>>LGBTQ2S Toolkit Training
LGBTQ2S Toolkit Training2019-01-14T11:51:23-04:00

This training section of the Toolkit is where we get to discuss the key issues affecting how LGBTQ2S youth interact with their environments and how their environments interact with them. We are using environment in a very broad and open way. Environment includes people (family, friends, peer groups, adults, etc.), social institutions (justice system, health care, children welfare, etc.), cultural norms (heteronormativity and cisnormativity), physical space, and everything else in between.

The modules and scenarios are organized in a way that makes sense to us, the designers of the Toolkit. As you are aware each page of the Toolkit ends with links to the previous and next section; this is meant to guide you through the Toolkit. This structure may not work for you and your learning style; if this is the case for you, please use this page as your guide (think of it as a choose your own adventure approach to working through the modules). Modules and scenarios listed on this page have a hyperlink to take you directly to that module or scenario. Please click on the topic you want to learn more about.

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. Understand what straight privilege is
  2. Understand what cisgender privilege is
  3. Understand the daily effects of straight and cisgender privilege

Before we begin there are a few terms we need to share:

Bisexual a person who has emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction for people of more than one gender (e.g. feeling attracted to both men and women).

Gay or Lesbian is a person who has emotional, romantic or sexual attraction for people of the same sex.

Heterosexism is a behaviour that grants preferential treatment to heterosexual people, reinforces the idea that heterosexuality is somehow better or more “right” than queerness, or ignores/doesn’t address queerness as existing.

Heterosexual is a medical definition for a person who is attracted to someone with the other gender (or, literally, biological sex) than they have; often referred to as “straight”.

Homophobia is fear, anger, intolerance, resentment, or discomfort with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer people, often focused inwardly as one begins to question their own sexuality.

Sexual orientation is how a person identifies whom they are emotionally, romantically, and/or sexually attracted to (e.g. lesbian, gay, bisexual, heterosexual, etc.).

Cisgender/Cissexual/Cis is a person whose gender identity matches society’s expectations of someone with their physical sex characteristics.

Cissexism is a harmful beliefs that being non-trans is the only acceptable and “natural” form of gender expression.

Gender/Gender Identity is how we perceive our identity as male, female, both, neither, regardless of our physical bodies.

Trans is an umbrella term for a person whose gender identity does not match society’s expectations of someone with their physical sex characteristics.

Transphobia is an irrational fear and/or hatred and/or intolerance of people who are trans, perceived to be trans, or who cross societal gender norms.

Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. Please note that transgendered is not acceptable term to use as it implies that something happened to the person to make them transgender.

Queer is an umbrella term used proudly by some people to defy gender or sexual restrictions. Not used by all. Can be considered offensive.

This exercise is from the National Juvenile Defender Center website

Knapsack

Photo Credit: Joadl on Wikimedia Commons

Daily effects of straight and cisgender privilege: This article is based on Peggy McIntosh’s article on white privilege. These dynamics are but a few examples of the privilege which straight people have. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer-identified folk have a range of different experiences, but cannot count on most of these conditions in their lives.

Sexual Orientation

On a daily basis, as a straight person…

Gender Identity

On a daily basis, as a cisgender person (a person whose gender identity matches society’s expectations of someone with their physical sex characteristics)…

Download this exercise as a PDF: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack II Handout

Summary Questions

  1. How many statements did you answer yes to in the sexual orientation section?
  2. How do you feel; what do you think about the questions and your answers?
  3. How many statements did you answer yes to in the gender identity section?
  4. How do you feel; what do you think about the questions and your answers?
  5. Do you feel you understand the concept of straight privilege?
  6. Do you feel you understand the concept of cis privilege?
  7. Has this exercise increased your awareness of straight and cisgender privilege?
  8. Do you think this exercise will help you change how you work with/support LGBTQ2S youth?

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. Show an understanding of the key terms related to the LGBTQ2S community
  2. Be able to demonstrate the ability to use terms correctly
  3. Explain why some terms should not be used

Due to the complexity and diversity of the LGBTQ2S community, there are a lot of terms to understand. This is not a complete list. The good news is that you are familiar with many of the term listed in this module. We have divided these sections into Sexuality and Gender. It needs to be very clear that sexuality and gender are different and although LGBTQ2S is a large umbrella term, there are a number of differences that need to be respected.

The definitions given here are concise. This is a basic introduction. If you were to google these terms you would find much longer and more complex definitions. We are attempting to share a lot information in a short space and would prefer not to overwhelm you. The key is that you have the general idea and know you can come back here or visit one of the many resources listed in this Toolkit later if you need a refresher or want more details.

Download these definitions as a PDF: LGBTQ2S Definitions

Let’s get started!

LGBTQ2S, LGBT, LGBTQ, LGBTQA, TBLG are some of the acronyms refer to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Two-Spirit, Asexual and Ally. Although all of the different identities within “LGBT” are often lumped together (and share sexism as a common root of oppression), there are specific needs and concerns related to each individual identity.

Main Sexual Orientation Terms

Biphobia is an aversion toward bisexuality and bisexual people as a social group or as individuals. People of any sexual orientation can experience such feelings of aversion. Biphobia is a source of discrimination against bisexuals, and may be based on negative bisexual stereotypes or irrational fear.

Bisexual a person who has emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction for people of more than one gender.

Gay or Lesbian is a person who has emotional, romantic or sexual attraction for people of the same sex.

Heterosexism is a behaviour that grants preferential treatment to heterosexual people, reinforces the idea that heterosexuality is somehow better or more “right” than queerness, or ignores/doesn’t address queerness as existing.

Heterosexual is a person who is attracted to someone with the other gender (or, literally, biological sex) than they have; often referred to as “straight”.

Homophobia is fear, anger, intolerance, resentment, or discomfort with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer people, often focused inwardly as one begins to question their own sexuality.

Questioning is the process of exploring one’s own sexual orientation, investigating influences that may come from their family, religious upbringing, and internal motivations.

Sexual orientation is a person’s emotional, romantic and/or sexual attraction to another person(s).

Same Gender Loving (SGL) is a phrase coined by the African American/Black queer communities used as an alternative for “gay” and “lesbian” by people who may see those as terms of the White queer community.

Main Gender Identity Terms

Binary Gender is a traditional and outdated view of gender, limiting possibilities to “man” and “woman”.

Binary Sex is a traditional and outdated view of sex, limiting possibilities to “female” or “male”.

Biological sex is the physical anatomy and gendered hormones one is born with, generally described as male, female, or intersex, and often confused with gender.

Cisgender/Cissexual is a person whose gender identity matches society’s expectations of someone with their physical sex characteristics.

Cis-man is a person who was assigned male at birth who ends up going through life identifying with male pronouns, and as a man.

Cis-woman is a person who was assigned female at birth who ends up going through life identifying with female pronouns, and as a woman.

Cissexism is a harmful belief that being cisgender (i.e. non-trans) is the only acceptable and “natural” form of gender expression.

Gender/Gender Identity is how we perceive our identity as male, female, both, neither, regardless of our physical bodies.

Gender Expression is the external display of gender, through a combination of dress, demeanor, social behavior, and other factors, generally measured on a scale of masculinity and femininity.

Genderqueer/Gender non-conforming is an umbrella term that describes a person whose gender identity does not fit into socially constructed gender norms associated with “male” or “female”. Used by some people to defy gender restrictions and/or to deconstruct gender norms. Gender neutral pronouns include: Ze, Hir, Hirs, They, and Them.

Gender Identity Disorder (GID) is a formal psychiatric diagnosis used by the medical profession to describe transgender people. The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) has replaced GID with “Gender Dysphoria”. The classification of GID and Gender Dysphoria as a psychiatric diagnosis has pathologized transgender people and created much stigma.

Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe a person whose physical sex characteristics or chromosomes don’t fit traditional medical definitions of male or female.

Stealth is when a transgender person lives as their self-identified gender without other people knowing that they are/ever were trans (not all trans people identify as trans, which is why some people are stealth).

Sex (biological sex) is a label we are given to describe our physical bodies and reproductive abilities. Characteristics of the body used to determine sex may include genitals, gonads, hormones, chromosomes, and secondary sex characteristics.

Trans is an umbrella term for a person whose gender identity does not match society’s expectations of someone with their physical sex characteristics.

Trans Man is a female-to-male trans person (a person who was assigned the female sex at birth, but identifies as male).

Trans Woman is a male-to-female trans person (a person who was assigned the male sex at birth, but identifies as female).

Transsexual is an older term that originated in the medical and psychological communities. Still preferred by some people who have permanently changed – or seek to change – their bodies through medical interventions (including but not limited to hormones and/or surgeries). Unlike transgender,transsexual is not an umbrella term. Many transgender people do not identify as transsexual and prefer the word transgender. It is best to ask which term an individual prefers. If preferred, use as an adjective: transsexual woman or transsexual man.

Two-Spirit is a cultural identity used by some indigenous people who have both masculine and feminine spirits.

Transphobia is an irrational fear and/or hatred and/or intolerance of people who are trans, perceived to be trans, or who cross societal gender norms.

Transition is the process trans people go through to overcome physical, legal, and social barriers so they can express their self-identified gender.

Third Gender (1) a person who does not identify with the traditional genders of “man” or “woman,” but identifies with another gender; (2) the gender category available in societies that recognize three or more genders.

Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. Please note that transgendered is not acceptable term to use as it implies that something happened to the person to make them transgender.

Related Terms

Advocate is a person who actively works to end intolerance, educate others, and support social equity for a group.

Ally is a straight person who supports queer and trans* people.

Androgyny (1) a gender expression that has elements of both masculinity and femininity; (2) occasionally used in place of “intersex” to describe a person with both female and male anatomy.

Asexual is a person who generally does not experience sexual attraction (or very little) to any group of people.

Bigender is a person who fluctuates between traditionally “woman” and “man” gender-based behavior and identities, identifying with both genders (and sometimes a third gender).

Closeted is a term to describe someone who is keeping their sexuality or gender identity a secret from many (or any) people, and has yet to “come out of the closet”.

Coming Out is the process of revealing your sexuality or gender identity to individuals in your life; often incorrectly thought to be a one-time event, this is a lifelong and sometimes daily process; not to be confused with “outing”.

Crossdresser is someone who occasionally dresses in the clothing of the “opposite” gender as part of their gender expression.

Cross-dressing is wearing clothing that conflicts with the traditional gender expression of your sex and gender identity (e.g., a man wearing a dress) for any one of many reasons, including relaxation, fun, and sexual gratification.

Drag queen or Drag King  is someone who dresses in the clothing of their “opposite” gender for performance.

Fluid(ity) is generally with another term attached, such as, gender-fluid or fluid-sexuality, fluid(ity). Describes an identity that is a fluctuating mix of the options available (e.g., man and woman, gay and straight); not to be confused with “transitioning”.

Genderless is a person who does not identify with any gender.

Outing [someone]1 is when someone reveals another person’s sexuality or gender identity to an individual or group, often without the person’s consent or approval; not to be confused with “coming out”.

Pansexual is a person who experiences sexual, romantic, physical, and/or spiritual attraction for members of all gender identities/expressions.

Real life experience (Real Life Test) is the period in which a trans person is currently obligated to prove they can adapt to societal gender roles before being approved by publicly funded medical institutions for hormones or surgeries.

Queer is an umbrella term used by some people to defy gender or sexual restrictions. Not used by all. Can be considered offensive.

Standard of care is a medical treatment guideline that governs trans people’s access to health care services.

Definition Posters
Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will:

  1. understand why we can’t use homophobia as a shorthand for the violence and microaggressions directed at the LGBTQ2S community
  2. have an understand of appropriate and inappropriate terms when talking about the LGBTQ2S community;
  3. be able to share with others (youth, coworkers, friends, family, etc) why some terms should not be used;
  4. have an awareness of what are appropriate questions to ask LGBTQ2S folks and what questions you need to rethink and reword.
  5. understand the importance and need to address homophobia, biphobia and transphobia

In the Language module, we will discuss the importance of language and being aware of the words we use.

At this stage you have had a lot of terms thrown at you. Please take a moment, take a breath and reflect on what you have learned so far.

You have learned about the need to create welcoming and safe-enough spaces for youth who identify as LGBTQ2S. You have read about the current context of how LGBTQ2S youth are experiencing our spaces and their solutions. You have spent some time unpacking our invisible knapsack of sexual orientation and gender identity privilege. And in the last module you read a number of terms and definitions.

Are you still breathing? Good.

This module is going to highlight some terms we should be using and some we should not use to create safe-enough spaces for LGBTQ2S youth.

Benedict Cumberbatch saying

Photo Credit: ninaloverdj.tumblr.com

Things to Say

There are many things you can and should say when talking about LGBTQ2S issues and with LGBTQ2S folks. These are a few suggestions based on what we have already discussed and to highlight some of the conversations we will have in the modules that follow.

Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia

It is important to acknowledge that homophobia should not be used as a form of shorthand to include biphobia and transphobia. When discussing violence and microaggressions directed at LGBTQ2S folks, we sometimes say homophobia, and leave off biphobia and transphobia. Best case scenario, we assume the people we are talking with understand that we also mean biphobia and transphobia. Worse case scenario we are perpetuating biphobia and transphobia.

But we can’t take a shortcut here. The violence and microaggressions endured by our bisexual and transgender friends and family are very different from homophobia.

Bisexuals endure biphobia from both heterosexuals and lesbians and gay men. It is important that we talk about biphobia to not only be allies to bisexual folks, but also to make the issue visible and a part of the discourse.
Transphobia is different from homophobia, although they share some similarities. Transphobia needs to be addressed and discussed. Discrimination and violence against trans* communities is extensive and deep. Although as a culture we have an understanding of transgender issues and realities, this has not translated into acceptance.

Especially vulnerable to transphobia are trans women of colour. “The website for Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoF) … featuring some 700 trans people—mostly women of color, again—brutally murdered in recent years. TDoF’s list goes back all the way to 1970, but the bulk of the homicides took place between 2000 and 2012” (O’Hare, 2014).

Institution rules and policies that do not consider trans people often end up erasing trans people from existence.

Photo Credit: Canadian Observatory on Homelessness

Ask Youth How They Identify

In our youth focus groups youth made it clear that they need to have their identities respected. We need to stop assuming the identities of the youth we work with. Instead we need to ask them what their gender identity is as part of the intake process. Also ask what their preferred pronoun and name is. More often than not the legal identification of trans* youth does not match their gender identity and presentation, because of the cost and bureaucracy involved in legally changing names.

Our paperwork needs to have space to capture the sexual orientation and gender identity of the young people who access our programs. Without this we are making LGBTQ2S youth invisible in our official documents. Including these questions in intake and case management forms, we are able to count how many LGBTQ2S youth access our services. We will also be able to track any increases or decreases in the number of LGBTQ2S youth. Increases could indicate that we are doing good work to support LGBTQ2S young people and that LGBTQ2S feel comfortable, supported and respected in our spaces. Decreases could indicate that either we may have more work to do to improve our programs and services so we can better support LGBTQ2S youth, or we are doing better and they are able to transition to the next phase of their housing/programming needs.

Share Your Ally Status

Once you feel comfortable to call yourself a LGBTQ2S ally, you will want to get the word out. Consider signage that includes wording like “LGBTQ2S Positive Space”. Follow the suggestions listed in the Being an Ally module.

Be Respectful

Know when to draw the line when asking questions. LGBTQ2S youth should not have to educate us as staff. Also, there are some questions that are too personal. If the answer is not connected to the case management process of the young person, you don’t need to ask the question or know the answer. By asking questions outside of the needs of our case management system we are fetishizing LGBTQ2S youth, and that is not right and it is not being an ally.

Terms to Avoid

The following are unacceptable terms  to use. Please try to avoid using them. If you hear someone use a term from this list, take a moment to share with them why the term should not be used.

Tranny

Often used in an insulting way towards trans people, specifically trans women.

He-She

Insinuates that the trans woman is not a woman, but something between male and female.

She-male

Insinuates that the trans woman is not a woman, but something between male and female.

Hermaphrodite

This is an outdated term that has been replaced with Intersex.

Transvestite

Often used to refer to trans women in an insulting manner, despite having a true definition which is a person who dresses as the binary opposite gender expression (“cross-dresses”) for sexual gratification; often confused with “transsexual”.

It

Denotes the individual is an object, removing their humanity.

Dyke

A derogatory slang term used for lesbian women; reclaimed by many lesbian women as a symbol of pride and used as an in-group term.

Faggot

A derogatory slang term used for gay men; reclaimed by many gay men as a symbol of pride and used as an in-group term.

Homosexual

A medical definition for a person who is attracted to someone with the same gender (or, literally, biological sex) they have, this is considered an offensive/stigmatizing term by many members of the queer community; often used incorrectly in place of “lesbian” or “gay”.

Sexual Preference

Generally when this term is used, it is being mistakenly interchanged with “sexual orientation,” creating an illusion that one has a choice (or “preference”) in who they are attracted to; (2) the types of sexual intercourse, stimulation, and gratification one likes to receive and participate in.

More things not to say…
Lavern Cox saying

Photo Credit: katiecouric.com

“So you’re really a man right?” (when talking to a trans woman) or “So you’re really a woman right?” (When talking to a trans man)

“Have you had THE surgery yet?”

“I could tell you were really a (Man/woman)”

“The surgeon did an excellent job! I would have never known”

“How do you have intimate relationships?”

You’ll never be a REAL (Man/Woman)”

“What is your real name?”

“Can I see an old picture of you, from before your sex change?”

Sources:

Boylan, J. (2014, July 21). 5 Things Not to Say to a Transgender Person (and 3 Things You Should). Retrieved February 6, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jenny-boylan/5-things-not-to-say-to-a-transgender-person_b_5591433.html
O’Hara, M. (2014, November 21). Trans Women of Color Face an Epidemic of Violence and Murder | VICE | Canada. Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://www.vice.com/en_ca/read/trans-women-of-color-face-an-epidemic-of-violence-and-murder-673

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. Understand what is meant by oppression
  2. Illustrate an understanding of what Anti-Oppression Framework is
  3. Understand the different types of oppression (race, gender, class etc.) and how they interconnect

Photo Credit: Quotes HD

The following definitions are from the Canadian Race Relations Foundation:

Anti-Oppression–Strategies, theories and actions that challenge social and historical inequalities and injustices that are systemic to our systems and institutions by policies and practices that allow certain groups to dominate over other groups.

Equity–A condition or state of fair, inclusive, and respectful treatment of all people. Equity does not mean treating people the same without regard for individual differences.

