Did you know between 18-20% of teens in the United States identify as LBGTQ. What does that even mean? How do you know if someone is LBGTQ? How can you support LBGTQ youth?
LBGTQ is an acronym that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer and/or Questioning. It is an ever-changing umbrella term for those who have a non-normative gender or sexuality. According to the American Psychological Association, sex is assigned at birth, refers to one’s biological status as either male or female, and is associated primarily with physical attributes such as chromosomes, hormone prevalence, and external and internal anatomy. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for boys and men or girls and women.
Did you know 40% of the transgender community admit attempting suicide at least once in their lifetime? Gender stereotyping can be described as generalized views of characteristics or roles that are traditionally possessed by or performed by men and women. Examples of gender stereotypes exist everywhere. Do you ever notice them? Next time you take a trip to Target, walk down all the toy isles and observe. Are there certain aisles with an overwhelming amount of blue or green? Are there little boys smiling and playing with toy cars on the boxes? Do you see little girls wearing crowns and dressed up as a princess in an aisle consumed in pink? Most of us never even think about it, but if I had to guess, you would notice if the little boy on the box was the one dressed up as a princess. Why?
Did you know the U.K. just ruled to ban gender stereotyping that is perceived as harmful to reduce gender inequality?
How to support LBGTQ youth:
- Practice using LGBTQ inclusive words and phrases every day.
“Ladies and gentleman” vs. “Folks”
“Policeman” vs. “Police officer”
“He” or “She” vs. “They”
- Show you support the LBGTQ community and show your home is a safe place (attend local PRIDE events, know LBGTQ resources in your community, display a “Safe Zone” sign or rainbow flag at your home, have LBGTQ sensitive books and movies accessible in your home)
- Educate yourself and know about your own gender and sexuality. The Genderbread Person is a great way to learn about gender and sexuality in all its complexities from a continuum perspective. Do it with the youth! https://www.genderbread.org/
- Understand if a youth decides to “come out” to you, they trust you. For some, this task may be terrifying, as they may have been rejected by loved ones in the past. Be unconditionally supportive and let them know it will not change your relationship. Avoid probing questions and let them take the lead. Clarify if other people know, as you don’t want to risk “coming out” for them to others.
- Encourage and support youth through self-growth and exploration. As someone who is close to that youth, it can feel conflicting. You want to support them, but you also are fearful for them. Discouraging gender expression and avoiding environments where they may be a target of discrimination can do more damage than the potential discrimination, itself.
- Humans make mistakes and that’s okay. I get it, it can be overwhelming trying to understand all the appropriate terms and pronouns to use, as it’s ever changing and can be subjective to that person. You may avoid interactions or situations completely to avoid offending someone or getting it wrong. Be Human. Asking someone their preferred pronouns or what gender fluid means is showing that person you care.
- Advocate. Advocate.
This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Brittney Engelhard, LBSW.