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Ally

Security in the LGBTQIA Community

Security is a term that evokes a sense of safety, more specifically in your home and the community surrounding you. As an individual, in a large complex world, wanting and needing this security is essential to survive. But how about if it is difficult to obtain? It may be hard to envision a form of freedom from danger if security threats to adolescents are presented by the government and local community. On the other hand, we do know that the feeling of safety is a crucial aspect in a child’s emotional and social development. The more abundant the safety feeling is, the easier it is for them to be able to explore and experience the world around them. It creates a safe space for one to learn and grasp what is encompassing them in the world.

 

Bill HB1570

On April 6, the citizens of the United States were informed of the first bill to outlaw gender- affirming treatment to minors in Arkansas. The Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act limits youth in receiving gender-changing services as it prohibits insurance from covering hospital bills, prevents medical professionals from seeing transitioning youth, and puts a restriction on all medications and surgeries until the age of 18. Any physician providing health services to a transitioning minor is seen as breaking the law and will face legal consequences in the state of Arkansas. Priya Krishnakumar, while presenting information from the Human Rights Campaign, states that approximately 33 states in America have introduced more than 117 bills to hinder transgender rights (Krishnakumar, 2021). We see spiraling restrictions on individual rights, which can become messy and a concern for the transgender community as well as their mental health. 

 

 

Looking into the future instead of the present

What does this mean for transgender Americans? The new legislation signifies a reverse effect as we lose the decades of fighting for equality with the new statutes devised. A majority of the legislation bills will unfortunately affect the transgender youth in America. The Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2020 confirms the concerns of high risk of suicide and ideation. “Nearly 15% of LGBTQ respondents attempted suicide in the past twelve months, including more than 1 in 5 transgender and nonbinary youth” (The Trevor Project, 2021). With the alarming statistics present, this brings us back to the original question. What does that mean for transgender youth? As we are presented with the numbers, we as a society need to take a step back and ponder the concerns that may arise for the trans youth community. 

Society might be at a questionable standstill, debating on whether we will be helping these children or harming their development. As a community, let’s pay special attention to our blossoming children by reaffirming their thoughts, feelings, and autonomy. Let’s share a moment of togetherness to show collective understanding and support for our youth at this confusing time. By doing so, we are choosing as one to put the child’s needs and emotions on the front line rather than the rules and bills. The transgender youth in Arkansas are already facing concerning outcries; transgender youth feel depressed and demoralized that society does not allow them to be their true self.  As Nelson Mandela articulates, “Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear” (World Vision International, 2016). Similarly, we owe it to the youth to be emotionally available by hearing their concerns and protests. Join us as we come together as allies, support our youth, and build a safer world for them.

 


Written by Adella Moss, Intern, Northern Illinois University

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

References:

Cole, D. (2021, April 6). Arkansas becomes first state to outlaw gender-affirming treatment for trans youth. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/06/politics/arkansas-transgender-health-care-veto-override/index.html.

Jenco, M. (2019). Studies: Suicide attempts high among transgender teens, increasing among black teens. The Official NewMagazine of the American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.aappublications.org/news/aapnewsmag/2019/10/14/suicide101419.full.pdf.

Krishnakumar, P. (2021, April 15). This record-breaking year for anti-transgender legislation would affect minors the most. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/15/politics/anti-transgender-legislation-2021/index.html.

Paley, A. (2020). The Trevor Project National Survey 2020. The Trevor Project – Saving Young LGBTQ Lives. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2020/?section=Suicide-Mental-Health.

Paley, A. (2021). The Trevor Project National Survey. The Trevor Project – Saving Young LGBTQ Lives. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2021/.

World Vision International. (2016). Partnership Key to Ending Violence Against Children. https://www.wvi.org/development/blogpost/partnership-key-ending-violence-against-children

 

LGBTQ+ Community and Coming Out: Information for Parents & Guardians

Oftentimes, parents and guardians can feel unsure of what to do and how to respond when their child expresses to them or “comes out” as someone who identifies within the LGBTQ+ community. This list of options is meant to serve as a guide for enabling conversation and growth to those findings themselves in this situation.

Prepare to do the work and educate yourself. Perhaps you are fortunate enough to be in a situation where you fully understand what your child is experiencing and know just how to respond and support them. Perhaps you feel as though you know nothing. It is okay to acknowledge to yourself and them that you are not sure what is going to happen next, but now is the time for you to put in the work and educate yourself to the best of your ability. This may include utilizing the internet, seeking support services through a network such as PFLAG, or even seeking advice from a friend who has experienced the same thing if your child is comfortable with you doing so. The important thing is that you are doing this work on behalf of them, and making sure they feel comfortable, safe, and respected is essential as they express this aspect of their identity to you. 