Oppression–The unilateral subjugation of one individual or group by a more powerful individual or group, using physical, psychological, social or economic threats or force, and frequently using an explicit ideology to sanction the oppression.

Power–The ability to influence others and impose one’s beliefs.

Privilege–The experience of freedoms, rights, benefits, advantages, access and/or opportunities afforded some people because of their group membership or social context.

We use Anti-Oppression Framework in our work with youth and in our lives every day. We may not use the term anti-oppression to describe our approach to our work. Some may use other terms like: social justice, equity, inclusiveness, etc. All of these acknowledge that are inequalities in our society that are rooted in the view that some groups enjoy unearned privilege and others suffer because of unearned privilege.

While you are reviewing this module, please consider the concept of intersectionality. Intersectionality is the study of intersections between forms or systems of oppression, domination or discrimination. This module focuses on defining oppression and sets the foundation for seeing how the systems of oppression are connected.

What is Oppression?

Oppression is generally understood as the domination of subordinate groups in society by powerful (politically, economically, socially, and culturally) group. It entails the various ways that this domination occurs, including how structural arrangements favour the dominant over subordinate group” (Mullaly, 2002: 27).

This section builds on Dr. Jama Shelton’s presentation to the National Learning Community on Youth Homelessness at the 2013 Annual Conference held in Toronto.

Here is the clip where Dr. Shelton defines oppression.

Oppression occurs on four levels:

Ideological oppression is the big idea that comes from constructed ideas of the oppressed group(s) creating norms, beliefs and standards. For example, oppression based on:

  • race is racism
  • sex is sexism
  • class is classism
  • ethnicity is ethnocentrism
  • heteronormativity is heterosexism
  • cisnormativity is cissexism

Institutional oppression is how these “big ideas” play out in institutions (e.g. education, justice, health). For example:

  • Heterosexism is the reason why in the United States there is a fight for marriage equality. Recent events in Russia and Ugunda with laws that have made being LGBTQ2S illegal.
  • Cisnormativity is why the Ontario Human Rights Commission released its “Policy on preventing discrimination because of gender identity and gender expression” in the spring of 2014.

Interpersonal oppression is how these “big ideas” play out in our interactions with others. For example:

  • It is estimated that up to 40% of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ2S. Many youth leave home because of family rejection or fear being rejected by their families.

Internalised oppression is how these “big ideas” play out in how we view ourselves and impact what we think about and how we feel about ourselves and other who share our identities.

  • This is why trans youth attempt suicide at a rate 8 times the average of cisgender youth.

Here is the slide from Dr. Shelton’s presentation that shows how the four levels of oppression interconnect:

Arrows point between words: Ideological, Institutional, Interpersonal, Internalized

Photo Credit: Forty to None Project

Sources:

Canadian Race Relations Foundation. (n.d.). CRRF Glossary of Terms. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.crr.ca/en/library-a-clearinghouse/glossary-a-terms-en-gb-1
Mullaly, R. (2002). Challenging oppression: A critical social work approach. Don Mills, Ont.: Oxford University Press.
Shelton, J. (2013, November 20). LGBTQ Youth and Homelessness. LGBTQ Youth and Homelessness Town Hall. Lecture conducted from National Learning Community on Youth Homelessness, Toronto.

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. Visualise how your identity lines up dominant groups
  2. See which identities give you unearned privilege and which identities do not
  3. Understand the assumed norm (aka dominant identity) in the various systems of oppression

You may already be familiar with the “Power Flower”. It is used in many anti-oppression trainings. The goal is to determine the identities that have privilege in our Canadian society and where we as individuals fit. This version of the exercise is adapted from: Wenh-In Ng’s A Tool for Everyone: Revelations from the “Power Flower.

Process

Download and print the “Power Flower” image (or if you are creative you can draw your own Power Flower on a piece of paper). In the innermost petal/section list the identity categories (e.g. race, gender, sexuality etc). On the middle petal write your personal identity (e.g. white, cisgender male, gay etc). Finally, on the outer most petal write the social identities that experience privilege in society.

flower-power-exercise Power-Flower

Illustration of a flower with three levels of petals.

Photo Credit: Wenh-In Ng’s A Tool for Everyone: Revelations from the “Power Flower

Download a Power Flower here.

Here is a sample of what a completed Power Flower looks like.

Photo Credit: http://www.ucalgary.ca/utoday/issue/2014-02-20/education-student-envisions-shift-teachers-bring-about-social-justice-classroom

Download the flower power exercise

This exercise tries to demonstrate, visually, how does your personal identities compare with societal power structures and identities.

This exercise illustrates how and where your personal identity connects to the dominant group in each identity. Here are some questions to reflect on as you review your completed flower:

  1. How do your social identities relate to those who have societal power?
  2. Do you share certain identities?
  3. What does this exercise illustrate about oppression and power structures?
  4. Who holds power and who does not?
Systems of Oppression

Here is a chart that walks us through the systems of oppression. It has been adapted from

Youth Environmental Network’s Green Justice Guide.

Missing from this chart is religious oppression. Please take a few moments and answer the following questions:

  1. What is the assumed norm?
  2. What is considered to be marginal or not in the norm?

The Power Flower exercise is also a good way to help us visualise systems of oppression. There are many forms of oppression: race, gender, class, sexuality, ability, age etc. Oppressions have a long history and a part of our society in every context-political, economical and social. What we consider the norm and what we think of as the “other” is based in oppression. Something as trivial seeming like hair and what we value as a society is deeply rooted in historical oppressions. For example, there have been several media reports of school children being sent home or suspended because their hair was not deemed suitable for school. Florida School Forces Black Student to Cut Hair or Face Expulsion

Please check each oppression that the youth we work with may experience:

  • sexism
  • racism
  • ageism
  • heterosexism
  • cissexism
  • classism

Oppressions are like jigsaw puzzles or lego pieces where the different forms connect together and support each other and they do not occur in isolation. For example a gay man of colour faces homophobia and racism, just as an older trans woman endures ageism and transphobia.

It is important not to rank or rate oppressions. All forms of oppression require resistance from and work to end. Focusing solely on one inequality does not address the root causes. Here are some other reasons we must not rank oppressions from the Youth Environmental Network

“The practice of ranking oppressions, then:

  • Leads to disputes over which forms of oppression are the worst and least severe;
  • Fails to recognize how different forms of oppression intersect or work together to oppress people;
  • Avoids looking at structures of power and privilege because people end up spending time arguing over which forms of oppression are the worst instead of focusing on how power structures divide struggles against racism from struggles against sexism (e.g. ‘divide and rule’ strategies);
  • Overlooks the fact that all forms of oppression are harmful and unjust, and it fails to recognize that the best strategy to end oppression involves tackling all forms of oppression at once.”
Sources:

Aran, I. (2013, November 26). Florida School Forces Black Student to Cut Hair or Face Expulsion. Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://jezebel.com/florida-school-forces-black-student-to-cut-hair-or-face-1472062679
Canadian Race Relations Foundation. (n.d.). CRRF Glossary of Terms. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.crr.ca/en/library-a-clearinghouse/glossary-a-terms-en-gb-1
Ng, W. (n.d.). A Tool for Everyone: Revelations from the “Power Flower”. Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://lgbtq2stoolkit.learningcommunity.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/flower-power-exercise.pdf
Youth Environmental Network. (n.d.). Green Justice Guide. Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://antiracist-toolkit.users.ecobytes.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Green-Justice-Guide-Part-1.pdf

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. Understand what anti-oppression means
  2. Understand that oppressions overlap
  3. Understand the main tenets of anti-oppression practice

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us work together.” Lila Watson

Anti-Oppression–Strategies, theories and actions that challenge social and historical inequalities and injustices that are systemic to our systems and institutions by policies and practices that allow certain groups to dominate over other groups.

The text below is from Lisa Fithian and Dave Oswald Mitchell’s Theory: Anti-Oppression.

Activist groups sometimes make the mistake of assuming that oppression (the unjust exercise of power or authority) is only what they do; that we are inherently anti-oppressive purely because of our intention to do away with oppressive structures. Unfortunately the situation is much more complex, and we ignore that complexity at our peril.[1]

“Our oppressive actions diminish us, divide us and inhibit our ability to organize broad-based, emancipatory movements.”

We have been socialized in cultures founded upon multiple, overlapping forms of oppression, often leading us to inadvertently perpetuate dehumanizing behaviors, situations and structures. Our oppressive actions diminish us, divide us and inhibit our ability to organize broad-based, emancipatory movements.

In order to build a world free from domination, we offer up for discussion the following tenets and practices in the hopes they can provide a solid foundation for advancing our work and deepening our interpersonal relationships.

Tenets:

  • Power and privilege can play out in our group dynamics in destructive ways. For the good of all, we must challenge words and actions that marginalize, exclude or dehumanize others.
  • We can only identify the ways that power and privilege play out when we are conscious and committed to understanding how white supremacy, patriarchy, classism, heterosexism and other systems of oppression affect us all.
  • Until we are clearly committed to anti-oppression practice, all forms of oppression will continue to divide and weaken our movements.
  • Developing anti-oppression practices is life-long work. No single workshop is sufficient for unlearning our socialization within a culture built on multiple forms of oppression.
  • Dialogue, discussion and reflection are some of the tools through which we overcome oppressive attitudes, behaviors and situations in our groups. Anti-oppression work requires active listening, non-defensiveness and respectful communication.

Personal practices:

  • Challenge yourself to be courageously honest and open, willing to take risks and make yourself vulnerable in order to address racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and other oppressive dynamics head-on.
  • When you witness, experience, or commit an abuse of power or oppression, address it as proactively as the situation permits, either one-on-one or with a few allies, keeping in mind that the goal is to encourage positive change.
  • Challenge the behavior, not the person. Be sensitive and promote open dialogue.
  • When someone offers criticism in an oppressive framework, treat it as a gift rather than an attack. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
  • Be willing to lose a friend, but try not to “throw away” people who fuck up. Help them take responsibility for making reparations for their behavior, and be willing to extend forgiveness in return.
  • Take on the “grunt” work that often falls on women, especially women of color. This includes the work of cooking, cleaning, set up, clean up, phone calls, e-mail, taking notes, doing support work, sending mailings.
  • Understand that you will feel discomfort as you face your part in oppression, and realize that this is a necessary part of the process. We must support each other and be gentle with each other in this process.
  • Don’t feel guilty, feel responsible. Being part of the problem doesn’t mean you can’t be an active part of the solution.
  • Contribute time and energy to building healthy relationships, both personal and political.

Organizational practices:

  • Commit time to facilitated discussions on discrimination and oppression.
  • Set anti-oppression goals and continually evaluate whether or not you are meeting them.
  • Create opportunities for people to develop anti-oppression skills and practices.
  • Promote egalitarian group development by prioritizing skill shares and an equitable division of roles, responsibilities and recognition.
  • Respect different styles of leadership and communication.
  • Don’t push historically marginalized people to do things because of their oppressed group (tokenism); base it on their work, experience and skills.
  • Make a collective commitment to hold everyone accountable for their behavior so that the organization can be a safe and nurturing place for all.
[1] This article is adapted from “Anti-Oppression Principles & Practices” by Lisa Fithian, itself compiled from the “Anti-Racism Principles and Practices” by RiseUp DAN-LA, Overcoming Masculine Oppression by Bill Moyers and the FEMMAFESTO by a women’s affinity group in Philadelphia.

For more on this topic, please read Privilege 101: A Quick and Dirty Guide

Sources:

Fithian, L. (n.d.). Anti-oppression. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://beautifultrouble.org/theory/anti-oppression/
Canadian Race Relations Foundation. (n.d.). CRRF Glossary of Terms. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.crr.ca/en/library-a-clearinghouse/glossary-a-terms-en-gb-1
Ontario Human Rights Commission. (n.d.). Duty to Accommodate. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/learning/duty-accommodate
Ferguson, S. (2014, September 29). Privilege 101: A Quick and Dirty Guide. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/09/what-is-privilege/

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. Define intersectionality
  2. Provide examples of intersectionality
  3. Explain the importance of using intersectionality in our work

Intersectionality is a concept often used in critical theories to describe the ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another. (Geek Feminism Wiki, n.d.).

Photo Credit: Pinterest

As discussed we reviewed Anti-Oppression Framework, oppression does not occur in silos. Oppressions reinforce each other. Their intersectionality influence how we experience oppression. We cannot understand how a woman experiences sexism without knowing how her race, sexuality, class, age, etc.

What does this look like in real life? Fortunately actress and activist Laverne Cox breaks it down for us in this talk where she discussing being bullied as a trans woman of colour. In this talk, Cox discusses how she has faced sexism, transphobia, and racism often at the same time.

Intersectionality dictates that experiences will vary based on the intersecting identities of the individuals in play. For queer people, an important intersection is often race, especially as it relates to family dynamics (Basic Rights Oregon, 2014).

Please watch the video from this article here:

This topic is important because we know that racialized youth who identify as LGBTQ2S are over represented in the youth homelessness population.

Service providers who work specifically with LGBT youth also report serving a greater number of youth of color, suggesting that—at the very least—homeless youth of color are present in LGBT-specific programs at higher rates (Cray, 2013: 6).

It is important to remember that youth you are working with encounter numerous barriers and microaggressions based on their various identities. Below is a fun guide to help us better understand intersectionality.

Intersectionaily a Fun Guide Infographic

hoto Credit: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2013/10/04/issues-vs-identities-whats-better-for-progressive-social-change/

The next module is an exercise that will help illustrate how intersectionality functions and that most of us enjoy privilege based on at least one of our identities. The exercise is called the Power Shuffle.

Sources:

Basic Rights Oregon. (2014, September 27). 4 Eye-Opening Stories From LGBTQIA Asians and Pacific Islanders. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/09/lgbt-asian-pacific-islander/
Cox, L. (2013, December 19). Laverne Cox on Bullying and Being a Trans Woman of Color. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zwy5PEEa6U
Cray, A. (2013). Seeking Shelter: The Experiences and Unmet Needs of LGBT Homeless Youth. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress.
Geek Feminism Wiki. (n.d.). Intersectionality. Retrieved February 10, 2015, from http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Intersectionality
King, J. (2014, October 6). Aniya Parker and an Epidemic of Violence Against Transgender Women of Color – COLORLINES. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://colorlines.com/archives/2014/10/mourners_remember_aniya_parker_trans_woman_killed_in_los_angeles.html
Ontario Human Rights Commission. (n.d.). An intersectional approach to discrimination: Addressing multiple grounds in human rights claims. Retrieved February 19, 2015, from http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/intersectional-approach-discrimination-addressing-multiple-grounds-human-rights-claims

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. understand how our experiences occur (or do not occur) because of the privilege we may or may not have experienced.
  2. understand the differences of experiences in the group we engage in this exercise with.

This exercise is to get you thinking about where you have unearned privilege and where you don’t. It has been adapted from a Training for Change exercise

In a group setting this exercise has people take a step forward or a step back depending on if the identity applies to them.

The goals of this exercise is to:

  • build awareness of the variety of rank and privilege that are present in a group or workshop
  • assist individuals to take their next step in coming to terms with their own rank and privilege or lack of it
  • invite participants to learn to be allies and motivate them to do so.

Below is is list if identities. if the characteristic matches your experiences click on +1. If it doesn’t click on -1.

There are no right or wrong answers. Also this is based on how you identify, not how others identify you.

The score is not really important. What is important is that you may have identified areas where you may experience privilege. The question now is: how will you use your privilege to be an ally for those who are marginalised? For more information on this, please see the How To Be An Ally module

Source:

Training For Change. (n.d.). Power Shuffle. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from https://www.trainingforchange.org/tools/power-shuffle

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. understand the key terms connected to sexual orientation.
  2. understand how sexual orientation is different from gender identity, gender expression and sex assigned at birth.
  3. learn about microaggressions experienced based on sexual orientation.
  4. explain why it is important to understand the issues surrounding sexual orientation to better support youth who identify as non-straight (lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, pansexual etc.).

Here is Dr. Jama Shelton discussing sexual orientation:

For this Toolkit we have defined sexual orientation as “a person’s emotional, romantic and/or sexual attraction to another person(s).” We all have a sexual orientation. And we have many to choose from, including heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, pansexual.

Gay is a term used to describe a man who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to men, but often used and embraced by women to describe their same-sex relationships as well.

Lesbian is a term used to describe a woman who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to women.

Bisexual is a person who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to more than one gender. Also called “bi”.

Asexual is a person who is not emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to anyone or does not have a sexual orientation.

Pansexual is a person who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to all or many gender expressions.

Sexual orientation is sometimes described as being on a continuum. Heterosexual was on one end and homosexual (gay or lesbian) on the other with bisexual in the middle. The concept is from Alfred Kinsey and referred to as the Kinsey Scale .

This visual becomes problematic when we try to add asexual to the continuum. This is what makes the Gender Unicorn from the Key Concepts module, so useful.

The Gender Unicorn is a great visual tool to help us quickly visual gender diversity. Throughout the Toolkit, we will attempt to highlight this distinction at all opportunities. The Gender Unicorn has five elements:

Gender Identity: One’s internal sense of being male, female, neither of these, both, or another gender. Everyone has a gender identity, including you. For transgender people, their sex assigned at birth and their own internal sense of gender identity are not the same. Female, woman, and girl and male, man, and boy are also NOT necessarily linked to each other but are just six common gender identities.

Gender Expression/Presentation: The physical manifestation of one’s gender identity through clothing, hairstyle, voice, body shape, etc. Most transgender people seek to make their gender expression (how they look) match their gender identity (who they are), rather than their sex assigned at birth.

Sex Assigned at Birth: The assignment and classification of people as male, female, intersex, or another gender based on a combination of anatomy, hormones, chromosomes. It is important we don’t simply use “sex” because of the vagueness of the definition of sex and its place in transphobia.

Sexually Attracted To: Sexual Orientation. It is important to note that sexual and romantic/emotional attraction can be from a variety of factors including but not limited to gender identity, gender expression/presentation, and sex assigned at birth.

Romantically/Emotionally Attracted To: Romantic/emotional orientation. It is important to note that sexual and romantic/emotional attraction can be from a variety of factors including but not limited to gender identity, gender expression/presentation, and sex assigned at birth (Trans Student Educational Resources, n.d.).

You will notice that the “attracted to” scale has three levels. Both start with “Nobody” and end with either “Men/Males/Masculinity” or “Women/Females/Femininity”. This gives us five possible identities: asexual, gay/lesbian, straight, bisexual and pansexual.

