By Anna Corbi, Team Leader of Children’s Community Based Services
Imagine being a young person and feeling confused, isolated and not accepted for who you are? All youth who are on the path to self-discovery need positive role models, especially those who identify as LGBTQ. LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. The “Q” is to recognize those who identify as queer or someone who is questioning their sexuality.
LGBTQ youth need to know that they are not alone. As adults, it is our job to make sure that they know they can always be themselves around us. Fortunately, there are many ways for us to show support.
Here are some things that you can do to model compassion and inclusivity for LGBTQ youth in your community.
Start by listening. LGBTQ youth need to be heard. They deserve to have a voice and receive respect. Take the time and pay attention to what they are telling you. Most youth are aware of what their needs are and how they are feeling. Let them know that you genuinely care about what they have to say and that you are there to listen.
Model inclusion and kindness. It is crucial that we model inclusion and kindness while supporting LGBTQ youth. Modeling kindness is easy for most people, but I bet you are wondering, “How can I model inclusion?” It can be easy, too. We can all model inclusion by promoting justice and equality. We can also model inclusion by making an effort to use inclusive language. One way to use inclusive language is to ask about gender pronouns. Pronouns are linguistic tools that we use to refer to people, such as they/them/theirs, she/her/hers, he/him/his. It also helps to be mindful of misgendering. Misgendering means to refer to someone, especially a transgender person, using a word, especially a pronoun or form of address, that does not correctly reflect the gender with which they identify. Using the right pronoun and gender identity allows the youth to feel like they are important enough for you to make the effort to know them and respect them. Oh, and if you don’t know what gender someone identifies with or what their pronouns are, just ask them! A simple question can go a long way when showing support.
Let them be who they are. Being a young person in today’s society is really hard for so many reasons, but can you imagine being afraid of openly being who you are? LGBTQ youth often feel that they have to act like someone else around others because of the fear that they will not be accepted. Many LGBTQ youth are fearful of being rejected by friends, loved ones, schoolmates, and the community. It is extremely important to let them know it’s OK for them to be authentic and be who they are.
Advocate for the LGBTQ youth. Align with LGBTQ youth to make their lives better. As a community, it is our job to give all youth the tools and support that they need to allow their voices to be heard. Show LGBTQ youth how to advocate for themselves by writing letters to local politicians and work alongside them to help make a positive change.
Stay informed and become an ally. An ally is someone who is supportive of LGBTQ people. Be that person! Take some time to educate yourself about the LGBTQ community. Whether you show your support by attending LGBTQ events or displaying a rainbow pride flag during the month of June, that’s all it takes to be an ally!
Every youth deserves to feel a sense of belonging. By taking these steps, you can show LGBTQ youth that you care and that they are welcome and safe in their community.