Actively listen. Your child is likely more nervous than you are as they initiate this conversation with you. Make sure you give them the space and support to express whatever they may be feeling by coming out. This may be something your child has rehearsed and given plenty of thought to, or it might not be at all. In this moment, as they are sharing things with you, practice active listening so that you are taking in what they are saying to you. This may or may not be the right time for you to ask them questions about this, but you can soak in the information they are giving you so that you hear their needs and can understand what can be done in your position to support them rather than interjecting over them with whatever it is you desire to respond with at that moment. There will be the time to express your own feelings, but make sure you are giving them the floor in this crucial moment first.

Respond intuitively. Your child coming out to you is likely something that is a big deal to them. Make sure you are in check with your body language, facial expressions, thoughts, emotions, and words. Altogether, those can impact your child whether you realize it or not. So stay in tune with these feelings so that you can provide the most welcoming environment for your kid and that they leave the conversation feeling supported.

Don’t focus on yourself. You may want to tell your child about a friend or family member within the LGBTQ+ community that you know, or you may even be in a position where you identify within the LGBTQ+ community and are ready to talk all about your own experiences and give advice. Take a breath and remember: baby steps. Unless your child is actively asking to hear this information, don’t turn the conversation towards yourself because that will only take away from the experience for your child.

Acknowledge that you are there as a resource. Your child might not feel comfortable following up with you consistently on this, and as hard as it is to hear- you are not entitled to updates either. However, what you can do is make sure your child knows you are there to confide in, talk with, and to provide support. After this, the ball is in their court and they can decide what to do. It will not help your child if you pressure them and pester for more details. Instead, that can hurt your relationship in such a crucial moment as your child has just opened up to you.

Don’t pressure them for a backstory or details. To elaborate upon the previous point, know that there are certain things that as a parent or guardian you don’t actually need to know. Perhaps your child feels like they want you to know about how they realized they identified within the LGBTQ+ community, but if they don’t want to share that information that is okay. You should never utilize the power dynamic over your child to force them into giving you information because that can set up extremely unhealthy situations for them in the future. In fact, your child may not even have an answer to the questions you want to ask them- that’s okay and you need to accept that as you care for your child, having all of the information possible does not make you automatically supportive and does not make them feel automatically loved. Rather, the continuous work you do to educate yourself and support them will be what makes your relationship positive.

Acknowledge the feelings and bravery needed to invite others to learn about your identity. This very well could be one of the hardest things your child is facing by coming out to you. Far too often those within the LGBTQ+ community are persecuted for their identity and even kicked out of their homes after coming out to loved ones. Your child may not know how you will react and may be aware of the negative consequences potentially facing them, yet they trust you enough to invite you into this aspect of their life. Respect them for that and know they are so brave to do so. This is not the moment to question your child, but to see how brave they are and to remind them of that.

Approach this as a learning process for your relationship. As mentioned above, prior to this moment you may feel as though you have no knowledge, all of the knowledge, or somewhere in between when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community. It is completely acceptable to let your child know this. Let them know this will be a learning process for you, but that you are determined to do what it takes to learn specifically how to support them.

Know that you cannot compare yourself to other parents and guardians. It is worth mentioning that you may have seen the experiences other parents and guardians have had as they experienced similar situations. There is no one right way to go about this just as there is no one right way to go about parenting in general. Being honest with yourself and your child is what will make the difference for upholding a healthy relationship, so don’t compare yourself to others doing it “perfectly” because at the end of the day what needs to matter to you is your child’s health and safety, which fortunately you can enhance through your love and support.

Know what this means. This is a defining moment in your relationship. Your child may want you to be hands on or not, but as you educate yourself on the terminology and backstory of the LGBTQ+ community, educate yourself on the statistics as well. Acknowledge higher levels of sexual assault, increased suicide rates, and how the likelihood of being a victim of a crime increases for those within the LGBTQ+ community. This information is not meant to be something that scares you, but is meant as something to show how needed your support is. Places like ZCenter are doing the work for outreach and prevention education to end sexual violence, but the battle is ongoing, and in your role as a parent you can be there as a knowledgeable support system for your child to help them be aware of other support systems as well.

This guide is not necessarily foolproof in that you are guaranteed a perfect relationship with your child by following these tips. As any parent knows by now, there is no such thing as a perfect relationship with our children because of so many things that are out of our control. What you can do in this moment however, is control your response and give support so your child feels safe and sees you as the ally you are for them.