Sexual orientation is who we are (or are not) attracted to. As Jama states in the clip above from her talk, having a sexual orientation does not equal being sexually active.

Why is it important you know this

Homophobia is fear, anger, intolerance, resentment, or discomfort with queer people, often focused inwardly as one begins to question their own sexuality.

Biphobia is an aversion toward bisexuality and bisexual people as a social group or as individuals. People of any sexual orientation can experience such feelings of aversion. Biphobia is a source of discrimination against bisexuals, and may be based on negative bisexual stereotypes or irrational fear.

Youth are coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender at a younger age than ever before. One recent study found that the average age gay and lesbian teenagers first self-identify is 16. In the 1980s, the average age of self-identification was about 20 for gay men and 22 for lesbians” (National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 2005)

Family rejection or the fear of family rejection are the main reasons why queer youth leave the family home. LGBTQ2S youth are homeless due to homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. Unfortunately they continue to encounter homophobia, biphobia and transphobia as they try to navigate through systems in their efforts to transition into adulthood.

The following statistics are from “Helping Families Support Their Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Children” by Dr. Caitlin Ryan.

Compared with LGBT young people who were not rejected or were only a little rejected by their parents and caregivers because of their gay or transgender identity, highly rejected LGBT young people were:

  • More than 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide;
  • Nearly 6 times as likely to report high levels of depression;
  • More than 3 times as likely to use illegal drugs; and
  • More than 3 times as likely to be at high risk for HIV and STDs” (Ryan, 2009: 4).

We also know from research that youth experiencing homelessness who identify as LGBTQ2S are often homeless longer than heterosexual/cisgender youth.

Data from New York City show that the average period of time away from family among homeless youth is 26 months, but among lesbian, gay, and bisexual homeless youth, the average is slightly longer — 29 months… For transgender youth, the duration of familial separation jumps significantly… [to] 52 months… (Cray, 2013: 8).

The longer youth are homeless the harder it is for them leave street life. We need to decrease the length of time LGBTQ2S youth are homeless.

Every day LGBTQ2S youth endure microaggressions. “Microaggression theory is a social theory that describes social exchanges in which a member of a dominant culture says or does something, often accidentally, and without intended malice, that belittles and alienates a member of a marginalized group” (Wikipedia, n.d.).

Here are some examples of microaggressions LGBTQ2S youth encounter:

  • “That’s so gay.”
  • “No homo.”
  • “Man up.”
  • “Have you had the surgery?”
Word cloud of synonyms for words like foolish, corrupt, trashy, ridiculous. Bottom reads

Photo Credit: Alison Rowan

Bisexuals encounter micro aggressions (biphobia) from both straight folks and gays and lesbians. Here is quick video that has three bisexuals respond to some of the negative comments they hear. Please watch this video in which some bisexual folks share the microaggressions they are tired of hearing (Buzzfeed, 2014).

Here are a few more articles to read if you are Interested in learning more about the microaggressions:

In the clip below Dr. Shelton discusses heterosexism, heteronormativity, homophobia.

Here are some things not to say, and why not to say them:

  • Dyke — A derogatory slang term used for lesbian women; reclaimed by many lesbian women as a symbol of pride and used as an in-group term.
  • Fag or faggot — A derogatory slang term used for gay men.
  • Homosexual — A medical definition for a person who is attracted to someone with the same gender (or, literally, biological sex) they have, this is considered an offensive/stigmatizing term by many members of the queer community; often used incorrectly in place of “lesbian” or “gay”.
  • Sexual Preference — Generally when this term is used, it is being mistakenly interchanged with “sexual orientation,” creating an illusion that one has a choice (or “preference”) in who they are attracted to.
Sexual orientation and your work

When we talked with LGBTQ2S youth in the focus groups, they overwhelmingly told us that they need staff to be trained to support them. They don’t want to have to educate staff. By engaging with this Toolkit you are educating yourself. You can also share what you are learning with others (your colleagues, family and  friends). Please see the Being an Ally module for more details.

Youth need to feel secure that staff respect their confidentiality. Many LGBTQ2S youth feel unsafe in the shelter system due to homophobia, biphobia and transphobia from staff and other youth. Confidentiality policies should be shared with youth (during intake and posted in public spaces) and also enforced.  Please see How Not to Out Youth module for more information.

Be aware of your influence with youth you work with and your colleagues. You are a role model for others. Act in ways that respect, affirm and validate the identities of LGBTQ2S youth.

It is important to address homophobic, biphobic and transphobic issues in the moment. We cannot ignore violence or threats of violence.

Different organizations use different terms, but the idea is the same: does your organization have a policy or statement about diversity/inclusiveness/anti-oppression/anti-harassment?

If yes, is it posted where youth and staff can see it? If not, you can talk with management about posting it in high traffic areas (make it large and laminate it).

Don’t stress if you don’t have one. We have collected several examples for you to model one on. Please see our Tools section to see sample Forms, Policy and Procedures, Program Models and Signage.

Policies set the standards of our organizations. Policies need to make it clear that organizations will not tolerate discrimination by staff, volunteers or youth on any grounds. Such policies enable staff to act on incidents of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

Not sure about how you can better support LGBTQ2S youth? Use Team Meetings as a space to discuss issues or potential issues. Share scenarios with your peers and discuss alternative actions/words.

Exiting a program generally involves referrals to other programs or supports. It is important during this stage that referrals are made with the youth in mind, specifically around their sexual orientation and gender identity, as some programs will be a better fit for the youth. It is important to youth that staff care where they are going and if it will be a good fit for them. This means proper referrals to other programs that respect the youth’s sexuality and/or gender identity. For example staff should not refer a trans woman to a men’s only shelter. Youth want to be respected enough to have an input into where they were going, and as to what they would need to make that work. Youth would like to see more flexibility and ability to have input on the exiting process.

It is important for youth, that staff assist with the transition process and refer them to appropriate resources where staff has an understanding of working with LGBTQ2S youth. Youth feel that “exiting” needs to be a process and not a “day” where they are no longer able to avail of services. For youth, an exit process from our programs needs to be at the pace of the youth and not based solely on a programs mandate.

It is also important that youth decide where they are going and not be told where they are going. It is also necessary that there is communication amongst resources/youth and that there staff continue to provide after-care support (i.e. text/phone check-in’s) for a period of time after exit.

Sources:

Buzzfeed. (2014, September 21). Things Bisexual People Are Tired of Hearing. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/09/bisexual-tired-of-hearing/
Clay, A. (2013). Seeking Shelter: The Experiences and Unmet Needs of LGBT Homeless Youth. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress.
Jaferi, T. (2014, October 8). Microaggressions: Trendy buzz-word or something to think about? Retrieved February 9, 2015, from https://charityvillage.com/Content.aspx?topic=Microaggressions_Trendy_buzz_word_or_something_to_think_about#.VNjYU-4bLMh
McClouskey, M. (2014, September 15). The Many Faces of Homophobia: Microaggressions and the LGBTQIA Community. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/09/the-many-faces-of-homophobia/
National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. (2005, January 1). Youth – National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.kintera.org/site/c.nlI2IeN1JyE/b.1742935/k.C8AC/Youth.htm
Nigatu, H. (2014, February 19). 19 LGBT Microaggressions You Hear On A Daily Basis. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.buzzfeed.com/hnigatu/19-lgbt-microaggressions-you-hear-on-a-daily-basis#.fi721vEel
Ontario Human Rights Commission. (n.d.). Sexual orientation and human rights (brochure). Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/sexual-orientation-and-human-rights-brochure
Ryan, C. (2009). Helping Families Support Their Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Children. Washington, DC: National Center for Cultural Competence, Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development.
Shelton, J. (2015, January 15). Heterosexism, heteronormativity, homophobia. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-KcRtdS8Ps
Shelton, J. (2015, January 15). Orientation. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6aBYne_ZaQ
Trans Student Educational Resources. (n.d.). Trans Student Educational Resources. Retrieved February 18, 2015, from http://transstudent.org/gender
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Microaggression theory. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microaggression_theory

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. understand the key terms connected to gender identity.
  2. understand how gender identity is different from sexual orientation.
  3. learn about microaggressions experienced based on sexual orientation.
  4. understand the intersectionality of gender identity and race.
  5. explain why it is important to understand the issues surrounding gender identity to better support youth who identify as transgender, two-spirit, gender non-conforming etc.

We have established that sexual orientation is different from gender identity. We also need to acknowledge that sex assigned at birth and gender identity are very different concepts and they are not interchangeable.

We define sex as the biological attributes and legal categories used to classify humans as male, female, intersex or other categories, primarily associated with physical and physiological features including chromosomes, genetic expression, hormone levels and function, and reproductive/sexual anatomy (Vancouver Coastal Health, 2015).

Gender refers to socially and culturally constructed roles, behaviours, expressions and identities of girls, women, boys, men, and trans* people  (Vancouver Coastal Health, 2015).

Here is a refresher on some key terms connected to gender:

Gender Identity is the internal perception of an individual’s gender, and how they label themselves

Genderqueer/Gender non-conforming is an umbrella term used proudly by some people to defy gender restrictions and/or to deconstruct gender norms. Gender neutral pronouns include: Ze, Hir, Hirs, They, and Them.

Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. Please note that transgendered is not acceptable term to use as it implies that something happened to the person to make them transgender.

Transitioning is a term used to describe the process of moving from one sex/gender to another, sometimes this is done by hormone or surgical treatments

Transgender man  A person who was assigned female at birth, but identifies as male. Also, transman, trans-man. Some people may also use FTM, an abbreviation for female-to-male. Some may prefer to simply be called men, without any modifier. It is best to ask which term an individual prefers.

Transgender woman A person who was assigned male at birth, but identifies as female. Also, transwoman, trans-woman. Some people may also use MTF, an abbreviation for male-to-female. Some may prefer to simply be called women, without any modifier. It is best to ask which term an individual prefers.

Two-Spirit is a cultural identity used by some indigenous people who have both masculine and feminine spirits.

You will remember the Gender Unicorn from the Key Concepts and the Sexual Orientation modules. Here is a refresher.

Gender Identity: One’s internal sense of being male, female, neither of these, both, or another gender. Everyone has a gender identity, including you. For transgender people, their sex assigned at birth and their own internal sense of gender identity are not the same. Female, woman, and girl and male, man, and boy are also NOT necessarily linked to each other but are just six common gender identities.

Gender Expression/Presentation: The physical manifestation of one’s gender identity through clothing, hairstyle, voice, body shape, etc. Most transgender people seek to make their gender expression (how they look) match their gender identity (who they are), rather than their sex assigned at birth.

Sex Assigned at Birth: The assignment and classification of people as male, female, intersex, or another gender based on a combination of anatomy, hormones, chromosomes. It is important we don’t simply use “sex” because of the vagueness of the definition of sex and its place in transphobia.

Sexually Attracted To: Sexual Orientation. It is important to note that sexual and romantic/emotional attraction can be from a variety of factors including but not limited to gender identity, gender expression/presentation, and sex assigned at birth.

Romantically/Emotionally Attracted To: Romantic/emotional orientation. It is important to note that sexual and romantic/emotional attraction can be from a variety of factors including but not limited to gender identity, gender expression/presentation, and sex assigned at birth (Trans Student Educational Resources, n.d.).

In most situations, after making sure the newborn is breathing and healthy, the medical professional will make an announcement about the sex of the newborn. This is the sex assigned at birth. It is important to make the distinction between biological sex and sex assigned at birth. Sex assigned at birth is a term that has adopted by many transgender folks. The term biological sex gives the incorrect impression that gender is an inherent truth.

Gender is a social construct, and as such our definition and understanding of gender has changed over time. In many cultures there was an acceptance of trans* members of their community. Two-Spirit is a term traditionally used by some aboriginal cultures to recognize individuals who possess qualities or fulfill roles of both genders. Until colonialism trans* individuals were often respected and held in high social esteem (Khaleeli, 2014; McCarthy, 2014; Laframboise, 2008; and Singer, n.d.). Please read “Native Americans talk gender identity at a ‘two-spirit’ powwow” by Jorge Rivas in Fusion to learn how some folks feel about being two-spirit.

While there has been an increase in the visibility of transgender individuals in popular culture, this has not translated into general acceptance. In the clip below Dr. Jama Shelton defines transphobia.

Here is a talk by Geena Rocero as she describes why it was important for her to come out as a trans woman.

Laverne Cox has risen to prominence due to her role on the film Orange is the New Black on Netflix. She was the first out trans woman to be on the cover of Time magazine and the the first trans woman to be nominated for an Emmy in an acting awards. In this video from a talk, Cox said “Our lives are often in danger, simply for being who we are, when we are trans women” (Cox, 2014).

A troubling example of how trans* men and women are treated in our systems can be seen in the story of Jane Doe in Connecticut. Jane Doe is a 16 year old trans woman of colour, who has a history of sexual abuse and assault and has spent most of life in the care of Department of Children and Family (DCF). Jane Doe has not been charged with any crimes. Authorities claim Jane has been placed in an adult facility in solitary confinement for her own protection (Bauer, 2014).

Jane wrote a letter to the Governor of Connecticut. Here are some of her words to describe her experiences:

”I have been sitting in this prison for a month now and there is no plan to get me out. I am suffering in here. I’m having trouble sleeping and I’m not eating much. I cry in bed every night.   I can’t be myself in this place. I feel forgotten and thrownaway. As you probably know, these feeling are not new for me. This is the way my life has been going since I was a little kid” (Doe, 2014).

Here are some responses to Jane Doe’s situation:

We share the story of Jane Doe to remind us that although as a society we have reached a level of awareness of trans* people (Laverne Cox being on the cover of Time magazine is used as “look how far we have come”), there are still numerous reports of violence and transphobia. “… in the first four months of 2014, 102 acts of violence against transgender people have been logged [in 14 countries]. Such reports are sent in to the portal voluntarily, meaning that there have definitely been many more unreported acts of violence as well” (Walkley, 2014).

So far in 2015 there have been reports of the murder of 6 trans women in the United States. Janet Mock points out that compared there were none at this time last year (Mock, 2014).

The names of our sisters shouldn’t only make headlines when we walk a red carpet or lay in a casket. Our visibility shouldn’t be subject to such extreme circumstances. We’ve grown too accustomed, in the past year, to speaking the names of Laverne Cox and Janet Mock, and giving ourselves social justice cred for doing so. This is dangerously tokenizing and speaks to the hypervisibility of women of color who are expected to not only carry their dreams but the dreams of an entire race and people with them (Mock, 2014).

Why is it important you know this

Relative to other homeless youth, nearly six in ten respondents (58%) report that transgender homeless youth have worse physical and mental overall health. Nearly a quarter of respondents thought that the overall health of their transgender clients was “much worse” than other, non-LGBT homeless youth (Durso, 2012: 9).

Here are some statistics from “Safe & Respected: Policy, Best Practices & Guidance for Serving Transgender & Gender Non-Conforming Children and Youth Involved in the Child Welfare, Detention, and Juvenile Justice Systems” (Perry, 2014: 3-4).

TGNC people and TGNC children and youth in particular are an especially vulnerable group. TGNC youth have been identified as an especially vulnerable population within the already high-risk population of youth in foster care and juvenile justice settings. Limited research has been conducted on the specific experiences of TGNC youth in foster care; however, the overall vulnerabilities of TGNC people are well documented:

  • TGNC young people may experience rejection from their families of origin and be kicked out of their homes. 57% of TGNC people who were out to their families reported experiencing family rejection.
  • Verbal harassment was very common, and 87% of TGNC young people report facing it often or frequently.
  • Over 53% of TGNC people had been verbally harassed or disrespected, and 44% had been denied service because they were TGNC. 76.6% of TGNC people reported feeling physically unsafe in public on a regular basis.
  • A total of 42% of the TGNC young people reported that they had been physically harassed in their school by peers because of their gender identity. 44% of those reported that they had been punched, kicked, or attacked with a weapon, and 17% reported that they were physically harassed often or frequently. Of the youth who reported being harassed by peers, only a third indicated that there had been an effective response by teachers or the administration.
  • TGNC young people reported being subject to vicious rumors, cyber bullying, destruction of their personal property, and being generally ostracized and excluded by their peers.
  • TGNC people face high rates of physical attack (16%) and sexual assault (15%) while incarcerated.

Intersectionality

TGNC people of color consistently face higher levels of discrimination and prejudice. Negative outcomes as a result of this widespread prejudice and discrimination against TGNC people has also been well documented:

  • TGNC youth, 24 years of age and under, are at particularly high risk for homelessness, with reports indicating that 20% of the homeless youth identify as transgender.

  • TGNC people who were rejected by their families of origin, partners, or children are more likely to have greater negative outcomes. Rates of suicidality doubled, as did sex work, and homelessness tripled.

  • TGNC people who are physically assaulted by a family member as a result of coming out (19%), have double the rate of HIV infection and suicide attempts, and four times the amount of sex work and homelessness.

  • TGNC youth who reported high levels of harassment averaged a 2.2 grade point average (GPA), while TGNC youth who faced less harassment had an average GPA of 3.0.

  • As a result of going to school in an unsafe environment, 47% of the TGNC youth reported skipping at least one class in the last month, and 46% reported missing a full day of school at least once in the past month because of the harassment that they faced.

  • Pervasive negative experiences can have a significant impact on TGNC young people’s mental health and emotional well-being.

In this module we have attempted to share with you the extent of the transphobia experienced by trans* men and women. Our objective is for you to understand the importance of creating trans* inclusive spaces. If you are already aware we hope to have given you additional reasons to share with your colleagues. family and friends.

If our goal is to create spaces where homeless youth can access services and programs that enable them to transition into adulthood in healthy ways, we need to ensure that our spaces are inclusive. In the Sexual Orientation module we discussed microaggressions that LGBTQ2S people encounter.  Here are two articles we shared earlier as a quick reminder “The Many Faces of Homophobia: Microaggressions and the LGBTQIA+ Community” and “19 LGBT Microaggressions You Hear On A Daily Basis”.

Here is a refresher from the What to Say and What Not to Say module:

  • Tranny – Often used in an insulting way towards trans people, specifically trans women.
  • He-She – Insinuates that the trans woman is not a woman, but something between male and female.
  • Hermaphrodite – This is an outdated term that has been replaced with Intersex.
  • She-male –  Insinuates that the trans woman is not a woman, but something between male and female.
  • Transvestite – Often used to refer to trans women in an insulting manner, despite having a true definition which is a person who dresses as the binary opposite gender expression (“cross-dresses”) for sexual gratification; often confused with “transsexual”.
Gender and your work

“Most shelters are segregated by birth sex, which increases the risk for gender discrimination and gender violence to occur within shelters. Shelter staff members tend to have minimal training around transgender-related issues, needs, and terminology. (Abramovich, 2012: 43)

Staff may not have an understanding of the importance of asking youth what pronoun they prefer, how they wish to be addressed, or that transgender people can also identify as heterosexual and do not always fit into the category of LGB” (Abramovich, 2012: 43).

