Sexually and gender diverse young people
To ensure you implement queer-sensitive practice in your work with young people in care, you can adopt a number of strategies to demonstrate your awareness and promote inclusivity (Australian Institute of Family Studies, 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 young person’s view on what option to mark (male/female/other options).
- Ask and use the correct pronouns and language when speaking to the young person.
- Assume nothing and be open to disclosure.
- Talk about privacy and demonstrate confidentiality.
- Make sure your questions are relevant—seek knowledge from the young person to increase your own understanding.
- Check in on their safety and wellbeing.
- Have awareness of your own attitudes and beliefs to ensure they don’t influence your engagement with the young person.
‘Some transgender or gender diverse young people find it especially hard to ask for help’ Headspace website What is gender identity?
Language is a powerful tool and we must be aware of the words we use and how they can affect a young person, particularly a vulnerable young person in care, experiencing gender confusion. Prior to speaking with an LGBTIQA+ young person, consider if you are the most appropriate person to engage with the young person. In speaking with a LGBTIQA+ young person:
- Be curious about their sexual identity.
- Consider how you identify and how this may influence your communication style.
- Be aware of what pronouns you use.
- Use the young person’s own language—creative words can celebrate ownership of self, such as transboi, a-gender, beautisome, femme and broster.
- Use the young person’s current name (and pronoun) even when referring to a previous time.
- Avoid phrases such as ‘born a girl’ and ‘turned into a girl now’. Instead, use ‘assigned female at birth’ and/or ‘affirmed their gender identity’. Avoid ‘it doesn’t matter that you are [trans/gay/lesbian/bi]’. Instead use ‘it is wonderful that you feel like you are getting to know yourself—I am proud of you, and thanks for sharing with me.’
This video from CREATE provides some helpful Do’s and Don’ts to use when working with LGBTIQA+ young people:
Key take-home messages for engaging with sexually and gender diverse young people include but are not limited to making sure you:
- have a sensitive practice environment
- self-educate and check your own attitudes
- work with whole of family, school and social environment
- encourage and support the safety and support network in embracing the young person’s sexually and gender identity
- assume nothing
- raise awareness.
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