Written by Haley Wold, Intern, Lake Forest College

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

How to be an Ally to the LGBTQIA+ Community

Ally. What does that word really mean? By definition, we know that it’s one person, group, or nation united with another in a common purpose. France and England were allies in World War II, Katniss and Rue were allies in The Hunger Games, and today, there’s a larger discussion on being an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community. In this case, being an ally means that you don’t identify as part of the community yourself, but you support, unite, and advocate for them. Now, let’s pick apart each of these actions, emphasizing what being an ally truly means. 

Support is the foundation for being an ally to any community; you understand the issues they are facing, you empathize with them, and you take a position that is in line with what they advocate for. So how can we be the best supporters we can be? When it comes to the LGBTQIA+ community, it’s imperative that we educate ourselves on the struggles that they face and the history behind movements that have directly affected them. Do we know about Stonewall and the various Supreme Court Cases that have quite literally debated if members of the community are offered equal protection as cisgender, straight people? Have we informed ourselves of historical and present struggles that the community faces in other countries? Have we ever taken a look at feminist and queer activisms throughout time? Now, it’s understandable that each of these may not be completely accessible, which is why it’s equally as important to be able to talk with members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Listen to their stories, their struggles, and their feelings. Discuss what they want, what they hope to achieve. In order to form support, we must understand and educate ourselves first.

Unite is a way we can show our support. When we think of unity, we think of standing together. That’s exactly what this is, but how can we show unity? Here, we’re walking a fine line between solidarity and performance activism. In order to differentiate between the two, we must ask ourselves: are we doing this for the right reasons? Do we truly believe in and support this cause? If we are true allies, we will not hesitate to show our support, even when it may impact us directly. For example, let’s consider displaying our pronouns. This was originally done by non-cisgender people as a way to avoid being misgendered; however, it soon became a way to target and harm them. In order to combat this, allies also started putting pronouns in social media bios, in email signatures, and more in order to normalize the practice. When I added pronouns into my Instagram bio, a mutual had actually told me that I should remove them because it will “make people think you’re gay or trans or something.” Here, we see the issue of performance activism vs. unity. This friend had claimed to be a proud supporter of the LGBTQIA+, but they couldn’t even do this in fear of being mistaken for being gay or trans. As a result, they just emphasized what so many members of the community are scared of: that being who they are is something they should be ashamed of. This is just one example of how we can achieve unity. If we want to be good allies, we must prioritize the feelings of the community over how something might make us look.

Advocate is how we can combine both support and unity. Advocacy does involve activism, but it also means just being there for the community. It means being willing to listen, offer advice, and support people’s decisions. As someone who is always quick to rush to action, I often find myself needing to take a breath and listen. What you think is the best course of action may be something unthinkable for someone else. As allies, we might never be able to truly understand the struggles that the LGBTQIA+ community faces without directly experiencing them, which is what makes listening so important. We must be careful not to center issues around ourselves; respecting the wishes of the people we stand for is one of the most principal aspects of being an advocate. So how can we be allies to the LGBTQIA+ community? The answer lies in supporting, uniting, and advocating. As long as we are putting our utmost effort, compassion, and open-mindedness into what we do, we will be continuously working on how we can be the best allies we can be.

 

Below is a list of tips and ideas for how we can start becoming an LGBTQIA+ Ally. 

Continue to educate yourself and others.

Just like any other topic, there is always new information to be learned! It is important to know the different identities that people are a part of. The SafeZone Training presentation by LGBTQ+ Center Lake County is a great place to start to learn more terminology, vulnerability to sexual violence, solidarity, and allyship. We at ZCenter also offer training including this information as do many other agencies in different states and counties. Become familiar with your LGBTQIA+ Community partner near you. 

 

Allow space and be a listener. 

Have conversations, hear their stories, learn the history. Allowing space for another person to voice their hardships, experiences, challenges, and successes creates a foundation for not only further educating yourself but also being an ally to that person. 

 

Be inclusive. 

Use gender inclusive language. Introduce yourself with your pronouns. Use other’s preferred pronouns when they are given. Make sure that forms and surveys have gender inclusive language. When you make a mistake, calmly correct it and move on.

 

Be open minded. 

When someone walks into the same room as you, do not make assumptions about anything. Be open minded and start a conversation by introducing yourself with your pronouns to allow them to also share their pronouns. Assuming someone’s gender identity just by the way they dress, look, talk, walk, can lead to being closed minded and not allowing for conversation. 

 

Raise awareness.

Change your language no matter who you are around. Attend Pride events. Correct/Educate close friends or family members when appropriate. Listen to podcasts, shows, documentaries, movies, etc. surrounding the LGBTQIA+ community. 

 

June is Pride Month. Follow us on TikTok and Instagram for more information and ways to be an Ally! 

 


Written by Dana Drozek, Education and Outreach Specialist, and Vindhya Kalipi, Intern, University of Illinois.

 

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

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