Youth told us in our focus groups that they  need staff to respect their identities. This means using the chosen name of youth and the preferred pronoun. Staff should ask youth for their chosen name and preferred pronoun during the intake process. This should be part of the process for all youth. This will help youth begin to understand that we are working towards creating welcoming and safe-enough spaces for LGBTQ2S youth.

It is recommended that organizations introduce gender inclusive forms for intake and case management forms. In some communities there may be official systems that organizations have to participate in. In Toronto all shelters use SMIS (Shelter Management Information System) and Calgary uses a similar system called HMIS (Homeless Management Information System). These type of databases may not have the capacity for including inclusive questions, so staff will need to find a work around to ensure that the identity of youths are respected. It is also important that organizations using these systems inform the software providers that the system are not adequate and need refinement to ensure the system is inclusive and doesn’t further marginalize already very marginalized young people.

We cannot emphasis enough that organizations and staff have to work hard to make spaces LGBTQ2S inclusive. Physical space can be an indicator of inclusive spaces, but training and policies are needed for organizations to be inclusive. Public/shared washrooms can be very stressful for trans and gender non-conforming individuals as they are often harassed in gendered washrooms. When possible washrooms should be single use non-gendered. This ideal situation is not possible in all spaces. A compromise some organizations have adopted is to have a third washroom available that is non-gendered and is usually the accessibility washroom. The problem here is that by using the third washroom, a youth could be outed being trans.

Illustration bathroom signs reading

Photo Credit: lacigreen.tumblr.com

Sign reads: Safe access to bathrooms is not a luxury or special right. I know who I am. Assume I belong.

Photo Credit: George Brown College Student Association

Exiting a program generally involves referrals to other programs or supports. It is important during this stage that referrals are made with the youth in mind, specifically around their sexual orientation and gender identity, as some programs will be a better fit for the youth. It is important to youth that staff care where they are going and if it will be a good fit for them. This means proper referrals to other programs that respect the youth’s sexuality and/or gender identity. For example staff should not refer a trans woman to a men’s only shelter. Youth want to be respected enough to have an input into where they were going, and as to what they would need to make that work. Youth would like to see more flexibility and ability to have input on the exiting process.

It is clear that there are major gaps within our systems regarding shelter exits, in particular with the LGBTQ2S population. The youth in our focus groups were very vocal about how unsafe it is for them within the shelter system so when there is no concrete plan upon exiting, they are at an even higher risk for being victims of violence and exploitation.

It is important for youth, that staff assist with the transition process and refer them to appropriate resources where staff has an understanding of working with LGBTQ2S youth. Youth feel that “exiting” needs to be a process and not a “day” where they are no longer able to avail of services. For youth, an exit process from a shelter (or otherwise) needs to be at the pace of the youth and not based solely on a programs mandate.

Youth want to have groups and activities posted in the space. It is important that there is a variety of groups and activities be shared with youth. For youth who are not out in the shelter or drop-in, it is easy to scan a board with a variety of activities without drawing attention that they are looking for LGBTQ2S resources.

Youth also want to see trans inclusive living spaces. This includes how space is designed and the policies implemented and enforced.

Youth have identified physical space as perhaps the most significant area where emphasis needs to be placed when addressing the needs of/supporting LGBTQ2S youth. Feeling safe and accepted in a space needs to include much more than a “place” and perhaps where organizational policies need to begin (and grow!).

Sources:

Abramovich, I.A. (2014, June 14). 1 in 3 transgender youth will be rejected by a shelter on account of their gender identity/expression. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.homelesshub.ca/blog/1-3-transgender-youth-will-be-rejected-shelter-account-their-gender-identityexpression
Abramovich, I.A. (2014, November 20). Transgender Day of Remembrance 2014 #TDOR. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.homelesshub.ca/blog/transgender-day-remembrance-2014-tdor
Bauer, S. (2014, May 23). Why is Connecticut holding a transgender teen in solitary? Retrieved February 9, 2015, Doe, J. (2014, May 8). Transgender teen Jane Doe letter to Gov. Malloy. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.scribd.com/doc/222912641/Transgender-teen-Jane-Doe-letter-to-Gov-Malloy#scribdfrom http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/05/transgender-16-year-old-solitary-cell-adult-prison
Cox, L. (2014, December 7). Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It). Retrieved February 19, 2015, from http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/12/laverne-cox-intersection-what-to-do/
Doe, J. (2014, May 8). Transgender teen Jane Doe letter to Gov. Malloy. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.scribd.com/doc/222912641/Transgender-teen-Jane-Doe-letter-to-Gov-Malloy#scribd
Fierstein, H. (2014, May 16). What Is This Child Doing in Prison? Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/17/opinion/what-is-this-child-doing-in-prison.html?_r=1
Jaferi, T. (2014, October 8). Microaggressions: Trendy buzz-word or something to think about? Retrieved February 9, 2015, from https://charityvillage.com/Content.aspx?topic=Microaggressions_Trendy_buzz_word_or_something_to_think_about#.VNjYU-4bLMh
Khaleeli, H. (2014, April 16). Hijra: India’s third gender claims its place in law. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/apr/16/india-third-gender-claims-place-in-law
Laframboise, S., & Anhorn, M. (2008). Links. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.dancingtoeaglespiritsociety.org/twospirit.php
McCarthy, J. (2014, April 18). A Journey Of Pain And Beauty: On Becoming Transgender In India. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2014/04/18/304548675/a-journey-of-pain-and-beauty-on-becoming-transgender-in-india
McClouskey, M. (2014, September 15). The Many Faces of Homophobia: Microaggressions and the LGBTQIA Community. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/09/the-many-faces-of-homophobia/
Mock, J. (2014, May 30). An Open Letter to Jane Doe the 16 year old Girl Who Smiles Dreams From Behind Bars. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://janetmock.com/2014/05/30/open-letter-for-jane-doe-16-trans-girl-adult-prison-ct/
Mock, J. (2015, February 16). Essays by Janet Mock. Retrieved February 19, 2015, from http://janetmock.com/2015/02/16/six-trans-women-killed-this-year/
Nigatu, H. (2014, February 19). 19 LGBT Microaggressions You Hear On A Daily Basis. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.buzzfeed.com/hnigatu/19-lgbt-microaggressions-you-hear-on-a-daily-basis#.fi721vEel
Ontario Human Rights Commission. (2014, June 4). Preventing discrimination because of gender identity and gender expression. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/preventing-discrimination-because-gender-identity-and-gender-expression
Perry, J.R. & Green, E.R. (2014). Safe & Respected: Policy, Best Practices & Guidance for Serving Transgender & Gender Non-Conforming Children and Youth Involved in the Child Welfare, Detention, and Juvenile Justice Systems. New York City, NY: New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services.
Rivas, J. (2015, February 9). Native Americans talk gender identity at a ‘two-spirit’ powwow. Retrieved February 19, 2015, from http://fusion.net/story/46014/native-americans-talk-gender-identity-at-a-two-spirit-powwow/
Rocero, G. (2014, March 31). Geena Rocero: Why I must come out. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCZCok_u37w
Singer, P. (n.d.). Colonialism, Two-Spirit Identity, and the Logics of White Supremacy. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from https://www.academia.edu/2259929/Colonialism_Two-Spirit_Identity_and_the_Logics_of_White_Supremacy
Thornhill, N. (2015, February 10). He, She, Zhe: How to Talk to Your Kids About Gender :: YummyMummyClub.ca. Retrieved February 18, 2015, from http://www.yummymummyclub.ca/blogs/nadine-thornhill-mummy-sex/20150125/how-to-talk-to-kids-about-gender
Trans Student Educational Resources. (n.d.). Trans Student Educational Resources. Retrieved February 18, 2015, from http://transstudent.org/gender
Walkley, A. (2014, May 12). 2014 Transgender Violence Statistics Sobering Thus Far. Retrieved February 19, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/aj-walkley/2014-transgender-violence_b_5298554.html
Vancouver Coastal Health. (n.d.). Gender 101. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://transhealth.vch.ca/trans-101/gender-identity#.VNjdwu4bLMh
Wiki How. (n.d.). How to Respect a Transgender Person. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.wikihow.com/Respect-a-Transgender-Person

Learning Objectives–At the end of this exercise, you will be able to:

  1. demonstrate increased understanding of the issues around coming out and how they might affect LGBTQ youth.
  2. recognize that coming out is not about sexual behaviour, but about statements of identity and relationships, both of which are critical to emotional and social development in youth.
  3. be able to articulate the potential consequences of social and emotional isolation on sexual and gender minority clients.

Here is a talk by Morgana Bailey speaking on the danger of hiding who you are:

The purpose of this exercise is to increase participants understanding, empathy and knowledge regarding the unique stressors often experienced by sexual and gender minority youth, foster parents and families (AKA LGBTQ2S youth).

This  exercise is a group activity. It is recommended that you use this an icebreaker exercise at a team or organization meeting.

Please watch these two videos clip to see the exercise in action.

Here is the discussion after the exercise:

Here is the Impact of Silence exercise that you can download.

Sources:

Bailey, M. (2015, January 23). The danger of hiding who you are. Retrieved February 19, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2gbcVaZ448&x-yt-ts=1422579428&x-yt-cl=85114404
Elze, D., & McHaelen, R. (2009).Moving the margins: Training curriculum for child welfare services with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in out-of-home care : Train the trainer manual. Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers.
Shelton, J. (2013, November 20). LGBTQ Youth and Homelessness. LGBTQ Youth and Homelessness Town Hall. Lecture conducted from National Learning Community on Youth Homelessness, Toronto.

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. explain why they is a valid and important pronoun we can use in the singular.
  2. understand the need for gender neutral language.
  3. be able to explain why the words we choose to use are important and why need to be cautious.

As we have already discussed, language is a powerful tool. The words we choose to use have an impact on our interactions with youth and each other.

Pronouns and They

During the youth focus groups, young people were very clear that they need to have their identities respected and part of this is using the correct pronouns and asking youth how they identify. “Hopefully, by now you know that calling people the pronouns they want to be called is a basic and necessary way to demonstrate respect for their identities. This includes learning to use non-binary pronouns, such as singular ‘they’” (Shlasko, 2015).

Hello name tag stickers with various pronouns.

Photo Credit: http://www.storenvy.com/products/4622860-set-of-5-hello-pronouns-stickers

For fun, trying having a conversation with someone and not use: he, she, they, etc.

How much fun was that? It is nearly impossible if you are talking about anything other than the weather.

In addition to the traditional him and her, new pronouns are being developed to better articulate the reality of trans* and gender non-conforming folks. There include: ze and xe. Also gaining popularity is using “they” as a pronoun in the singular. Some gender non-conforming folks prefer the pronoun they.

Some people who fall under the broad definition of trans have gender identities other than man or woman. People describe these identities as non-binary, genderqueer, non-gendered, gender-fluid, and many other terms … Some (not all) people who experience our genders in these ways ask people to avoid binary gendered language when referring to us, including the third-person pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she’ (Shlasko, 2015).

 Here is a video from staff at Upworthy discussing their reaction to a coworker’s request for them to use their preferred pronoun:

Using they in the singular may feel a little awkward at first. We have been well conditioned in elementary school level grammar about how pronouns work. Saying “Suza was here to check in, but they left to visit Ange” may feel a little weird. With time and practice it gets easier and becomes natural (like learning to ride a bike).

Language adapts to our realities and needs as a culture. New words are constantly entering our lexicon and the meanings of words shifts over time. And the same happens with rules about grammar.

The rule against using singular they is enforced neither because it preserves some consistent, objective grammatical standard, nor because it serves our communication needs. It is enforced because enforcing language norms is a way of enforcing power structures. Our pronoun problem isn’t just about gender — it’s about power … So if you object to singular they on the basis of its correctness, you’re not only dropping the ball on an important trans ally behavior; you’re also supporting a language and power system that you probably don’t agree with. (Shlasko, 2015).

Get some practice! When referring to someone who has not told you what their prefered pronoun is use they instead of he/she. “I was talking with Meena and they said…”

Please read How Using “They” as a Singular Pronoun Can Change the World for more information on why using they is important.

Word Choices

In the Terms and Definitions module we shared a number of important definitions. In the What to Say and What Not to Say module we discussed several terms we need to avoid using. This is a good foundation. Being an inclusive space for LGBTQ2S youth, staff and volunteers requires more than having a few rainbow inspired posters in visible areas.

Do you remember the days when we said:

  • Policeman instead of Police Officer
  • Stewardess instead of Flight Attendant
  • Waitress instead of server
  • Manhole instead of maintenance cover

Sadly some folks still use outdated gendered language. Moving towards gender neutral language requires us to acknowledging sexism that exists in our society and language. Shifting language moves at glacial speed (read: slow).

We need to shift towards a gender neutral language. This is hard and takes energy and mindfulness. But it is so important to LGBTQ2S folks. Being inclusive in our language is the next step.

You may be wondering what does sexist language have to do with LGBTQ2S issues? First, sexism, heterosexism and cisgenderism are all interconnected as we learnt in the Intersectionality module. Second, youth who access our services are telling us (either in formal focus groups, or informally by how they access our services and programs) that they need their gender identities respected. You will recall in the Overview section there were numerous comments about respecting chosen names and pronouns.

Things you can do

  1. If you have not already, update your forms (especially intake and case management forms) to be gender inclusive. Add multiple gender identity options and space for chosen names. Please see the Form module of the Tools section for samples
  2. During the intake process and at the beginning of groups as part of the introduction ask participants what their pronoun is. As the facilitator is best to role model by going first and sharing your pronoun. It is as easy as “Hi. My name is Elizabeth. I go by Liz. My pronoun is her.” Do this with every youth. It will soon be a natural habit.
  3. Consider the words you use. Try to avoid calling a group of women “ladies”. There may be some one in the group who does not identify as a “lady”. Also try to avoid calling a group of people “guys”. Instead you can use “folks” or another non-gendered term.
  4. Read GLAAD’s Ally’s Guide to Terminology

Below is a grassroots activity from Vancouver British Columbia.

In 2012, Toni Latour and Jenny Lynn set out to make these cards in response to people being misgendered or “lady’ed” in restaurants. This has been an ongoing experience and dialogue in the Vancouver queer community for many years and they wanted to come up with a creative response. Since then, James Alexander Kelly collaborated with Latour and they completed the work in 2015. Latour will print 1000 cards that she will give away freely to anyone who wants to use them. Please email her to have yours sent to you in the mail. She has also included a free PDF link to both sides of the card for printing at home. (The card is designed with space around the edges for trimming). It is her hope that they will be used at the end of a restaurant visit as a kind reminder or an opportunity for education and dialogue (Latour, 2015).

Hello there.

Photo Credit: Toni Latour

Gender neutral greetings for customers.

Photo Credit: Toni Latour

Next Steps

The next module is on the topic of bullying. The language we use has an impact on the people around us. Most of us heard “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Unfortunately this cliche is not accurate. Names do hurt. They may not leave physical marks on us on their own, but they affect how we feel about ourselves. LGBTQ2S are more likely to attempt suicide than straight/cisgender youth.

Words can also be used to condone violence. We need to speak up when we hear words being used with the intent of harming others. Please see the How to be an Ally module for strategies on how to speak up.

Sources:

GLAAD. (2012). An Ally’s Guide to Terminology. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.glaad.org/sites/default/files/allys-guide-to-terminology_1.pdf
Kacere, L. (2013, September 23). 5 Ways Using Correct Gender Pronouns Will Make You a Better Trans* Ally. Retrieved February 6, 2015, from http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/09/correct-gender-pronouns-to-be-trans-ally/
Latour, T., Lynn, J., & Kelly, J.A. (2015). Hello There. Retrieved February 10, 2015, from http://www.tonilatour.com/hello-there/
Shlasko, D. (2015, February 3). Feministing. Retrieved February 4, 2015, from http://feministing.com/2015/02/03/how-using-they-as-a-singular-pronoun-can-change-the-world/

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. understand the term outing and the consequences of outing LGBTQ2S youth.
  2. understand the importance of respecting the privacy of youth we work with.

Outing [someone] is when someone reveals another person’s sexuality or gender identity to an individual or group, often without the person’s consent or approval; not to be confused with “coming out”.

When working with LGBTQ2S youth, it is important not to out them to others. The matter of one’s identity is not only very personal, but can also be very fluid. Outing someone while they are exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity can be damaging not only in exposing them to the harsh stereotypes and phobias of others, but can be detrimental to their self-exploration. It should be the youth’s decision when to disclose their identity to others.

Scenario:

A youth you are working with states they need to access the clothing room for a job interview on Friday. You tell them that the clothing room is not open today, but she can access it tomorrow from 12-6. You send an email to your colleague who coordinates the clothing room to make sure there are items suitable for job interviews.

Which of the following versions would you use?

  1. A resident has a job interview on Friday. Are there any interview appropriate outfits for her or should I refer to a partner organization for clothing?
  2. A trans resident has a job interview on Friday. Are there any interview appropriate outfits for her or should I refer to a partner organization for clothing?

Hopefully you selected the first answer. The fact that the youth is a trans woman is not relevant.

If a youth discloses that they identify as LGBTQ2S you can ask them who else knows. It is important that workers do not out youth to others who may not have been informed by the youth. It is up to the youth to share their identity(/ies) with how they want to know.

  1. Outing a youth in an already vulnerable position is not only an abuse of your position, but of that client’s trust.
  2. It is a person’s right to their privacy.
  3. Exposing a youth before they are ready can put them in less than favorable situations, leading to bullying (psychological and physical) and/or potential violence.
  4. Information can travel faster and farther than any person intends, including to the ears of employers, who aren’t always LGBTQ2S allies.
  5. You can’t tell a youth’s gender identity from the way they look or dress, ALWAYS ask before assigning a pronoun. If unsure, use the singular They until you can ask the question PRIVATELY so as to not embarrass or out them.
Sources:

Molloy, P. (2014, January 24). Op-ed: The Deadly Effects of Outing. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2014/01/24/op-ed-deadly-effects-outing
Mount Sinai Hospital. (n.d.). The Are You an ALLY? Campaign. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.mountsinai.on.ca/about_us/human-rights/ally

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. distinguish between conflict and bullying.
  2. understand the need to have a zero tolerance policy on bullying in your space.
  3. understand the impact of bullying has on LGBTQ2S.

