UnidosUS is celebrating the end of Pride Month with a long-awaited toolkit aimed at giving nationwide youth-serving organizations, especially its Affiliates, the tools to welcome and include the Latinx LGBTQ community. ALAS I: Welcoming LGBTQ Youth is the first publication in the Advocates, Líderes, and Allies Series, and it contains a wealth of information on whoLGBTQ youth are and what they need.
For example, the section, Who are LGBTQ youth in the Latinx Community? Why does this matter?, provides important background for the ALAS I toolkit, demonstrating that the LGBTQ population is growing and that Latinx youth deserve better support from us all. This section is designed to create conversations and challenge assumptions about who Latinx LGBTQ youth are and how programs can best meet their needs. For example, it provides these key statistics:
- According to the Williams Institute, 1.4 million or 4.3% of Latinx people living in the United States identify as LGBTQ and 29% of Latinx same-sex couples are raising children.
- There are more than one million LGBTQ immigrants living in the United States, including 190,000 who are Latinx LGBTQ undocumented immigrants.
- Thirty-one percent of LGBTQ youth have received verbal threats because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
- Only 28% of LGBTQ youth feel safe in the classroom.
- Only 13% of LGBTQ youth have heard positive messages about being LGBTQ in school.
- Only 33% of LGBTQ youth are able to dress in a way that completely reflects their gender identity.
- Sixty-four percent of transgender Latinx youth try to avoid using the bathroom during the school day.
- Seventy-nine percent of LGBTQ youth usually feel depressed or down, 73% usually feel worthless or hopeless, and 82% usually feel worried, nervous, or panicked.
The section How Are We Doing?gives people a starting point to assess how their organization is welcoming and engaging with LGBTQ youth. In order to improve services for Latinx LGBTQ youth, organizations need to assess what’s working and what can be improved from current practice. This section has surveys and discussion questions designed to help staff and participants take stock of what’s happening, how things have changed, and where programs can grow.
For example, it asks program staff and youth to note whether or not they feel the organization actively campaigns on behalf of LGBTQ inclusion and whether they know the organization’s policies and procedures for dealing with bullying against people identifying as or perceived to be LGBTQ. It also asks youth whether they feel comfortable talking to staff about gender identity, and the pronouns they want used for themselves. It then offers a set of ground rules to help facilitate a safe environment for discussing these issues as a group.
First Steps: Setting the Stage moves from dialogue to more in-depth activities, starting with icebreakers and ending with ideas for creating more inclusive learning.
The icebreakers usually start with participants introducing themselves and stating their pronoun preferences. Then it introduces the concept of the ‘parking lot’, a space in which questions that require deeper discussion can be listed for a later moment. After that, youth and staff are encouraged to do things like write down their fears and anxieties on index cards referred to as empathy cards, and to discuss their comfort zones for talking about what made them feel safe or unsafe during the discussions. They may also be given a noise maker to non-verbally respond to statements about identity for which they can relate. This helps youth of all orientations find their commonalities.
Youth and Staff Development Activities offers an array of educational activities aimed at building staff and participant knowledge and understanding of the LGBTQ community. Activities like the “Heterosexual Questionaire” challenge participants to reconsider some of the questions and assumptions often presented to LGBTQ people by turning them around to ask:
- What do you think caused your heterosexuality?
- Is it possible that your heterosexuality is just a phase you may grow out of?
In this same chapter, the Gender Unicorn helps participants distinguish between gender identity and expression, sex assigned at birth, and physical and emotional attraction. And an activity called the Coming Out Stars helps youth learn about the social and cultural factors that impact life changes and where to go for support if they fear or experience discrimination, attacks, or suicidal thoughts. Finally, an LGBTQ Role Plays activity helps youth navigate common experiences with coming out or seeking safety, and how to confront them, including with legal measures.
What Next? Resource Suggestionsis a guide to materials and organizations who have resources and work on the topics presented throughout the rest of the guide:
- Sexual and reproductive health
- Mental and emotional health and well-being
- Housing and homelessness
- Jobs and careers
“At UnidosUS, we believe that LGBTQ youth are capable, resilient, and an asset to their communities, and this toolkit was developed to ensure that Affiliates and other youth-serving organizations have the resources to effectively welcome all young people,” says Maria Moser, Senior Director of Teaching and Learning. “ALAS I: Welcoming LGBTQ Youth is an important step in creating inclusive programs, spaces, and schools, and we look forward to sharing these resources with our Affiliates and partners.”