My mother is very disrespectful towards me. When I was younger, I used to be more disrespectful towards her. But now I just blow it off. But yeah, she's very disrespectful. She says stupid stuff that mothers wouldn't say. It's a lot of stuff.

That's life, I guess.

You take the Beverly neighborhood, a predominantly good neighborhood, and you'll watch it on TV, and they'll have a gay child, and the child will come out, and the parents will be very supportive of them. And my reality in Englewood—that's not gonna happen. That's just like a fantasy.

WCT: Does that make you sad?

Ka'Lil: It don't really bother me no more. I feel like: This is my life. I have to make something out of it myself. I'm grown now. If I don't want to live this life, I'm gonna have to change it on my own.

WCT: You're 18. When did you start doing sex work?

Ka'Lil: I started like a month ago. I don't like prostituting. I actually hate being out here. But at the same time I feel like: My mother does not do anything for me. My family is not supportive of me. I just graduated. I'm grown. It's hard to get a job. You have to make money somehow. And I'm a prostitute; it's how I get by.

WCT: What changed that made you think you should start sex work?

Ka'Lil: What changed is: I can't depend on my friends to provide me with bus cards. You have to want better for yourself. Although prostituting might not seem like the best thing to do, if push comes to shove, everything else fails and jobs are not coming through: I still got phone bills. I don't have clothes. I have to find a way to buy clothes. I don't steal.

Prostituting is not, like, the only thing. I could be going to resource centers. You know, up north on Halsted, I've been there looking at the job resources, and I did applications, but jobs are not booming. They're not calling. So you have to make a way for survival.

Ka'Lil declined to be photographed for this article. To hear the full Ka'Lil interview, visit the Windy City Times website.

See more from this series on and and or click the "YOUTH" tab at .

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