The topic of bullying is an important issue for staff at youth serving organizations to be aware of and to discuss as a team and with youth.

Illustration of human shaped person surrounded by LGBTQ+ slurs

Image Credit: http://terrible-wander.tumblr.com/post/20262489345/shangrillaxxx-my-senior-project-painting-can-be

What is Bullying?

A great organization working on the issue of bullying in schools is [email protected]. They define bullying as “the abuse of a power imbalance with the intent to harm someone” (Safe @ School). Bullying can be repeated behaviour of one act (depending on the impact).

[email protected] makes the distinction between bullying and conflict. They define conflict as a…

… disagreement or a difference of opinion or interests between equals. The people involved in a conflict may disagree vehemently and emotions may run high. When conflict is badly managed, it may result in aggression. In a conflict, both parties have power to influence the situation. That is their goal (Safe @ School, n.d.).

On their page called “Is it Conflict or is it Bullying? What’s the Difference?“, they offer the following as

Characteristics of a bullying situation… :

  • an imbalance of power;

  • the intent to harm;

  • worsens with repetition over time;

  • the distress of the child or teen being bullied, often including fear or terror;

  • enjoyment of the effects on the child or teen being bullied by the person (people) doing the bullying;

  • the threat – implicit or explicit – of further aggression (Safe @ School, n.d.).

Since conflict and bullying are not the same, different responses are needed for each. Your organization may have a conflict resolution model/process. It is important that this is posted in high traffic areas of your space. It is also important that youth are informed of the process (soon after the intake process).

[email protected] has a great worksheet to help distinguish between conflict and bullying. Click here to review this tool.

Impact of Bullying Infographic

Image Credit: Fenway Focus

The topic of bullying is important when working with LGBTQ2S youth because these youth are more likely to have experienced bullying because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It is important that you are able to recognize the signs of bullying and have the tools required to intervene (training, policy and procedures etc.). A great organization that supports LGBTQ2S youth is The Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youth Line.

Here is a short film about Sam.

After being bullied and beaten at school for dressing like a boy, Sam escapes into the fields surrounding her house. When she can’t find her way out, she’s forced to spend the night there and choose between who she is and who society thinks she should be (Bardo, 2013).

Education

Schools should be a safe enough space for students. Sadly, this is not true for LGBTQ2S students. Here are some disconcerting statistics on youth and schools:

  • Nearly two-thirds report feeling unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, and nearly 40% felt unsafe because of their gender expression.

  • 85% of LGBT[Q2S] students report being verbally harassed, 40% report being physically harassed because of their sexual orientation.

  • 64% of LGBT[Q2S] students report being verbally harassed, nearly 30% report being physically harassed because of their gender expression.

Anti-LGBT[Q2S] bullying leads to absenteeism, lower grades, reduced self-esteem and, in too many cases, depression and suicide. Students who were more frequently harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender expression reported a grade point average almost a half grade lower than for students who were less often harassed (2.7 vs. 3.1) (GLSEN, n.d.).

Gay Straight Alliances are one way schools are becoming safe enough spaces for LGBTQ2S youth.

A GSA is a student-run group that provides a safe place for any and all students to meet and learn about all different orientations, to support each other while working together to end homophobia, and to raise awareness and promote equality for all human beings. In addition to being a group dedicated to support, it also strives to educate the surrounding areas and the community on different gender and equality issues (Egale, n.d.).

Recommendations:

Are you working with youth who are still enrolled in school? Here are some recommendations to support these young people:

  1. In case management meetings asking youth how they feel at school, in particular do they feel like they are being targeted for bullying. Sometimes youth need to know staff care about their well being in order to begin a conversation.
  2. If a young person is experiencing an issue at school, ask them if they would like you to accompany them to a meeting with staff to address the issue.
  3. You can also ask the youth if there school as a GSA and ask if the youth has connected with the GSA (if one exists). If their school does not have a GSA, you can discuss with the youth if they would like to investigate setting up a GSA. Egale Human Rights Trust has some great resources on creating a GSA.
  4. Work with LGBTQ2S youth to make connections in your local LGBTQ2S community to create a support system and mobilize key stakeholders to address any issues of homophobia, biphobia and/or transphobia.

Do you have any recommendations to add? Please add them as a comment on this page and we will add them to the list.

Sources:

Bardo, S. (2013, November 11). Sam: A Short Film About Gender Identity and LGBTQ Bullying. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQiN2MYEzSg
Bully Free Alberta. (n.d.). Homophobic Bullying. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.bullyfreealberta.ca/homophobic_bullying.htm
Egale Human Rights Trust. (n.d.). Setting up a GSA. Retrieved February 26, 2015, from http://www.mygsa.ca/setting-gsa/school-board-policies
GLSEN. (n.d.). Every Student Deserves a Safe Space! Retrieved February 26, 2015, from http://safespace.glsen.org
Safe @ School. (n.d.). Is it Conflict or is it Bullying? What’s the Difference? Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.safeatschool.ca/plm/bullying-prevention/interrupting-bullying/simple-strategies/is-it-conflict-or-is-it-bullying-whats-the-difference
Stop Bullying. (n.d.). Bullying and LGBT Youth. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/groups/lgbt/index.html

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. about the prevalence of suicide among LGBTQ2S youth.

This module  will not teach you how to intervene when a youth is suicidal or potentially suicidal. That is a training all on its own. Here are some helpful resources on suicide prevention:

The purpose of this module is to highlight that LGBTQ2S youth “are over four times more likely to attempt suicide than their non-LGBT peers” (Dyck, 2012: 3) This is a result of…

… LGBTQ[2S] youth fac[ing] greater prejudice and victimization in their schools and a correspondingly lower level of school connectedness than their non-LGBTQ[2S] peers:

  • 68% of trans students, 55% of LB students and 42% of GB students reported being verbally harassed about their perceived gender identity or sexual orientation.

  • 20% of LGBTQ[2S] students reported being physically harassed or assaulted about their perceived gender identity or sexual orientation.

  • 49% of trans students, 33% of lesbian students and 40% of gay male students have experienced sexual harassment in school in the last year.

  • 64% of LGBTQ[2S] students feel unsafe in their schools (compared to 15% of non-LGBTQ[2S] students).

  • 30% of trans students and 20% of LGB students strongly agreed that they sometimes “feel very depressed” about their school (compared to 6% of non-LGBTQ[2S] students) (Dyck: 5).

LGBTQ2S Inforgraphic from simmons.edu/itgetsbetter

Credit: Jess Faulks

Suicide attempt rates: General 1.6%, Hetero teens 4%, LGB teens 20%, Trans 41%

Credit: gayrightsarehumanrights.tumblr.com

Some questions to think about and discuss with your colleagues:

  1. What are your suicide prevention policies and procedures?
  2. Are staff trained and support to intervene when a youth is or potential is suicidal?
  3. What are your follow-up processes?
  4. Do you make referrals to external organizations?
  5. Do you know if these organizations are LGBTQ2S welcoming and inclusive?
  6. What can your organization do to help support external referral partners to become LGBTQ2S welcoming and inclusive if they are not already?
  7. Knowing that LGBTQ2S youth face microaggressions on a daily basis, what additional supports can your organization offer?

Sources:

Dyck, D. (2012, January 1). LGBTQ Youth Suicide Prevention Summit 2012: Report on Outcomes and Recommendations. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://egale.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/YSPS-Report-online.pdf

Religion has been a source of both solace and suffering for many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. For while most LGBT Americans have been raised in an organized religion — and many continue to cherish their faith community — too many have been forced to leave those communities behind because of condemnation of LGBT people (Human Rights Campaign, n.d.).

A number of faith groups have become welcoming spaces for LGBTQ2S individuals. Unfortunately there are still many faith based groups that are homophobic, biphobic and transphobic and actively oppose LGBTQ2S equity. For example they oppose employment protections and marriage equality. Some groups go even as far as promoting gay conversion therapy. One of the churches that is most vocal in its anti-LGBTQ2S activism is the Westboro Baptist Church. The Westboro Baptist Church

Someone holding sign that reads

Photo Credit: Wetboror Baptist Church

… engages in daily peaceful sidewalk demonstrations opposing the homosexual lifestyle of soul-damning, nation-destroying filth. We display large, colorful signs containing Bible words and sentiments, including: GOD HATES FAGS, FAGS HATE GOD, AIDS CURES FAGS, THANK GOD FOR AIDS, FAGS BURN IN HELL, GOD IS NOT MOCKED, FAGS ARE NATURE FREAKS, GOD GAVE FAGS UP, NO SPECIAL LAWS FOR FAGS… (Westboro Baptist Church, n.d.).

While the Westboro Baptist Church is an extreme example, they are perhaps the one we are most familiar with due to their protests and signs. Other faith organizations who are not LGBTQ2S inclusive tend to be more subtle. But within many of these organizations there are pockets of progressive members who are LGBTQ2S allies.

There are a number of religious groups that have adopted pro-LGBTQ2S values and are supporters of the LGBTQ2S community(/ies). Many of these religious groups have a commitment to social justice. And as such, they have advocated for the equity of LGBTQ2S community (e.g. employment protections and marriage equality. Most of these groups welcome LGBTQ2S clergy. In contrast to the Westboro Baptist Church, there are churches like the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto.

[The ] Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto is the spiritual home to a diverse and progressive community of faith. We are rooted in the teachings and spiritual practices of Christianity. We also respect the rich wisdom of other faith traditions. We believe in a relevant and forward-thinking spirituality.

We are proud to be a congregation serving people with assorted beliefs, backgrounds and sexual identities. From our origins serving gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, we have become an inclusive and affirming congregation that actively welcomes all people.

We are called to build bridges that transform lives and transform our world. We are called to welcome others into the experience of a spirituality that is vibrant, inclusive and progressive. We are called to generously share our time, talents and resources. We are called to be beacons of faith, freedom and justice here and around the world (Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, n.d.).

Sign reads:

Photo Credit: Anglican Parish of God / Facebook

Examples of this shift towards inclusion on a personal level can be witnessed in the following quote from a pastor.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll have gay children. I’m not sure if other parents think about this, but I do — quite often. Maybe it’s because I have many gay people in my family and circle of friends. It’s in my genes and in my tribe. Maybe it’s because, as a pastor of students, I’ve seen and heard the horror stories of gay Christian kids — from both inside and outside of the closet — trying to be part of the Church. Maybe it’s because, as a Christian, I interact with so many people who find homosexuality to be the most repulsive thing imaginable, and who make that abundantly clear at every conceivable opportunity (Pavlovitz, 2014).

This is from an article posted on the Huffington Post from a pastor writing to share what he would do if one of his children was gay. This inspired Rabbi Orlow to respond with eight promises he makes if one of his children is gay (Orlow, 2014).

Faith Based Organizations and Service Delivery

In many communities faith based organizations are providing programs and services because there has been no one else to do the work. Faith organizations have historically identified outstanding needs and responded. According to John Ashman (President of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions) “Soup, soap and salvation” is how early Christian service providers were referred to. The following is from talk Ashman gave at the 2014 National Alliance to End Homelessness conference in Washington, DC.

And that was okay in those days because people knew what that meant… Another way missions were known in the day ‘three hots and a cot’… [T]hey were there in the ‘30s for people who were dealing with all the issues of the depression. They were there in the ‘40s for people who were also coming back from war… Rescue Missions today  are changing. They have to change. Radical hospitality replaces soup, soap and salvation. That’s why 81% of our missions now do not require someone to go to a chapel service before they get something to eat. We are working on those other 19%… We are still going to be about changing lives… We are going to be on the playing field, we are just going to come in through a different tunnel” (Ashman, 2014).

Here is the full video:

There are some concerns that to access services at a faith based organization a client needs to agree to partake in religious activities in exchange for a bed (for example). According to BC Housing “Emergency shelter providers should have policies in place regarding spiritual activities that take place within the shelter to ensure that individuals not participating have equal access to services and accommodation” (BC Housing, 2013: 19).

BC Housing provides the sample policy and procedure for an emergency shelter provider with religious roots.

When the Safe Stay Shelter Society was founded 25 years ago it was based on the Christian principles of caring for those in need in our community and the importance of sharing God’s love through real and tangible actions. Those principles remain just as valid for the work of the shelter today. That being said, while Christian prayers, services, bible studies and pastoral counselling are available at the shelter for those clients who are interested in participating, participation in any religious activity is not compulsory or expected. Clients staying at the shelter are free to practice any religion or spiritual belief that they adhere to, or none at all if that is the case (BC Housing, 2013: 20).

Egale Human Rights Trust has been active in the development and nurturing of Gay Straight Alliance (GSAs) in the education system. They developed 10 Faith-Based Reasons to Support LGBTQ Inclusive Education (Egale, n.d.). The following list has adapted the 10 Faith-Based Reasons to Support LGBTQ Inclusive Education to service delivery.

  1. Human dignity is paramount. [Everyone who enters our spaces is a human being and it treated with respect and compassion.]
  2. The ideals of compassion, acceptance, peace and love are shared by most religions and peoples throughout the world. Many religions have incredible histories of involvement with social justice and peace movements, activism, and a sense of duty to marginalized peoples.
  3. Most religions share the belief that one should treat others like one would like others to treat oneself.
  4. LGBTQ inclusive [service delivery] does not promote or suggest that someone’s religious values are wrong.
  5. LGBTQ inclusive [service delivery] works toward ensuring that each youth has a safe environment in which to [stay and access resources they need]. Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia foster, condone and willfully ignore violence and hate.
  6. The impact of disapproval and lack of acceptance opens individuals who identify as LGBTQ up to verbal, physical and emotional harassment, which are all forms of violence.
  7. Sexual orientation is a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Canadian Charter of Rights as well as provincial/territorial Human Rights Codes. Gender identity is also included as a prohibited ground in some provinces and territories. Please visit www.egale.ca for a current list.
  8. Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia hurt us all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Often, anyone who is perceived to be LGBTQ is subjected to harassment and victimization. Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia enforce rigid gender roles and norms, deny individual expression, and perpetuate stereotypes, myths and misinformation.
  9. All human beings are valuable members of their communities regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

For additional resource please read Straight For Equality.

Sources:

Ashman, J. (2014, August 25). Rescue Missions: We’re probably not what you think we are. Retrieved February 20, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlURsQGCbDk&index=14&list=UUN53idxWoDulLwZsVr272xg
BC Housing. (2013) Emergency Shelter Program: Sample Policies and Procedures for Emergency Shelters. Retrieved February 20, 2015, from http://www.bchousing.org/resources/Partner_Resources/Program_Resources/Emergency_Shelter_Program/ESP_Sample_Policies_Procedures.pdf
Castillo, T. (2013, December 15). Faith and Harm Reduction: The True Meaning of “All God’s Children” Retrieved February 20, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tessie-castillo/faith-and-harm-reduction_b_4136617.html
Egale Human Rights Trust. (n.d.). 10 Faith-Based Reasons to Support LGBTQ Inclusive Education. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://mygsa.ca/setting-gsa/10-faith-based-reasons-support-lgbtq-inclusive-education
Halper, K. (2014, August 14). 9 Most Homophobic Church Signs. Retrieved February 20, 2015, from http://www.alternet.org/belief/9-most-homophobic-church-signs
Human Rights Campaign. (n.d.). Faith Positions. Retrieved February 20, 2015, from http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/faith-positions
Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto. (n.d.). Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto – Vibrant. Inclusive. Progressive. Retrieved February 22, 2015, from http://www.mcctoronto.com
Orlow, A. (2014, October 3). If I Have Gay Children: A Rabbi’s 8 Promises. Retrieved February 20, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/avi-orlow/if-i-have-gay-children-_b_5923490.html
Pavlovitz, J. (2014, September 27). If I Have Gay Children: 4 Promises From a Christian Pastor/Parent. Retrieved February 20, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-pavlovitz/if-i-have-gay-children-fo_b_5869298.html
Southern Poverty Law Center. (n.d.). Conversion Therapy. Retrieved February 20, 2015, from http://www.splcenter.org/conversion-therapy
Straight For Equality. (n.d.). Additional Resources – Faith Communities. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.straightforequality.org/FaithResources
Westboro Baptist Church. (n.d.). Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved February 22, 2015, from http://www.godhatesfags.com/faq.html?COLLCC=3728666866&

Learning Objectives--At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. understand the challenges encountered by LGBTQ2S youth as they access and navigate the healthcare system
  2. understand how homophobia, biphobia and transphobia may cause some LGBTQ2S youth reluctant to access medical care.
  3. support LGBTQ2S youth to find appropriate medical services (by asking important questions of healthcare providers)

Health care can be a challenges for youth. “Due in part to negative past experiences, many LGBTQ people may delay or avoid seeking health care or choose to withhold personal information from healthcare providers. In general, LGBTQ people end up receiving less quality health care than the population as a whole” (Rainbow Health Ontario, ND).

The following is an excerpt from the introduction from “Trans Liberation” by Leslie Feinberg. Feinberg was a LGBTQ2S activist and writer. This excerpt details one of Leslie’s interactions with the healthcare system.

I’ll give you a graphic example. From December 1995 to December 1996, I was dying of Endocarditis — a bacterial infection that lodges and proliferates in the valves of the heart. A simple blood culture would have immediately exposed the root cause of my raging fevers. Eight weeks of ‘round-the-clock intravenous antibiotic drips would have eradicated every last seedling of bacterium in the canals of my heart. Yet I experienced such hatred from some health practitioners that I very nearly died.

I remember late one night in December my lover and I arrived at a hospital emergency room during a snowstorm. My fever was 104 degrees and rising. My blood pressure was pounding dangerously high. The staff immediately hooked me up to monitors and worked to bring down my fever. The doctor in charge began physically examining me. When he determined that my anatomy was female, he flashed me a mean-spirited smirk. While keeping his eyes fixed on me, he approached one of the nurses, seated at a desk, and began rubbing her neck and shoulder. He talked to her about sex for a few minutes. After his pointed demonstration of “normal sexuality,” he told me to get dressed and then he stormed out of the room. Still delirious, I struggled to put on my clothes and make sense of what was happening.

The doctor returned after I was dressed. He ordered me to leave the hospital and never return. I refused. I told him I wouldn’t leave until he could tell me why my fever was so high. He said, “You have a fever because you are a very troubled person.

This doctor’s prejudices, directed at me during a moment of catastrophic illness, could have killed me. The death certificate would have read: Endocarditis. But by all rights it should have read: Bigotry.

