24 June 2021
Happy Pride month one and all! Pride is an opportunity to raise awareness of LGBT+ issues and to celebrate diversity with the young people you support.
The pandemic has been a tough road for many of us, but it has been a particularly challenging time for LGBT+ young people. Lockdown restrictions mean that many LGBT+ young people have been cut off from their support networks for well over a year.
While much has changed since Pride began over 50 years ago, life is challenging for many LGBT+ young people. Some are living in home environments where they are forced or feel they have to hide their sexual or gender identity. Many face bullying and discrimination. And others simply don’t receive the support they need.
For many LGBT+ young people, friends and youth workers provide them with a huge amount of support.
Just Like Us published report last month ‘Growing Up LGBT+ – The impact of school, home and coronavirus on LGBT+ young people’. This report highlights a lack of support for LGBT+ youth as well as some worrying statistics that youth practitioners should be aware of.
The impact of the pandemic on LGBT+ young people
68% of LGBT+ young people say their mental health has ‘got worse’ since the pandemic began, compared to 49% of their non-LGBT+ peers. For disabled LGBT+ young people this is higher, with 72% saying their mental health has got worse since the pandemic began.
LGBT+ young people are three times more likely to self-harm and twice as likely to have depression, anxiety and panic attacks, as well as to be lonely and worry about their mental health on a daily basis. Transgender young people are almost twice as likely to say they worry about their mental health daily compared to their non-transgender peers.
Over two thirds of LGBT+ young people say they have experienced suicidal thoughts and feelings (they are twice as likely to experience suicidal thoughts as non-LGBT+ young people). 89% of Black LGBT+ young people have contemplated suicide.
24% of LGBT+ youth experienced cyber bullying in the past 12 months.
These statistics are terribly sad and worrying to read. But the insight they provide is crucial. They give us clearer understanding of what LGBT+ young people need and want from youth practitioners. to ensure they feel safe and supported. I’ve pulled together a list of 10 things you can do to best support LGBT+ young people.
10 things you can do to support LGBT+ young people
1. You must demonstrate that homophobia, lesbophobia, biphobia, transphobia and interphobia are all unacceptable and are not tolerated. This messaging not only needs to feature in your anti-bullying policy and code of conduct, but also in practice when staff are delivering youth work – staff need to challenge it when/if it occurs and take action.
2. Ensure that you and your team access training on LGBT+ issues and how to effectively support LGBT+ young people.
3. Make sure your membership forms are inclusive – include options such as transgender / gender fluid / gender neutral / non-binary as options to select for gender identity.
4. Take the time to check what pronouns young people and staff want you to use and be clear on what yours are too. Don’t single out young people who you suspect might use ‘different’ pronouns – ask everyone!
5. Celebrate LGBT+ History month in February and Pride month in June by running workshops, creating displays, watching LGBT+ films, going on relevant trips and having conversations with young people about LGBT+ rights.
6. Set up an LGBT+ youth session and/or an LGBTQ allies group.
7. If you are an LGBT+ youth worker, be visible. Knowing that an adult they trust and respect is also part of the LGBT+ community is hugely empowering for LGBT+ young people.
8. If you already work with LGBT+ young people, get them involved in helping your organisation become even more inclusive.
9. When delivering relationships and sex education or discussing type of relationships – include LGBT+ examples.
10. Provide guidance and support to LGBT+ young people. Ensure staff are aware of specialist services they can signpost young people.
Celebrating Pride month every month
I hope you and the young people you support enjoy the rest of Pride month. While Pride is a great opportunity to celebrate the LGBT+ communities and fight for equality, we need to do so every month.
If you would like to know more about how to set up an LGBT+ group or want to know where you can access specialist resources or training on working with LGBT+ youth, please feel free to get in touch with me, as a gay youth worker I’ve set up a number of LGBT+ youth groups in the past and would be more than happy to advise.
– Lee Ritchie, Membership Development Manager