Tina Frundt had a harrowing childhood.
Shuffled around in foster care and abused until age 12, she was then adopted but felt her parents didn’t understand her. She fell under the influence of a man a decade older who showered her with attention and listened to her problems and within six months convinced her to run away to be with him in Cleveland.
She was too naive to realize his ulterior motives then but soon found herself working as a prostitute in his human trafficking business that almost immediately turned abusive.
The 36-year-old Chicago native was with him for about a year and a half from the time she was 14 to 15. She was reunited with her parents — whom she says were wonderful, though they’ve since died — and says it took her 10 years to get her life straightened out.
“It was a lot of trauma,” Frundt says. “Especially with healthy relationships. I still struggle with that.”
She later formed Courtney’s House, a D.C.-based non-profit that helps youths escape domestic sex trafficking and commercial sex exploitation. It was founded in 2008 and operates on a $450,000 annual budget that comes from foundations, churches, corporations and private donors. It encompasses an undisclosed group home in Northern Virginia with long-term housing (six months to three years) for girls age 11 to 17 and an emergency drop-in center for those aged 12 to 21. The organization’s four employees and a team of 30 volunteers also do street outreach on weekends.
Frundt, who’s bi, says between 50 and 90 percent of those she helps are LGBT. She attributes the high rates to youths exposed to a variety of same-sex sexual encounters as early as 8 or 9 years old.
“It’s not always an issue of orientation,” Frundt says. “But it’s how they identify because it’s what they know.”
Frundt identifies as bisexual and says she’s dated more women than men over the years.
Frundt is in a relationship but doesn’t disclose specifics. She lives with her two daughters — ages 13 and 18 — in the D.C. area and enjoys cooking and dancing in her free time. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I have been out as bi since I was 11 or 12. Nobody in my family supported it but my mother always told me even if she didn’t agree, never stop being who I was for anyone.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Anybody who is true to who they are.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Hung Jury — those were the days.
Describe your dream wedding.
On a beach.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
There are non-LGBT issues?
What historical outcome would you change?
Slavery. I mean, really, when did we think this was a good idea?
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Seeing what would happen if Madonna and Grace Jones had a baby = Lady Gaga.
On what do you insist?
Laws to protect U.S. boys, girls and transgender kids from child sex trafficking.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
http://www.Halogentv.com presents Tainted Love.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Tina’s Handbook on Surviving Life”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Nothing — why change perfection?
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I’ll let you know as soon as I find out.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
To learn more about how LGBTQ youth are being affected by sex trafficking.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
Better laws and services for all domestic sex trafficking victims.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That if you’re bi you’re confused or it takes three drinks and then you’re bi.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“The L Word.” I know it’s a TV series instead of a movie, but hey!
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Saying sorry all the time when it’s not appropriate.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
The Frederick Douglass Award for saving myself and more than 500 victims from sex trafficking.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That I had something to say even when I thought people weren’t listening.
I love the diversity!