As my partner and I sat bundled up in a cold car outside the emergency room, still reverberating from the doctor’s hatred, I thought about how many people have been turned away from medical care when they were desperately ill — some because an apartheid “whites only” sign hung over the emergency room entrance, or some because their visible Kaposi’s sarcoma lesions kept personnel far from their beds (Feinberg, 1998: 1-3).

The following is from Qmunity’s I Heart My Chest: A chest health resource for trans* folks (pages 6-8).

Choosing a service provider who is trans*-competent can be difficult and intimidating. Some folk have had negative experiences with health professionals that make them reluctant to take a chance on a health professional again. Many people are not confident that a health service provider will understand their needs. Most of us are exposed to public health messages that are mostly ciscentric, and it can be easy to feel that the information they contain is not relevant to trans* folk, leading people to miss out on vital health information.

Some ways to find service providers who will give you the trans*-competent care that you deserve include:

  • Calling or emailing ahead, and/or making an initial visit to ask questions. You might feel more comfortable doing this with a trusted support person. Some starting questions that might help you gauge this include:
    • How many trans* clients have you worked with, and for how long?
    • What has most informed your practice with trans* people?
    • What is your experience and what are your policies and practices regarding referring trans* folk for surgeries and other treatments?
    • Will substance use, involvement in sex work, and/or mental health issues affect my ability to obtain hormones or surgeries from you?
    • If you are not currently aware of trans* health care needs/issues, are you willing to consult medical guidelines established by the Transgender Health Information Program to provide appropriate trans* health care?
    • What washrooms are available on site? (e.g. Gendered? Single stall? Do they require me to ask for a key?)
    • Are gendered questions part of the intake process or admin, and if so do I have options other than the male/female binary for my responses?
  • A trusted peer may be able to make recommendations. If you aren’t in contact with other trans* folk, you can make connections through local social and support groups, which you may be able to locate through QMUNITY, Prism, The Transgender Health Information Program, The Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre, WISH, PACE, HUSTLE, Directions, or a trans*, 2 Spirit or LGBT organization near you. If someone you trust has used a service, they may be able to tell you about the service provider’s approach, style, and attitudes towards trans* folk
  • There may be an online forum based in your area where trans* folk share information and resources related to health care
  • LGBT centres such as QMUNITY, and any trans*-specific service providers such as the Transgender Health Information Program are likely to have a list of local trans*-competent service providers they can refer you to, and may offer services such as counselling and some medical services for free or at sliding scale cost
  • On-site at your prospective health provider’s premises, you can look for rainbow stickers or trans* health literature as signs of inclusiveness, or ask in person
  • If you are already in contact with one type of trans*-competent service provider, such as a doctor or counsellor, they may be able to refer you to other types of trans*-competent service providers in their network

Making sure that you’re getting the most qualified and respectful care you can is important. It can make the difference between feeling comfortable going for potentially life-saving health check-ups or not, and benefiting from ongoing counselling, naturopathy, acupuncture or other valuable services. As well as finding trans*-competent services, this may mean switching from one provider to another if you do not feel that they are right for you. If you feel comfortable doing so, you may want to discuss your reasons with your health care provider, either in person or over the phone, or through an email or letter. With your feedback, and their own efforts towards increasing their trans*-competency, a provider may be able to improve their work with you to better meet your needs; however, in some client-service provider relationships, you will benefit most from moving on to another.

Working with a service provider you trust can help to avoid situations where you feel you need to withhold information that may impact on the services, referrals and recommendations that they will provide. Experience with service providers who don’t meet your needs can be frustrating and emotionally draining, and can discourage you from looking for better ones. However, in many places trans*-competent and -inclusive service providers can be accessed (Qmunity, 6-8: 2013).

Sources:

Feinberg, L. (1998). Trans liberation: Beyond pink or blue. Boston, Mass.: Beacon Press.
Rainbow Health Ontario. (n.d.). About LGBTQ Health. Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://www.rainbowhealthontario.ca/about-lgbtq-health/
Qmunity. (2013, December 1). I Heart My Chest: A chest health resource for trans* folks. Retrieved February 7, 2015, from http://www.qmunity.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/I-Heart-My-Chest-Dec-2013-English.pdf

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. understand the needs of LGBTQ2S youth who access drop-in centres.
  2. develop a plan to revise programs to meet the articulated needs of LGBTQ2S youth.

According to the Toronto Drop-In Network’s Good Practices Toolkit there are four activities of drop-in centres:

  1. Providing for basic needs: Basic needs can include food, clothing, showers, laundry, and a safe place that is warm in the winter and cool in the summer… Drop-ins provide an environment that is safe, with staff that are responsive to personal health and well-being.

  2. Providing opportunities for social contact: All drop-ins have some kind of common room where meals or snacks can be eaten and participants can socialize. Many participants may not feel welcome or comfortable in “traditional” community centres and find drop-ins more accessible. Many participants have weak informal social networks and little or no contact with relatives, and drop-ins can provide a relaxed social setting in which people can make new friends. Many housed participants are formerly homeless and are currently only precariously housed. For them, having access to a supportive community may help them stabilize and stay housed.

  3. Providing support for well-being: In providing support for participants’ wellbeing, drop-ins fill a gap in the provision of community support services for vulnerable people, though this role is not adequately recognized and is often constrained by insufficient resources and staff. Drop-ins provide support for participants’ well-being in different ways, corresponding to their organizational mandate, staffing capacity, and financial resources…

  4. Providing the opportunity for change: Many drop-in programs help people build skills, motivation, confidence and self-esteem so that they can rebuild their lives and sustain housing (if they have it). Life skills training, meaningful activities, education, and work training programs are offered…  (Toronto Drop-In Network, 2007: 1A3 – 1A4).

Making Drop-In Spaces Safe Enough for LGBTQ2S Youth

In our focus groups we asked participants What would the first 15 minutes look like at a drop-in for you to feel comfortable, supported and respected?” Youth told us that they need to know that there are staff in the space and who to identify staff. Staff need to introduce themselves and their pronoun; staff taking initiative ensures everybody feels safe and they respect pronouns. Youth would like to have information about the drop-in available (from staff or posters etc). Drop-ins should have the code of conduct visibly displayed. Youth would also like to see LGBTQ2S signage. Youth need their to be evidence of security in the drop-in. Having access to medical supports and/or referrals to medical supports is important LGBTQ2S youth.

Next we asked youth “After that 15 minutes, what do you need to feel comfortable, supported and respected?” Youth shared that they require a consistent worker to meet with to develop relationships with to better enable case management. Staff need to respect confidentiality and discretion around identities and youth information and be open and non judgemental. Youth require staff to ask and use their preferred pronoun and name. Youth would like there be to be fun events that enable youth to interact with each other and staff without having an educational agenda. Youth also want to drop-ins to host LGBTQ2S inclusive programming. It is also recommended that there be gender neutral/gender free washrooms available. Most important is that youth feel safe enough in the space.

Sources:

Toronto Drop-In Network. (n.d.). Toronto Drop-In Network – RESOURCES. Retrieved February 22, 2015, from http://tdin.ca/resources/show_resource.cfm?id=150
Paul Dowling Consulting, Good Practices Workgroup, & Agora Foundation. (2007). Good Practices Toolkit. Toronto: Toronto Drop-In Network.

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. understand the needs of LGBTQ2S youth who access housing programs.
  2. develop a plan to revise programs to meet the articulated needs of LGBTQ2S youth.

Our shelter system can no longer really be called an emergency response, as youth are staying in shelters too long.

In Canada, there is a growing interest in developing more effective responses to youth homelessness. This is expressed by the desire to shift our efforts from providing homeless youth with bare bone emergency services to a broader and more strategic emphasis on prevention, and models of accommodation that lead to a life of independence and fulfilment (Gaetz, 2012: 4).

As a sector we are now having conversations that include discussions of preventing, reducing and ending youth homelessness. A number of organizations are revising existing programs and designing new programs by asking a rather simple sounding, but complicated question of “what would it take to end this youth’s homelessness with this experience”.

The issue for LGBTQ2S youth is that many do not feel safe in our housing programs.

[Y]outh participants described the shelter system as a dangerous place for LGBTQ youth due to widespread discrimination that is rarely dealt with or addressed. Prolific homophobia and transphobia characterized the vast majority of experiences of youth in the shelter system (Abramovich, 2014: 121).

This lack of safety leads many youth to avoid shelters and transitional housing programs. This means that they are not accessing programs that can support them transition to adulthood. This also causes LGBTQ2S youth to experience longer periods of homelessness than non-LGBTQ2S youth. Research shows that the average length of time of away family is 26 months. For youth who identify as lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth it is 29 months. Transgender youth experience an average period of 52 months (Cray, 2013).

It quite clear that more needs to be done to support LGBTQ2S youth. One place we need to focus our efforts is in our housing programs. In many communities shelters are the main point of contact for youth. Housing/youth workers connect youth to other services and programs required by the young person. While youth are staying in our shelters we must create safe enough spaces for LGBTQ2S youth and create opportunities for straight, cisgender youth to become allies for LGBTQ2S youth.

One issue is that as service providers, we are unaware of how many LGBTQ2S identified youth we work with. This is because as discussed in the Gender Identity module, our intake forms and other documents exclude LGBTQ2S youth rendering them invisible in our data collection methods. If we don’t know how many youth identify as LGBTQ2S how can we develop a response to the issue and adequately support LGBTQ2S youth. Please see the Identifying Youth Local Context module for a full discussion on this topic.

Many LGBTQ2S youth do not feel safe in the shelter system as they experience homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in shelters and drop-in centres (Abramovich, 2014; O’Brien, Travers, Bell, 1993; Dunne et al., 2002). We know that we can do more to ensure that our housing programs are safe enough spaces for LGBTQ2S youth.

Making Housing Programs Safe Enough for LGBTQ2S Youth

Intake Process

In our focus groups we asked participants “[w]hat would the shelter intake process look like for you to feel comfortable, supported and respected?” Youth told us that we need to make major changes to our intake processes. Our forms and paperwork need to include: sexual orientation, gender identity, chosen name, prefered pronoun. We need to respect the self identity of youth not their legal identity. Youth find the intake process to be long with a considerable amount of retelling their stories and would prefer us to find alternatives to this requirement.

Youth shared that they need staff to respect the confidentiality of youth and exercise discretion with information youth share about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Youth want staff to ask them questions about their needs and treat them as individuals rather than follow a step by step method of case management. They also need staff to use current terminology when discussing LGBTQ2S issues. Youth need staff to receive training and understand not only the importance of creating safe enough spaces, but also understand what is needed to build safe enough spaces.

Youth would like our spaces to have visible cues that our organizations are LGBTQ2S positive spaces. Our spaces need to have all gender washrooms when and where possible as washrooms are often a hostile space for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.

Scenario

Develop a script you will (would use if you are not currently involved in the intake press) use during the intake of youth into your program that illustrates you are a LGBTQ2S ally and that you have a working knowledge of LGBTQ2S terminology and issues.

Please feel free to share your script in the comments sections of this module or in the Training Forum.

Case Management

In our focus groups we asked participants “[w]hat do you need to feel comfortable, supported and respected during your stay at a shelter/in housing?” Youth shared that there needs to be compatibility between themselves and their primary worker. Once again youth stressed that staff need to be trained to have cultural competence to work with LGBTQ2S youth. Staff need to ask youth for their preferred pronoun. Staff need to ensure that there is zero tolerance of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language and actions within the shelter. Youth also believe that organizations need to set a high standard for training and aptitude when hiring staff.

Youth also shared that they need our spaces to have trans inclusive living spaces and washrooms. Youth also would like to see spaces where they can practice their spirituality (for example, smudging or prayer). Further youth would like organizations to host inclusive programming (LGBTQ2S specific groups, separate trans groups) and accessible clothing options (not just women’s clothing options at a women’s shelter). Youth would also like to have access to LGBTQ2S sex education and information/pamphlets available on binding, hormone availability, safe practices, available programs and resources or knowledge on where to get this information. Youth need us to be committed to a harm reduction approach to our work. They also need to be able to access transport supports so they can access the external services they require.

Scenario

You are facilitating a residents meeting. One resident calls another resident a tranny during the meeting. How do you respond? What organizational resources (e.g. policies) can you use to support your actions? What resources would you recommend be developed and implemented to support staff dealing with a similar situation in the future?

What would your response be if you did not hear the interaction? How would it differ? What organizational resources (e.g. policies) can you use to support your actions?

Please feel free to share your response in the comments sections of this module or in the Training Forum.

Exiting

In our focus groups we asked participants “[w]hat do you need from the shelter and/or staff to feel comfortable, supported and respected during your exit process?” Youth told us it was critical that we develop an exit plan with them well in advance of their exit date. We also need to provide or connect them to after care supports that are appropriate for LGBTQ2S youth. We also need to ask youth what supports they still require access to (e.g. drop-in programs, employment programs, shelter bed, etc) with identity of the youth being respected and considered in the referral process. Youth require appropriate referrals for medical services, addictions support, etc. Prior to exiting our programs, youth would like service providers to inform them about and connect them to community resources. And is in the intake process and case management phase, youth want staff to be receive appropriate training to support LGBTQ2S youth.

Scenario

A youth on your caseload is leaving your organization to move to a larger community, because they believe they will have more opportunities there. What actions would you take to support this youth as they plan their move?

Please feel free to share your response in the comments sections of this module or in the Training Forum.

Sources:

Abramovich, A. (2014). Young, Queer and Trans, Homeless, and Besieged: A Critical Action Research Study of How Policy and Culture Create Oppressive Conditions for LGBTQ Youth in Toronto’s Shelter System (unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Toronto, Toronto, ON.
Cray, A., Miller, K., & Durso, L.E. (2013). Seeking Shelter: Experiences and  Unmet Needs of LGBT Homeless Youth. Washington DC: Centre for American Progress.
Dunne, G. A., Prendergast, S., & Telford, D. (2002). Young, gay, homeless and invisible: A growing population? Culture, Health & Sexuality, 4(1), 103-115.
Gaetz, Stephen; Scott, Fiona (2012). Live, Learn, Grow: Supporting Transitions to Adulthood for Homeless Youth – A Framework for the Foyer in Canada. (Toronto: The Canadian Homelessness Research Network Press).
O’Brien, C. A., Travers, R., & Bell, L. (1993). No safe bed: Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth in residential services. Toronto, ON: Central Toronto Youth Services.

Gaetz, Stephen. (2014). A Safe and Decent Place to Live: Towards a Housing First Framework for Youth. Toronto: The Homeless Hub Press.

Housing First is an important intervention who experience homelessness – and in particular, chronically homeless adults with complex mental health and addictions challenges. It represents one kind of intervention for people experiencing homelessness and is seen to be complementary to other approaches that include prevention, short-term emergency services and other models of housing and support (Gaetz, 2014: 3)

If your organization has or is planning on implementing a Housing First program here are some important things to consider.

The Canadian Observatory on Homeless published “A Safe and Decent Place to Live: Towards a Housing First Framework for Youth”. The framework suggests that there are five core principles of Housing First for youth:

Core principles of housing first infographic

Credit: Canadian Observatory on Homelessness

How do these five principles apply to working with LGBTQ2S youth?

  1. Inclusive housing models
  2. Appropriate and inclusive referrals
  3. Staff training to support youth as they navigate their identities
  4. Inclusive supports
  5. Partnerships with local LGBTQ2S organizations

Sounds easy enough. But what does this really mean in practice?

Inclusive Housing Models are housing programs with a diversity and inclusivity framework. These programs work with youth where they are at, not where staff want youth to be. They are client-centric. For LGBTQ2S youth, these programs need to have policy and procedures in place to ensure that queer youth feel comfortable, supported and respected. Staff have a level of cultural competency to support LGBTQ2S youth. Further non-LGBTQ2S are supportive of LGBTQ2S youth. This can be accomplished by the enforcement of the policy and procedures, staff being role models of behaviour and all youth participating in workshops on anti-oppression topics.

Appropriate and Inclusive Referrals are referrals that consider the youth being referred. For example if you are referring a trans youth to a health care provider you want to make sure that the staff are trans positive. One of the many reasons why is this is the right thing to do, is that referrals to programs in which youth may encounter homophobia and transphobia will harm your relationship with youth. Youth should be able to trust us to connect them with programs and services that met their needs and they feel comfortable, supported and respected at.

Think about times when you have received bad referrals. This could be your “friend” who sets you up on the worst blind date in the history of blind dates. Or the movie review that made you see a movie that you are still mad at wasting 2 hours of your life. These are trivial compared to homophobia and transphobia. But on some level you are probably mad/annoyed at your friend. Now imagine how it would feel to be referred to a program where you experience homophobia and/or transphobia. Appropriate and inclusive referrals are critical to supporting LGBTQ2S youth. There may be some communities that encounter challenges to finding appropriate and inclusive referrals. Please see the Partnerships module for strategies on how to support your local partners become more LGBTQ2S inclusive. Also like you would with all youth you work with LGBTQ2S decide if they want the referral.

Staff training to support youth as they navigate their identities is critical. No one wakes up in the morning and says “Today I am going to be queer.” Coming out is a process. It can be an easy process for some and incredibly challenging for other (please the Suicide module for more details). For many people, the journey to their identity occurs on a long and windy path and their identity depends on the context of their location (mental, emotional and physical). Some youth may come out to you, but not your peers, or they may come out in your organization, but not in other organizations (please see How Not to Out Youth module for more details on respecting youth’s identity). Staff need to understand and be comfortable with the fact that there will be youth whose gender identities may change, for example, a young person may present as male one week, and as female the next.

Inclusive Supports are vital, as a Housing First framework for youth requires Individualized and client-driven supports. Supports being offered to youth need to taken into account the individual and be what they need as part of their case management.

Partnerships with local LGBTQ2S organizations has been discussed in the Organizational Survey Report and the Staff Survey Report. If possible it is important for us to connect to LGBTQ2S organizations. This helps youth develop their community connects and is a critical component of their social inclusion and their transition out of homelessness.

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. understand what considerations are needed to support LGBTQ2S youth in employment and training programs.

A lack of traditional jobs does not necessarily mean that homeless youth are not working. Because homeless youth face considerable barriers to employment, many of those we surveyed engaged in what are referred to as “informal” economic activities outside of the formal labour market, some of which were technically legal, for example ‘under the table’ jobs, or ‘binning’ (collecting bottles for refunds). Others engaged in more risky illegal or quasi-legal activities, including the sex trade, panhandling (begging), squeegeeing (cleaning car windshields), and criminal acts such as theft and drug dealing (Gaetz, 2013: 247).

