June 8th, 2022
As Mental Health Awareness Month came to an end, we transitioned into Pride Month, a month dedicated to celebrating individuality and advocating for equal rights for all. Recent attempts to revoke the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community have left many advocacy groups and activists determined to keep fighting. This article will aim to identify threats to the LGBTQIA+ Community, specifically LGBTQIA+ youth, and ways caregivers, allies, and healthcare professionals can advocate for and safeguard the rights of this resilient group of people.
Evidence-based care is the most appropriate approach to practicing medicine. Extensive research has been conducted to determine the safest and most effective approach to caring for individuals who identify as members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Offering support, implementing a safe and welcoming environment, and education on LGBTQIA+ care and safety are a few things a person can do to help empower LGBTQIA+ people and protect their well-being.
Perhaps the best way to promote well-being for LGBTQIA+ individuals is by affirming LGBTQIA+ youth. Evidence-based medicine indicates that respecting pronouns of transgender and nonbinary youth, providing gender-affirming care or resources, and youth protection in schools are practices that can reduce LGBTQIA+ youth morbidity and mortality, risk of developing mood or substance use disorders, and transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs) have been shown to increase the risk of homelessness, increase the development of mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety, and increase engagement in unsafe sexual practices in LGBTQIA+ youth populations. Examples of ACEs can include family rejection of an LGBTQIA+ child or persistent bullying of an LGBTQIA+ youth. Family acceptance and offering support helps to reduce the development of mood disorders and increases child safety by minimizing suicide risk.
Parents of LGBTQIA+ youth are encouraged to learn alongside their children. For parents of transgender youth, assisting with the process of transitioning through affirming training can help foster well-being. Healthcare professionals and clinics are encouraged to implement universal screenings for mental health conditions, inquire about preferred pronouns for all patients, and offer referrals for individuals interested in gender-affirming care.
For those in the Chicagoland Area, Praxis Group and Andersonville Chamber of Commerce are excellent resources that offer affirming training to promote inclusivity and acceptance. Allyship is crucial to solidifying the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community. Howard Brown Health and Center on Halsted are two organizations participating in local advocacy and community action in Chicago. For those interested in empowering the LGBTQIA+ community, consider donating to or volunteering with these local organizations.
Safe spaces help to promote inclusivity and acceptance by assimilating LGBTQIA+ youth into a hetero-normative culture. Safe spaces can be created by affirming one’s identity. This can include affirming spaces in schools, such as LGBTQIA+ friendly organizations, respecting pronouns or preferred names, and implementing unisex or all-gender restrooms.
Connecting an LGBTQIA+ child to affirming organizations can help promote safety, reduce suicide rates, and promote acceptance. Advocates for Youth and The Trevor Project are two organizations that advocate for the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals and promote LGBTQIA+ mental health awareness and inclusivity.
Recent political attacks within the United Stated, such as the legislation being passed in Texas on preventing LGBTQIA+ youth from gaining access to gender-affirming care, pose a direct threat to the well-being and safety of LGBTQIA+ youth. Protecting transgender children from traumatizing threats is necessary to improve the mental and physical health of our community’s transgender and nonbinary youth.
For parents of LGBTQIA+ youth who report persistent bullying in school, consider reaching out to the school’s administration. Or, learn about ways you can help your child protect their rights through PFLAG, a nationwide organization that advocates for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community. PFLAG keeps individuals up to date on legislative issues pertaining to the LGBTQIA+ community and ways to advocate for the rights of these individuals.
From restricting access to quality gender-affirming medicine to banning transgender youth from participating in sports, PFLAG offers support to families and allies and encourages them to take action by contacting local lawmakers.
With a rise in recent attacks on LGBTQIA+ rights and the rights of transgender and nonbinary youth, parents and caregivers of LGBTQIA+ youth are encouraged to create safety folders. A safety folder can be described as a compilation of documents, such as identification cards, gender-affirming legal documents, and written support, which provides confirmation of a child’s identity or gender.
Historically, parents and caregivers that affirm the identity of their transgender or nonbinary child have encountered legal consequences in instances when anti-trans laws are implemented. The practice of maintaining safety folders allows for parents or caregivers to provide substantial evidence of their child’s identity and reduce the risk of the affirming care being seen as “child abuse” or “neglect” if ever questioned by legal organizations or authorities.
Pride Month is not only an opportunity to celebrate individuality but a time to advocate for the rights and well-being of the LGBTQIA+ community. Taking action to ensure inclusivity, respecting an individual’s identity, and providing safe spaces can help foster trusting relationships and improve the mental health of the LGBTQIA+ community.
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