At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass & Metrowest our goal is for all LGBTQ+ youth to have access to a safe and supportive mentoring relationship with a caring adult. We aim to be an agency that makes LGBTQ+ advocacy a fabric of our organization. One of the first steps to becoming an ally to queer and trans youth is to learn more and educate ourselves individually. As a team, we have participated in two trainings on LGBTQ+ topics and are currently going through an assessment process with the MaeBright Group. To make LGBTQ+ advocacy a part of our agency’s fabric, we want to make sure everyone who is a part of our organization is given the tools to educate themselves. Our agency will do our part to ensure a safe and inclusive environment and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community!
We at BBBS strive to be inclusive of everyone, especially as a community. We do not claim to know everything but we try our best to make sure we have the necessary tools to help you with your Little throughout your mentoring relationship. Striving to be inclusive also has to do with having open conversations, researching or just curiosity. It means really putting yourself in someone else’s shoes by learning, supporting and celebrating their accomplishments as well as their struggles. Not sure where to start? Take a look at a training our staff hosted for Bigs which you can view here.
BEING LGBTQ+ INCLUSIVE MATTERS:
The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing services and support to LGBTQ+ youth, recently released the results of their 2021 survey of LGBTQ+ youth ages 13-24. Some of the most salient findings include:
- More than 80% of LGBTQ youth stated that COVID-19 made their living situation more stressful — and only 1 in 3 LGBTQ youth found their home to be LGBTQ-affirming.
- 75% of LGBTQ youth reported that they had experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity at least once in their lifetime.
- Half of all LGBTQ youth of color reported discrimination based on their race/ethnicity in the past year, including 67% of Black LGBTQ youth and 60% of Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ youth.
- 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.
- Transgender and nonbinary youth who reported having pronouns respected by all of the people they lived with attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected by anyone with whom they lived.
- LGBTQ youth who had access to spaces that affirmed their sexual orientation and gender identity reported lower rates of attempting suicide.
LGBTQ+ youth have been struggling, especially during COVID-19, with their mental health and well-being. Their safety is also at risk, with unsafe home environments and people openly discriminating against them. We have the opportunity to provide an affirming community for LGBTQ+ youth and to help them feel safe, respected, and celebrated.
To read more about the National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2021 please click here.
The Trevor Project. (2021). 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health. West Hollywood, California: The Trevor Project.
HOW TO BE AN ALLY:
As a volunteer Big and someone who is working with youth and is committed to their wellbeing, it’s important that you are inclusive of and celebrating queer and trans communities even if you are not a part of them. Why? Because by celebrating and learning about people different from yourself you are modeling to your Little or mentee how to be a compassionate, loving, accepting human. And, you are making space for them to trust you and feel safe around you if they are a part of the LGBTQ+ community or questioning if they are.
- Be open to any questions that your Little has! If you don’t know the answer to something, (i.e. “Someone at school said that Elliot Page is transgender. What does that mean?”) do some research with your Little or research on your own and get back to them.
- Spend time in spaces that are inclusive to people from all backgrounds.
- Celebrate pride month! June is pride month and a great time to show support with a rainbow flag, donating to LGBTQ+ organizations, going to a parade, or even just watching a movie with queer and trans characters with your Little. (Possible movie options here).
- Share your pronouns when you introduce yourself (ex: she, he, they, etc.), add pronouns to your email signature, and refer to folks as ‘they’ or ‘them’ until you know their pronouns.
- Following famous LGBTQ+ folks on social media such as:
JUNE ACTIVITIES TO CELEBRATE PRIDE MONTH:
- Yoga class for queer and trans identifying folks on Friday, June 18th. Follow @kula_yoga_barre on instagram or go to https://www.lovekulayoga.com for more information!
- If your Little is a part of the LGBTQ+ community encourage them to join one of the peer groups through GSA Link or join a parent group so that you can learn how to best support them!
- The Waltham Public Library has invited a parent speaker from Boston PFLAG to share their experience parenting an LGBTQ+ child on June 9th from 7-8pm. The program will also include information about different LGBTQ+ identities, vocabulary to know, and topics such as gender expression. You and your mentee can watch the event on YouTube here.
- OUT MetroWest is partnering with the Framingham Public Library to present its LGBTQ+ Basics and Beyond program on June 10th at 7pm. The presentation will cover vocabulary, answers to frequently asked questions, and effective tools for supportive allyship. To learn more details about the event, click here. To attend, please register here.
The BBBS team has compiled a list of community services and educational resources for LGBTQ+ youth, their families, and volunteers. These resources are especially helpful if your Little/mentee comes out to you as queer or trans, but we encourage all matches to engage in conversation about LGBTQ+ topics. You can find the full list of LGBTQ+ resources here.
Read our full Guide to Becoming a Big and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass & Metrowest here.