Employment programs are an important part of young people’s successful transitions into adulthood.

Top 10 reasons why homeless youth struggle to get jobs

  1. No stable address — Employers need addresses to process payroll, collect personal information and establish emergency contacts. Having no permanent address can be poorly perceived by employers and embarrassing for our youth.

  2. Emotional instability — Our youth have often experienced traumatic events and great losses in their lives before coming to our shelter. These events can be accompanied by depression, low motivation and poor self-esteem.

  3. Limited education — Most homeless youth have been brought up in very unstable environments, which can lead to breaks in their education. Many employers are looking for a minimum of a Grade 12 education.

  4. Poor presentation — Homeless youth tend to have little to no appropriate clothing for job searching. They also have less access to facilities to maintain their hygiene and are often unable to even get a good night’s sleep.

  5. Transportation — Transportation to appointments and interviews costs money. Most homeless youth are more concerned about ensuring they find food and shelter, let alone figure out how to get from A to B.

  6. Limited computer and phone access — Job searching today is much different from the past, where pounding the pavement was effective. Most employers today want to connect via email, telephone and social networks.

  7. Lost ID — It can be challenging to maintain your belongings when homeless. Often, the first thing that happens on the street is that personal ID is lost or stolen.

  8. Broken family — Many people get their first job through family connections. Our youth often don’t have the benefit of networking amongst family, friends and community to secure employment. Many of them have only themselves to rely on.

  9. Challenging market — Due to the changes in our economy over the last few years, youth unemployment is at 14.7%–over twice the overall rate. Our youth are at an even greater disadvantage as they compete with experienced and educated adults for entry level positions.

  10. Lack of hope — Homeless youth have been let down, heartbroken and disappointed by many of the adults in their lives. This creates a sense of hopelessness in our youth. Without the support and nurturing of caring adults, they find it hard to believe that life can be more rewarding (Covenant House, 2013).

Raising the Roof has developed Youth Employment: A Practical Toolkit for Employers and Agencies. This toolkit is a great resource to review for organizations considering developing employment programs

LGBTQ2S Youth and Employment Issues

The following video is from Ireland and discusses issues faced by LGBTQ2S employees in the workplace:

Here is an excerpt from one person’s experience:

On the first day I had to really try and come out to everyone and make sure everyone knew I was trans and what pronouns to use. It was quite a healthy environment as far as everyone wanted to know how to make me feel welcome. I was going about business as usual and the assistant manager called me by a female version of my name. And when I explained that that wasn’t my name and told the manager I was trans, he went “Well, it’s your name for today.” When it first happened, I assumed that he didn’t know I was trans and that he thought I was a girl. That was fine and I just figured I’d just have to explain it. When he reacted badly, I just decided I was going to avoid him for the day. I was kind of thinking, well – does this even count as bullying? Because it’s a once off. When you make a complaint about an assistant manager, you don’t know how the company is going to react in the first place. Especially when it’s around gender identity. The next day my boss called me in early. He said “Did anything happen the last time you were working?” I kind of explained what happened. He said “Look, I’ve filed a formal complaint on your behalf and one of the other members of staff has also filed a complaint. It’s going to be dealt with very seriously. I never expected such support from the other members of staff. So, although what he said and what he did was horrible, I ended up getting more support from the fact that he did it and I don’t think anything like that could ever happen in the future.. and I think that’s really great (BeLonG To Youth Services, 2014).

Finding employment is often a challenge for many trans* folks. There are a number of horrible experiences endured by trans women, trans men and gender non-conforming individuals in the workplace. In addition to blatant transphobia, there is always the potential for microaggressions such as mis-gendering or invasive questions.  Many trans* youth believe it is better for their well-being to be unemployed during their transition period.

“Unsupportive work environments can force some trans youth to have to work independently, through a close referral network, or “under the table.” While this work may be more easily accessible because it bypasses the need for some types of official documents” (Central Toronto Youth Services, n.d.: 3). This can lead to exploitation (e.g. not getting paid) and unsafe working conditions.

Even relatively supportive work environments can cause chronic stress for trans youth, such as worries about how others perceive them and dilemmas about gender presentation. Also contributing to this stress may be the misuse of pronouns among colleagues or employers and/or repeated difficult interactions with a single employee (Central Toronto Youth Services, n.d.: 2)

Considerations When Working With LGBTQ2S Youth

There are a number of considerations when working with LGBTQ2S youth in employment programs. Many are the same for all youth.

In pre-employment programs or pre-employment components of programs are there workshops that discussion inclusion/anti-oppression topics, such as a workshop that educate program participants on LGBTQ2S issues? These type of workshops assist in making our programs safe enough spaces for all youth, not only LGBTQ2S youth.

Here are some questions related to work placements:

  • What is your screening process for potential employers?
    • Do you conduct a site visit before placing youth at the employer?
    • Do you inquire about the business’ diversity and anti-harassment policy and procedures?
    • Do you ask how the business would respond to a homophobic, biphobic and/or transphobic incident?
  • How do you talk with potential employers about youth you are considering placing at the business?
    • How much detail do you share?
    • Are you mindful to respect the confidentiality of youth?
  • What is your case management process for when youth are on a work placement?
    • Does your program have the capacity for periodic check-in meetings with the placement supervisor and the participant?
    • In check-in meetings with placement supervisors and participants is there space for discussions about whether the youth feels safe enough working at the business?
  • What is your evaluation process for determining if a business is a good fit for youth in your program? By this we mean how do you decide to keep an employer on your work placement list for future participants?
  • When placing LGBTQ2S youth into work placements, it is important to ensure they have a supportive placement supervisor who is a LGBTQ2S ally. Please share this Toolkit or components of the Toolkit with employers to help them support LGBTQ2S youth.

Sources:

BeLonG To Youth Services. (2014, May 15). Stand Up at Work! Retrieved February 25, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfesuLQLnzw
Covenant House Toronto. (2013, June 4). Covenant House Toronto Blog. Retrieved February 24, 2015, from http://www.covenanthousetoronto.ca/blog/barriers-to-employment-for-homeless-youth/
Central Toronto Youth Services. (n.d.). Trans Youth at Work: Y-GAP Community Bulletin. Retrieved February 25, 2015, from http://www.ctys.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/YGAP_Work.pdf
Gaetz, S.; O’Grady, B. (2013). Why Don’t You Just Get a Job? Homeless Youth, Social Exclusion and Employment Training. In Youth homelessness in Canada implications for policy and practice. Toronto, ON: Canadian Homelessness Research Network.
Gaetz, Stephen; O’Grady, Bill; Buccieri, Kristy; Karabanow, Jeff; & Marsolais, Allyson (Eds.), Youth Homelessness in Canada: Implications for Policy and Practice. Toronto: Canadian Homelessness Research Network Press.
Raising the Roof. (2012). Youth Employment: A Practical Toolkit for Employers and Agencies. Retrieved February 24, 2015, from http://www.raisingtheroof.org/Our-Programs/Employer-Agency-Toolkit.aspx

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will:

  1. understand the fundamentals of family reconnection work
  2. understand how prevention work compliments emergency responses
  3. have insight into how to support LGBTQ2S youth in family reconnection programs.
Families and LGBTQ2S Children

When parents hold their newborn infant, few of them think their child might be gay or transgender. In fact, many parents dream of special times in their child’s future, especially of their wedding and when their children become parents themselves – with heterosexual partners (Ryan, 2009: 1).

Recent studies show that young people are realising that they are experiencing same sex attractions as young as 10 years old. Some of these young people attempt to talk with their parents about their attractions. Most do not because even at a young age they have internalised homophobia, biphobia and transphobia that is prevalent in mainstream society and their local community (Ryan, 2009; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014).

Our research shows that families, parents, foster parents, caregivers and guardians can have a very dramatic impact on their LGBT children. We found that family acceptance promotes well-being and helps protect LGBT young people against risk. And family rejection has a serious impact on a gay or transgender young person’s risk for health and mental health problems (Ryan, 2009: 4).

A vast majority of parents want what is best for their children. And for many of these parents that means having straight and/or cisgender children, because parents are aware of discrimination and hatred endured by members of the LGBTQ2S community. In Ryan’s research a high number of LGBTQ2S youth tried to conceal their LGBTQ2S identity from their families because they feared being disowned, kicked out or hurting their family. Youth who do this have a limited sense of future self.

Gay and transgender teens who were highly rejected by their parents and caregivers were at very high risk for health and mental health problems when they become young adults (ages 21-25). Highly rejected young people were:

  • More than 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide

  • Nearly 6 times as likely to report high levels of depression

  • More than 3 times as likely to use illegal drugs, and

  • More than 3 times as likely to be at high risk for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases

  • Compared with gay and transgender young adults who were not at all or only rejected a little by their parents and caregivers – because of their gay or transgender identity (Ryan, 2009: 5).

Young people in the study who had supportive parents, had better overall well-being.

[W]hen gay and transgender youth were accepted by their families, they were much more likely to believe they would have a good life and would be a happy, productive adult. In families that were not at all accepting of their adolescent’s gay or transgender identity, only about 1 in 3 young people thought they would have a good life as a gay adult. But in families that were extremely accepting, almost all LGBT young people thought they would have a good life (Ryan, 2009: 12).

Challenging Our Thinking About Family

One of the main reasons LGBTQ2S youth experience homelessness is because of family rejection, or the fear of family rejection. Youth often talk of experiencing abuse, or of being kicked out of home, which leaves many frontline workers with the understanding that it is the family that’s the problem and the young person needs to be supported to separate from them.

However, when we say youth are homeless because of “family conflict/rejection/abuse” we are implicating a lot of people. A young person may experience conflict with one or more family members but there may be others where the relationship is more positive. Family conflict does not mean that there is conflict with ALL family members ALL the time.

There is always one family member who is more supportive and can be the opportunity to create more acceptance in the broader family. When we are talking about Family Reconnection work, we are defining family to include family outside of the parent-child relationship. Family Reconnection can include parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts/uncles.

Numerous studies tell us that youth who maintain a connection to their family, have higher level of resilience and transition out of homelessness and are less likely to return to homelessness. We also know that youth with a connection to a family member are more likely to remain in their home community. When youth migrate to different and often larger communities they are at higher risk of exploitation.

For a long time the focus has primarily been on emergency services – on housing, employment and income support, similar to the adult system. As staff, we work hard in the context of the services offered to best support youth. While we are able to address some of the needs of the young people we work with using our current approaches, we certainly can’t address them all.

One such approach is involving family in the responses to, and prevention of, youth homelessness. While treatment options for substance use and mental health have evolved considerably, family continues to remain an unexplored option in working with youth – and is noticeably absent in our national approach when compared to many countries (Eva’s Initiatives, n.d.).

Family Reconnection Programs

Family Reconnection (or as it is sometimes called Family Reunification) is a highly specialised program that requires intention, thoughtfulness and planning to develop. Eva’s Initiatives developed one of the first Family Reconnection programs in North America. Eva’s developed an online toolkit to help other organizations develop their own programs (http://reconnecttoolkit.evasinitiatives.com).

Here are the Core Values of Family Reconnection programs:

  • Youth and family members define for themselves what family looks like
  • Client-centred counselling, focused on rebuilding family relationships, resolving loss, building life skills, and engaging in the community helps young people move forward with their lives – whether or not they end up living with family
  • Supporting a youth in returning home or reconnecting with family can involve the struggles facing family members
  • Service delivery must continually work within anti-oppressive practice
  • More than just counselling, youth and family members often require additional referrals and supports for community services. These services can include education, employment, health and financial

Niagara Resource Service for Youth RAFT recently disseminated a review of their Youth Reconnect program (RAFT, 2015). In this report they share how well their program is working (e.g. number of youth who have successfully transitioned out of homelessness and savings to the system). It is clear that family reconnection is a successful prevention model.

An Innovative Approach to Solving Youth Homelessness in Rural Canada Inforgraphic

Credit: Canadian Observatory on Homelessness

Local Family Reconnection Programs

It is possible that there may not be a local family reconnection program to refer youth and families to.

PFLAG Canada is there when it seems no-one else is. Every day, PFLAG Canada volunteers are contacted by frightened adolescents and by angry, fearful or ashamed parents. PFLAG Canada supports, educates and provides resources to anyone with questions or concerns (PFLAG, n.d.).

PFLAG Canada is a great resource for youth and families. Their website and volunteers are incredible resources. Your local chapter may be willing to partner with your organization and provide support to LGBTQ2S youth and their families.

Family As Allies

Families respond to their LGBT children based on what they know, what they hear from their family, clergy, close friends, and information sources, including providers who may also have misinformation about sexual orientation and gender identity, especially in childhood and adolescence. As a result, parents and families who believe that homosexuality and gender non-conformity are wrong or are harmful for their LGBT children may respond in a variety of ways to try to prevent their children from becoming gay or transgender (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014: 8).

Please read A Practitioner’s Resource Guide: Helping Families to Support Their LGBT Children for recommended approaches for working with families of LGBTQ2S youth.

Sources:

Eva’s Initiatives (n.d.). Challenging Our Thinking About Family. Retrieved February 9, 2015, fromhttp://reconnecttoolkit.evasinitiatives.com/youth-homelessness-in-canada/challenging-our-thinking/
Family Acceptance Project. (n.d.). Family Acceptance Project. Retrieved February 26, 2015, from http://familyproject.sfsu.edu
PFLAG. (n.d.). PFLAG Canada is there when it seems no-one else is. Retrieved February 26, 2015, fromhttp://www.pflagcanada.ca/en/index.html
RAFT (2015). Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://homelesshub.ca/sites/default/files/Youth-Reconnect-Works.pdf
Ryan, C. (2009). Supportive families, healthy children: Helping families with lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender children. San Francisco: Family Acceptance Project.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, A Practitioner’s Resource Guide: Helping Families to Support Their LGBT Children. HHS Publication No. PEP14-LGBTKIDS. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014.

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. understand the importance of partnership to support LGBTQ2S youth.
  2. identify the ability of partner organizations to provide safe enough spaces for LGBTQ2S youth.
  3. identity considerations for new potential partnerships.

Collaboration can be defined as two or more different partners (e.g. individuals, organizations, networks) coming together from various sectors, groups or regions to work toward common goals. Collaborative arrangements span a wide continuum and include an extraordinary range of diverse partners that are collaborating through networks, learning groups or communities of practice, strategic alliances, partnerships, coalitions and mergers (Graham, 2010: 2).

Good partnerships take time and effort to develop organically over time. Partnerships need to be mutually beneficial for all organizations, but more importantly good partnerships must benefit mutual clients. We need to be able to measure the success of partnerships. How do we know our clients are benefiting? What is the feedback from our clients? Do they feel comfortable, supported and respected?

Who we partner with says a lot about our organizations.

As we work towards making our spaces safe enough for LGBTQ2S youth, we need to evaluate our partnerships to make sure that our partners are also doing the work to make their spaces safe enough. The first step would be develop criteria for determining if an organization is safe enough in the context of your community. In the Identifying Your Local Context module we shared a survey to measure organizational inclusivity. You may want to use the organizational survey at the very least. This will give the partnership group a baseline understanding of how LGBTQ2S inclusive partner organizations are.

If you have partnership meetings add the topic of “creating safe enough spaces for LGBTQ2S youth” to the agenda of meetings. A great starting point is to facilitate a discussion on the need to be LGBTQ2S inclusive. Once there is consensus at the partnership table a workplan can be developed to guide the required work.

If you do not have partnership meetings, you can still have conversations with your partners. You can begin the conversation by sharing the work that your organization has undertaken to become LGBTQ2S inclusive. This can be followed up with asking your partner organization what they are doing to become LGBTQ2S inclusive.

What If a Partner is Not Safe Enough

Very few organizations set out to be homophobic, biphobic and transphobic. Organizations that are struggling to be LGBTQ2S inclusive are generally in this position because of a lack of resource (accessible training, access to LGBTQ2S inclusive tools such as policy and procedures, inclusive forms etc.).

It is important that we are encouraging of our partners to improve their capacity to properly support LGBTQ2S youth. One of the worse things we can do is be seen as taking punitive actions. We need to maintain open communications with our partners.

Here are some recommendations you can make to partners who are struggling to the be LGBTQ2S inclusive:

  1. Recommend managers and staff of the partner organization schedule time to access this Toolkit as a first step.
  2. Keep “creating safe enough spaces for LGBTQ2S youth on the agenda of partner meetings. Partners can give updates on their work to move towards creating safe enough spaces for LGBTQ2S youth experiencing homelessness.
  3. Research the possibility of having a cross-organization training sessions with qualified LGBTQ2S trainers. This would ensure that all partnership program staff receive the same training and will have a shared understanding of the issues and needs of LGBTQ2S youth experiencing homelessness.
  4. Consider developing a train the trainer curriculum to assist partner organizations work towards becoming LGBTQ2S inclusive.

What if the partner organization is reluctant to undertake the work necessary to become LGBTQ2S inclusive? This can be a challenging issue for organizations. What if the partner organization is the only organization that provides a specific service or program? In our focus groups youth made it clear that it they need to be referred to programs and services that respect their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It is important that we work from the mindset of doing what is the in best interest of youth we work with.

Considerations for New Partnerships

Your organization most likely already has a set of criteria for partnerships. It may not be written in a policy, but there are at the very least unwritten guidelines that are taken into consideration when exploring partnerships.

Here are a few things to consider when exploring new partnerships for a LGBTQ2S lens:

  1. What is the reputation of the potential partner in your local LGBTQ2S community?
  2. What is the reputation of the potential partner among LGBTQ2S youth who access your programs?
  3. What is their organizational service delivery philosophy?
  4. What training workshops are staff required to take to ensure staff work from anti-oppression framework?
  5. Be direct and ask them how well they are supporting LGBTQ2S youth who access their programs. You can also inquire about what policies they have in place. You can ask if they track the number of LGBTQ2S youth who access their programs and services.
Summary

It is important that as we develop welcoming and safe enough places for LGBTQ2S youth, we also need to do our best to ensure that other services and programs youth access while with us are supportive, welcoming and safe enough. Bad referrals can tarnish our reputation with youth.

