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Engaging with sexual and gender diversity

Within the placement space, some parents or carers may not be comfortable if the other party is sexually and gender diverse. An example includes a parent not wanting their children placed with same-sex couple carers. This point of difference may create significant challenges to supporting the child in this placement.

By improving your knowledge about sexual and gender diversity, you may be able to help the parents increase their understanding on the topic and reduce their fear of the unknown. Further strategies to assist may include building a relationship between the parents and carers, as outlined in the Working with carers part.

To ensure you implement queer-sensitive practice in your work with children, young people, parents and carers, you can adopt a number of strategies to demonstrate your awareness and promote inclusivity (Cooper and Dunphy, 2019):

  • Provide a visibly queer-friendly and safe space (for example, by having posters/flyers in reception and interview rooms that promote inclusivity).
  • When completing documentation, ensure you seek the person’s view on what option to mark (male/female/other options).
  • Ask and use the correct pronouns and language when speaking to them.
  • Assume nothing and be open to disclosure.
  • Talk about privacy and demonstrate confidentiality.
  • Make sure your questions are relevant—seek knowledge from them to increase your own understanding.
  • Check in on their safety and wellbeing.
  • Be aware of your own attitudes and beliefs to ensure they don’t influence your engagement with them.

We must be aware of the words we speak and how they can affect someone we are working with. In speaking with a person identifying as LGBTQI+, consider the following points and reflect on your answers to help inform your engagement strategies:

  • Ask relevant and appropriate questions about how they identify
  • Consider how you identify and how this may influence your communication style.
  • Be aware of what pronouns you use.
  • Use the language the young person uses—creative words can celebrate ownership of self, such as transboi, a-gender, beautisome, femme and broster.
  • Use the name and pronoun they use now even when talking about a previous time.
  • Avoid saying things like ‘born a boy’ and ‘turned into a girl now’. Instead, use ‘assigned female at birth’ and/or ‘affirmed their gender identity’.
  • It is unhelpful to say ‘it doesn’t matter that you are [trans/gay/lesbian/bi]’. Instead use something like ‘it is amazing that you are getting to know yourself—thanks for sharing this with me.’ (Cooper and Dunphy, 2019)

Cooper and Dunphy (2019) suggest a number of important take-home messages for engaging with people who are sexually and gender diverse:

  • create a sensitive practice environment
  • educate yourself and be mindful of your own attitudes
  • work holistically and consider the family, school and social environment
  • encourage and support the safety and support network in embracing the child’s, young person’s, parent’s and/or carer’s sexual and/or gender identity
  • don’t assume anything  
  • be proactive and raise awareness about sexual and gender diversity

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