LGBTQ+ Youth make up a third of the youth in foster care. That number is more than three times the rate of youth that identify as lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender or questioning in the general population. LGBTQ+ foster youth are more likely to spend time in foster care shuffled from one temporary home to the next; more likely to struggle to find supportive adults; more likely to be sent to group homes; and more likely to be hospitalized for emotional distress. It is so important to make a change in not only the lives of these youth, but also make a change in the overall statistics for this community.
Here are 10 ways YOU can make a difference, starting today.
Educate Yourself on General Definitions
It is so beneficial to educate yourself and those around you on general definitions used in the LGBTQ+ community. One of the best ways to become an advocate for this community is to learn the language they use to explain themselves and their struggles. Here is a great place to start.
Work on Using Inclusive Language
Inclusive language is a way of acknowledging and respecting the diversity of bodies, genders and relationships. Being mindful by using inclusive language can make a huge difference in a youth’s experience in social environments. Practicing and consistently trying is a great way to show the LGBTQ+ community that you are doing your best to include them.
Foster an Environment Free from Hatred
It is imperative to confront ignorance with education. Calling hate out in the moment shows those around you that it is not okay and will not be tolerated in your presence, which changes the world one conversation at a time.
Using gender-neutral language can help to avoid assumptions about gender identity or sexual orientation. When it comes to gender-neutral language, “they, them, and their” are commonly used as singular, gender-neutral pronouns. If you are unsure of someone’s preferred pronouns, using “they/them” is respectful, rather than assuming someone’s pronouns based on how they look.
Introduce Your Pronouns
Introducing yourself with your pronouns can often make it safer and more comfortable for others who might not use ‘traditional’ pronouns to participate in that space.
Acknowledge Diverse Family Structures
We have the honor and responsibility to influence how our children learn to view themselves and others. Their views and experiences create a ripple effect that affects the world. Teaching our children to be accepting of all family structures teaches them to be respectful and open-minded. This is a great place to learn about how to be accepting and acknowledge diverse family structures.
It is important to create an environment where others feel free to be open about their identity and sexual orientation. Creating a safe place for others to be open not only helps those identifying as LGBTQ+, but it also helps others learn how to exist in an open environment.
Be a Role Model and an Ally
The definition of an ally is an individual who stands up for a person or group that is targeted and discriminated against. Being an ally is the process of working to develop individual attitudes, institutions, and culture in which LGBTQ+ people feel they are valued. To learn more about ways to become an ally to the community, read here.
Listen to Others and Welcome Feedback
Giving LGBTQ+ youth the space to give feedback shows them that their voice matters. It is very important to listen and give the opportunity to others to educate those around them. Listening to those who identify as LGBTQ+ will help those that don’t understand some of the struggles they face every single day.
Participate in Local PRIDE Events
June is Pride Month which means the pride events are about to be in full gear! Attending pride events is a simple way to show your support for the LGBTQ+ community. Take some time to look up when there will be a pride event in your city and be sure to go and show your support!
Implementing these few things into your day-to-day life can make a huge difference in the lives of those who identify as LGBTQ+. The goal is inclusivity and equality, which starts with YOU making intentional decisions to honor the LGBTQ+ community everyday.
Lanni Jackson, Contributor