Sources:

Compassion Capital Fund National Resource Center. (2010). Retrieved February 10, 2015, from http://strengtheningnonprofits.org/resources/guidebooks/Partnerships.pdf
Forty to None Project
Graham, H., Lang, C., & Mollenhauer, L. (2010, September). Building Collaboration In and With the Nonprofit Sector. Retrieved February 10, 2015, from http://www.mollenhauer.ca/pdfs/ONN Building_Collaboration.pdf
Parkinson, C. (2006). Retrieved February 10, 2015, from http://www.cfc-fcc.ca/link_docs/collaborationReport.pdf
http://communityservicelearning.ca/en/documents/EnhancingValueforNonprofitCommunityPartners.pdf
http://www.forbes.com/sites/geristengel/2013/04/09/nonprofit-collaborations-why-teaming-up-can-make-sense/

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. review existing policies and procedures through a LGBTQ2S lens to identify required revisions in order to be LGBTQ2S inclusive.
  2. develop new policies and procedures that are LGBTQ2S inclusive.

Policies set the standards of our organizations. In our youth focus groups, participants were adamant that needed need service providers to have clear policy and procedures on diversity. They also want us to have policies that  make it clear that we will not tolerate discrimination by staff, volunteers or youth on any grounds. Youth believe that such policies enable staff to act on incidents of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

Does your organization have a plan in place to review your policy and procedures periodically to ensure they reflect the current context of your organization?

If yes, fantastic. In your next review consider your policy and procedures from a LGBTQ2S lens. If no, it is okay. There is still the opportunity to do so. You will need to determine a format that works for your organization. It would be great to convene a working group/task force to undertake the work that includes managers and staff.

You may want to ask LGBTQ2S youth to participate in the review, as they have first hand experience of using your space and programs with the current policy and procedures. To create this space for youth, we need to be willing to hear and act on what young people tell us. It is possible that the feedback we receive may be hard to hear. But it is necessary to make this space to be authentic in our efforts to create safe enough spaces.

As part of your review process, you may want to consider the policy and procedures shared in the Policy and Procedures module. These are examples of policy and procedures shared by youth serving organizations.

It is vital that youth who access your programs and services are aware of organizational policy and procedures that pertain to them and their time in your space. Youth probably don’t care what the on-call manager policy and procedure is. But they do care about what your organization’s inclusivity/diversity policy is. And as they told us in the focus groups they want to know what the complaint process is.

Have a clearly defined policy and process for violations that is posted in common areas of the space (youth in one of the four focus groups).

Youth told us that staff need to address homophobic, biphobic and transphobic comments in the moment they occur. Ignoring these comments tells LGBTQ2S youth that the space is not truly inclusive and not safe enough. This will hinder all the hard work that staff and management have done with youth to create a safe enough space (Perry, 2014). While the goal is not to discharge youth into homelessness, there are situations in which discharge (exiting) youth from a shelter program is necessary. To take such actions must be a last resort. Striving to ensure the safety of the larger group needs to take priority.

The NYC Administration for Children’s Servicess “Safe & Respected: Policy, Best Practices & Guidance for Serving Transgender & Gender Non-Conforming Children and Youth Involved in the Child Welfare, Detention, and Juvenile Justice Systems” is a great resource to learn how to better support trans* and gender non-conforming youth. The guide shares a number of great policies to accomplish this goal. Please take a few moments and review the guide to aid in your work of being LGBTQ2S inclusive.

Sources:

National Alliance to End Homelessness. (n.d.). National Recommended Best Practices for Serving LGBT Homeless Youth. Retrieved February 27, 2015, from http://www.f2f.ca.gov/res/pdf/NationalRecommended.pdf
Perry, J.R. & Green, E.R. (2014). Safe & Respected: Policy, Best Practices & Guidance for Serving Transgender & Gender Non-Conforming Children and Youth Involved in the Child Welfare, Detention, and Juvenile Justice Systems. New York City, NY: New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services.

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. revise your intake process to be inclusive for LGBTQ2S youth

We spend a considerable amount of time intaking youth into our programs and services. Many of our programs and services receive funding for us to work with specific demographics. Our intake process needs to ensure that applicants fit the program demographics. This means asking program applicants incredibly personal questions without having established a relationship.

Here is some of the feedback youth gave us during the focus groups:

  • More individualized intakes forms/processes to meet needs of all youth accessing shelter
  • Gender Identity category on registration package/preferred name box
  • Intake process is too long
  • A lot of retelling your story
  • You shouldn’t have to go through the whole intake process again if you have already stayed there in the past
  • Allow youth to fill out registration package independently/allow for not answering questions
  • Self Identity NOT legal identity–use of chosen name (having space on forms for this and in interpersonal conversation)
  • Confidentiality and discretion around youth privacy (e.g. having private spaces to talk), specifically around their gender and sexual identities to promote safety (stigma from other residents and by being “outed” by staff, even unintentionally, their safety is at risk).
  • Visible Pride stickers/flags and Trans flags to promote inclusive accommodations
  • Public washrooms/not gender specific
Recommendations

You are probably doing many if not all of these.

  1. Revise your application forms, intake forms and related paperwork to be LGBTQ2S inclusive. Consider having space to ask youth to self identify their sexual orientation and gender identity. As discussed in the Identifying Your Local Context module by not collecting this data we are rendering LGBTQ2S youth invisible in our organizations.
  2. In addition, we need to include a question that asks youth for their chosen name and preferred pronoun. This is because for many trans* youth their gender identity does not match the name and sex assigned at birth that is on their legal identification.
  3. Intake scripts used by staff need to include asking youth for their chosen name and preferred pronoun. This is a question that all staff need to use during the intake process. And it needs to be asked of all youth. There are a number of youth whose gender presentation does not match their gender identity, because they cannot afford to have their gender expression match their identity. Also many trans* men and women do not feel safe in the shelter system and they may feel forced to dress to match their legal identification to avoid harassment and violence.
  4. Share with all youth your process for making your site a safe enough space. To enforce this message have visible LGBTQ2S signage throughout your site.

Do you have any recommendations to add? Please add them as a comment on this page and we will add them to the list.

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. identify components of an inclusive case management process for LGBTQ2S youth
  2. revise your case management process to be inclusive for LGBTQ2S youth

During our focus groups here are some the feedback youth shared with our facilitators:

  • Resident/staff compatibility taken into account (primary worker assignment/relationship)
  • No discrimination from staff
  • Staff ask youth what terms/labels the youth identifies with
  • Helpful to have a case manager that identifies as LGBTQ2S
  • Organization and staff need to be transparent relationships with youth
  • More staff involvement with promotion of acceptance/understanding of LGBTQ2S youth.
  • Use of Pronouns
  • Zero tolerance of homophobia/transphobia be enforced
  • Trained staff (including training to understand the trans* spectrum) and yout don’t train staff
  • Improved staff hiring practices–set a high standard for training and aptitude. Also staff are committed to working with youth as partners (ensuring they aren’t just there for a paycheck, interested in youth wellbeing)
  • Trans inclusive living spaces/washrooms
  • Spiritual space (smudging, prayer space, etc)
  • Inclusive programming (LGBTQ2S specific groups, separate Trans groups)
  • Accessible clothing options (not just women’s clothing options at a women’s shelter)
  • Information/pamphlets available on binding, hormone availability, safe practices, available programs and resources or knowledge on where to get this information.
  • Be aware of same sex relationship violence and have supports for youth who require assistance
  • Transport supports–be able to offer transit subsidies so youth can access required external services
Recommendations

You are probably doing many if not all of these.

  1. Consider the personalities and the needs identified by youth when pairing youth with a case manager. For example when pairing a trans identified youth considering pairing them with a staff person who has experience and knowledge of trans issues.
  2. Staff need to receive LGBTQ2S inclusivity training. This toolkit is a good start, but it doesn’t replace in person in depth training. This may be a challenge in some smaller and remote communities.
  3. Staff need to intervention when they directly hear or are informed of incidents of homophobia, biphobia and/or transphobia. It is important for youth to see that we are serious when we claim our spaces to be safe enough for LGBTQ2S. This intervention needs to happen in the moment. It is important to have a process in place for such incidents to ensure your response is consistent.
  4. It is strongly recommended that youth participant in anti-oppression/inclusivity workshops. One topic to cover is LGBTQ2S. Not all homophobic, biphobic and/or transphobic are from a place of malice. For many it is ignorance. Because of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are so embedded in our culture, many youth may not understand the impact of microaggression like saying “That’s so gay”. Education and awareness raising are the best tools to prevent homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. These workshops need to be a mandatory component of your case management plan with youth.
  5. Some organizations have youth sign off on an inclusivity promise before entering the program. You may want to consider incorporating one of these in your case management plan. When a youth submits their signed promise form, staff can have a conversation with youth about what this means and outline the consequences for breaking the promise.

Do you have any recommendations to add? Please add them as a comment on this page and we will add them to the list.

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. Explain the importance of gender neutral washrooms
  2. Have a process for working with youth, volunteers, guests and staff to understand the importance of gender neutral washrooms

The youth who participated in our focus groups were very consistent across communities that there is a need to have gender neutral washrooms in our spaces. Click here for a good article about why this is important. Throughout this Toolkit we have discussed how washrooms are a source of stress for trans* and gender non-confirming individuals. In the scenario we are going to explore this in more detail.

“The architectural design and gendered codes of conduct mandated in the lavatory all support the illusion that here are two binary genders – male and female – both of which are visible, identifiable, and natural” (Cavenagh: 52). Cavenagh further points out that “when public space is rigidly gendered, access will be an issue for those who do not conform to the norms upon which sexual difference is consolidated” (53).

It is important that we hear from trans* and gender non-conforming individuals about their experiences of accessing public washrooms. The following are quotes from Dr. Sheila Cavenagh’s text “Queering Bathrooms: gender, sexuality, and the hygienic imagination”:

Rohan “The majority of people in [the women’s bathroom] …either mistake me for a man or are deeply troubled by the presence of a masculine person in the women’s washroom … it’s always a problem. Always … I get strange looks, comments … being interrogated about whether or not I should be in there … stared at a lot, spoken about as if I am not there …” (55).

Jay “You work so hard to have your gender perceived in a certain way and it’s pretty important to have your gender [perceived] in a certain way and when you have to go into a bathroom … that’s all thrown into doubt. I think that’s pretty threatening to yourself and your soul” (59).

Rachel “I was in the [women’s] bathroom at [a bar] … in New York City, this girl … kind of looked at me and she goes ‘Am I in the wrong place?’ I was like ‘Neither of us is in the wrong place.’ I … grabbed at my chest and was, like, ‘No, no we’re all good’ … if they can notice breasts, then they’re okay” (66).

KJ “One transgender woman went to the movies with her sister, she was using the female bathroom. And someone, a woman, inside the bathroom saw her and said, ‘This is a man. Call security.’ Security came in and they harassed her. And she told them, ‘I am transgender, you know, this is the right bathroom [for me],’ and they [security] made a big scene” (70).

Take a moment and consider the following scenarios. In your ponderings think about what information you need (policies, processes, training, etc.) to be able to address the issue.

Example A — A youth comes rushing into the staff space and claims there is a man in the women’s washroom. What do you do?

Example B — A colleague comes rushing into the staff space and claims there is a man in the women’s washroom. What do you do?

Questions About Your Responses
  1. Is there a difference in your response? Why or why not?
  2. What actions can you and your organization take to prevent these examples from happening?
Additional Thoughts

It is important that your organization be proactive, if it is not already. It is recommended that you implement an inclusive spaces policy. You will find examples in the Tools section. It also helpful to have signage around your facility and especially in washrooms that indicate this is an inclusive space. Please see the Tools section for examples.

Sources:

Cavanagh, S. (2010). Queering bathrooms gender, sexuality, and the hygienic imagination. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Dalhousie University. (n.d.). Gender‑Neutral Washrooms. Retrieved February 23, 2015, from http://www.dal.ca/campus_life/student_services/health-and-wellness/lgbtq/gender-neutral-washrooms.html
Rode, I. (2013, December 26). No More Women’s Rooms: Why Bathrooms Should All Be Gender-Neutral. Retrieved February 23, 2015, from http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2013/12/26/gender_neutral_bathrooms_all_bathrooms_should_be_open_to_all_users.html
Student Federation of the University of Ottawa. (n.d.). Gender Inclusive Washrooms. Retrieved February 23, 2015, from http://sfuo.ca/pride/accessibility/gender-inclusive-washrooms/

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. understand the importance of referring LGBTQ2S youth to programs or services that are inclusive and safe enough for LGBTQ2S youth
  2. review programs you refer youth to to audit them for being inclusive and safe enough for LGBTQ2S youth

In the Housing First and LGBTQ2S Youth module we discussed the importance of having appropriate and inclusive referrals for LGBTQ2S youth. Here is this portion again for your review:

Appropriate and Inclusive Referrals are referrals that consider the youth being referred. For example if you are referring a trans youth to a health care provider you want to make sure that the staff are trans positive. One of the many reasons why is this is the right thing to do, is that referrals to programs in which youth may encounter homophobia, biphobia and transphobia will harm your relationship with youth. Youth should be able to trust us to connect them with programs and services that met their needs and they feel comfortable, supported and respected at.

Think about times when you have received bad referrals. This could be your “friend” who sets you up on the worst blind date in the history of blind dates. Or the movie review that made you see a movie that you are still mad at wasting 2 hours of your life. These are trivial compared to homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. But on some level you are probably mad/annoyed at your friend. Now imagine how it would feel to be referred to a program where you experience homophobia and/or transphobia. Appropriate and inclusive referrals are critical to supporting LGBTQ2S youth. There may be some communities that encounter challenges to finding appropriate and inclusive referrals. Please see the Partnerships module for strategies on how to support your local partners become more LGBTQ2S inclusive. Also like you would with all youth you work with, LGBTQ2S decide if they want the referral.

The Partnership module offers some suggestions on how to gauge how LGBTQ2S inclusive your partner organizations and some strategies to working with partners who are struggling with being LGBTQ2S inclusive.

As we work towards making our spaces safe enough for LGBTQ2S youth, we need to evaluate our partnerships to make sure that our partners are also doing the work to make their spaces safe enough. The first step would be develop criteria for determining if an organization is safe enough in the context of your community. In the Identifying Your Local Context module we shared a survey to measure organizational inclusivity. You may want to use the organizational survey at the very least. This will give the partnership group a baseline understanding of how LGBTQ2S inclusive partner organizations are.

It can be time consuming but it is important to invest energy into reviewing the programs you are referring youth to. As we have discussed, our partners reflect on our organizations. LGBTQ2S youth need to know that we are doing the best we can to support them and ensure their needs are met. Some of the feedback youth in our focus groups shared with us includes:

  • Ask youth what supports they still require access to (e.g. drop-in programs, employment programs, shelter bed, etc) with identity of the youth being respected and considered in the referral process
  • Medical referrals
  • Support groups
  • List of accessible and appropriate resources given to youth.
  • Important that we are informed where our community resources are
Recommendations

You are probably doing many if not all of these.

  1. Track the organizations and programs you are referring youth to (all youth not only those who identify as LGBTQ2S). You will recall that LGBTQ2S youth may not be out in the shelter system because they do not feel safe enough.
  2. Contact organizations you are referring youth to and ask them about how LGBTQ2S inclusive they are. You start the conversation with “We are currently reviewing our organization to measure how LGBTQ2S inclusive we are and identify areas we need to strengthen. Is this something you have done?” Or “We are reviewing our program referrals to ensure we are providing appropriate supports for LGBTQ2S youth. Can we talk about how you are creating a LGBTQ2S inclusive space?” See the Partnership module for more details.
  3. Ask LGBTQ2S youth for their opinions on how LGBTQ2S inclusive organizations and programs are. Also ask them what they have heard from their peers about the programs you refer youth to. Are there any issues you need to be aware of.
  4. Ask youth for suggestions on alternative referral programs. This may only work in larger communities.

Do you have any recommendations to add? Please add them as a comment on this page and we will add them to the list.

Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. develop program and service exit plans that meet the needs of LGBTQ2S youth

During our youth focus groups we asked youth “ What do you need from the shelter and/or staff to feel comfortable, supported and respected during your exit process?” Here is what they shared with us:

  • After care supports that are appropriate for LGBTQ2S youth
  • Ask youth what supports they still require access to (e.g. drop-in programs, employment programs, shelter bed, etc) with identity of the youth being respected and considered in the referral process
  • Medical referrals
  • Support groups
  • List of accessible and appropriate resources given to youth
  • Important that we are informed where our community resources are
  • Having a plan put in place before exiting the shelter
  • Make sure youth are prepared/ready/informed
  • Having an outreach program, after-care worker to check in after we have moved out of the shelter
  • Continuous support/after care
  • Ensuring that they have somewhere to go
  • Check in with youth from time to time
  • Smooth transitioning (this includes more timely information about services and options when aging out of housing program)
  • The pace of the exit needs to meet the needs of the individual, not that of the staff/program.
  • Communication amongst professionals/youth during exit transition (this including maintaining staff connections when exiting housing; do not place with new worker at this stressful time of transition
  • Staff in ALL programs/services be trained in LGBTQ2S so that the support is consistent regardless of where a youth is exiting to.
Recommendations

You are probably doing many if not all of these.

  1. Begin working with youth to support their exiting your program/services as early as possible. Do not wait until the day before.
  2. Begin connecting LGBTQ2S to community supports as soon as possible. Relationships take time to develop and the sooner youth are connected to community supports, the sooner this relationship can begin to develop. The goal is to always make the transition as fluid as possible.
  3. It is often difficult to obtain funding for follow up care/support. But this is important work. One our goals should always be to prevent youth from re-entering the shelter system. This can be facilitated by connecting youth with community supports in the neighbour they move into. Also having easy to access resources available for youth. Information such as land-tenant materials (this can include a community organization that can work with youth to prevent eviction e.g. rent banks and advocacy work).
  4. Are there ways you can enable youth to continue to connect with your organization after they exit? For example the Phoenix Print Shop (the social enterprise and an employment training program of Eva’s Initiatives) offers a scholarship program to graduates of the training program. Is it possible to have a monthly drop-in night where youth who have exited your program participate in (e.g. a monthly community dinner)? Can staff have time allocated to follow up work (e.g. if a youth needs support they are encouraged to connect with their former case manager to help access the needed support)?
  5. Work with partner organizations to ensure they are LGBTQ2S inclusive (see the Partnership and Program Referrals modules for more details on how to do this).

Do you have any recommendations to add? Please add them as a comment on this page and we will add them to the list.

You have read and heard a lot in the training modules. Please take some time to reflect on what you have learned. You are encouraged to share your reflections in the comments sections of training module pages. You may want to take some time and write down your reflections to help you determine what topics you want to learn more about. We also encourage you start conversations with your colleagues and partners. Share what you have learned and start a discussion.