Gender identity is reported to be solidified as early as age 6. When adults fill out applications or participate in the census we check a box, male or female. As the author suggests, “Maybe the next time you run across a form that asks if you are male or female, you will think about the absurdity of the question.”
“Faggot!” “What a lez-bo!” “That’s so gay!” These words are bandied about so frequently in school hallways and on social media and television, it is easy to become immune to their affects — especially on people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT).
To segregate or not to segregate, that is the question. When it comes to best meeting the needs of LGBTQ youth, answering this question elicits a range of opinions, approaches and philosophies. Across this country there are outstanding examples of service organizations that were founded specifically, and exclusively, to meet the needs of LGBTQ youth — to fill gaps that exist in our service system and to save the lives of some of our most marginalized community members. This phenomenon started in the late 1970s and has since become a very successful model for serving LGBTQ youth: to create something separate, by and for the LGBTQ community. In this last decade, however, we have seen a very welcome trend of so-called traditional youth-serving organizations stretching themselves to become LGBTQ-inclusive, to intentionally integrate and include LGBTQ youth into their services and programs, and to offer supplemental support groups or expertise to meet the specific needs of LGBTQ youth.
The Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) 2012 groundbreaking survey of more than 10,000 self-identified LGBTQ youth shed light on some of the unique challenges these teens face, from lack of family and peer support to limited participation in after-school and community activities. We know from many other studies and from too many real-life stories that LGBTQ youth are at high risk for homelessness, substance abuse, depression and suicidal ideation as well — not because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning, but as a response to family rejection, societal stigma and legal discrimination.
So, it’s no wonder that we’ve had to launch programs and services just for LGBTQ youth. They are not being served well in many mainstream youth-service organizations and often don’t have adults to support them and advocate for them.
When I was born, the doctor dictated the way I would live the rest of my life simply by proclaiming “It’s a girl” to my excited and tired parents. Those four words would determine which pronouns people addressed me by, the social standards I would be expected to live up to, how I would be expected to dress, and which bathroom I’d be expected use, among many other things – until 16 years later when I would come out to friends and some of my family as trans* non-binary (See Glossary). For 16 years my family addressed me as daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, and my friends used she/her pronouns when speaking to or about me. By coming out as trans* non-binary, I’m expecting that these people not only accept me -- my gender identity -- but also change 16 years’ worth of habits. Besides the long process of coming out, explaining to friends and family who I truly am and, in some instances, defending that there are many other struggles that I, along with many other trans* folks, experience on a day-to-day basis.
Beginning this school year, 35 schools in five states — Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Tennessee — will take part in a new program intended to increase student achievement by adding up to 300 hours of additional learning time to the school year. These schools, which together enroll about 17,500 students, are part of a program coordinated by the National Center of Time and Learning (NCTL), a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, as well as by the Ford Foundation and state education officials. Participation will be broadened after the first year, with an additional 40 schools enrolling about 20,000 students scheduled to join the effort in the second and third years. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average school year in the U.S. lasts 180 days, with 6.6 hours in the average school day. However, many U.S. schools have experimented with expanded learning time (ELT) since the 1970s, by incorporating a longer school day or longer school year.
When I worked my first shift at a residential treatment center nearly 30 years ago, I was provided a set of keys and told to observe the veteran workers in order to learn my job as a youth-care worker. As I tried to imitate those other workers, I found that their style didn’t necessarily fit me, but I didn’t know what I should do instead. I don’t remember much training specific to my job, so I tried my best to do what I understood my job to be: enforce rules, follow the program and make sure the behavior of those in my care did not get out of line. Sadly, for the young people I was assigned to work with, there was a great deal of trial and error. I was being paid to do youth work, but no one ever told me what that meant, and I never really asked. Thirty years later, the pessimist in me believes not much has changed when it comes to knowing what it means to be a youth worker.
In one of the North Carolina counties in which I practice law, juvenile delinquency court is held every other week. During these sessions, children who have been charged with criminal offenses come before the court to have their matters heard. In the alternating weeks, dependency court is held, during which the parents of children who are alleged to be abused, neglected or dependent have their matters heard. The irony is that in the majority of cases nationwide, the children in these two forums are the same. In fact, a recent study has shown that approximately two-thirds of children referred to juvenile delinquency court have some involvement in the social-services system stemming from allegations of abuse, neglect or dependency.
Transgender teens come from all over New York to find refuge on Christopher Street but soon discover they are underserved by social-services agencies. Instead, they find comfort in each other and those who came before them. NEW YORK-- Years ago, before the pilings had gone rotten and jagged like a row of rotten teeth, the piers were still lined with abandoned houseboats. At a time when gay sex was illegal, this was a busy pick-up spot. The empty homes gave cover from the elements and a semblance of privacy.
DRUMBEAT, a group program that uses hand drumming to create a fun, safe space for social learning and self-reflection, provided her with a solution. “Trying to contain those boys was like trying to contain a cyclone. Methods entirely based on talking wouldn’t have been effective,” said Mathers, who was able to successfully connect with the teens through this interactive program. Renowned for its success in Australia as an innovative approach to juvenile justice and an effective intervention initiative for youth at risk of negative social outcomes such as substance abuse, criminal activity or isolation, DRUMBEAT (Discovering Relationships Using Music – Beliefs, Emotions, Attitudes and Thoughts), has been trialed in Florida and will return to the United States this October and November. Three-day training sessions will be run in Minneapolis, Minn., and in Albuquerque, N.M., for interested individuals and organizations.