The power of words and the LGBTU community
Andrew, Family Justice Young People’s Board
Over the half term I went to Brighton as part of a Family Justice Young People’s Board (FJYPB) commission to work with the Allsorts Youth Project; a group that helps and supports children and young people who identify as being part of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Trans or Unsure (LGBTU) community. The main aim of the meeting was to jointly devise a set of top tips for professionals working with children and young people who are part of the LGBTU community.
I attended with a fellow Board member who identifies as bisexual and our Board co-ordinator who is also part of the LGBT community. I was the only person present that was not part of the LGBTU community and had joined on the basis that I felt incredibly uneducated on the topic and hoped to learn as much as I could.
I didn’t feel at all uncomfortable, however, I felt that at first the other attendees felt a little wary of my presence. After a fun icebreaker, we got straight to work. It wasn’t long before we were left alone and we had a time to really come out of our shells. We were able to speak about the experiences of a member of Allsorts who was identified as a girl at birth and is currently transitioning genders. They were happy to explain to me how they identified as queer and what that meant to them. The group also explained to me how the word queer is now being used more in the LGBTU community. It’s a word that can be offensive if misused but they believe that it was a good way of describing themselves.
After a game where we defined LGBTU community words and definitions, I explained to the group that I struggle to understand some of the definitions, particularly those around transgender transition. We all came to an agreement that a glossary of definitions would be helpful to accompany the top tips.
We’ll be sharing a full list of the tips in the coming months once these are agreed and finalised but as a preview, below are some draft tips we discussed on the day:
- When introducing yourself to a transgender child, use your pronoun (e.g. he or she) and ask what theirs is too. This will make them feel more comfortable as they will know you are referring to them in future with the right pronoun and remove potential to cause them offence.
- Not all trans children want to talk about their transition or identity, especially if it has changed or is in the transition stage. Their past is their past – we don’t ask about your personal life in job interviews; questions should be on a need-to-know basis. You should only ask for information that will inform your assessment.
- Transgender children can be experiencing many problems, but being transgender isn’t one of them. Identifying as transgender is not a problem. Transitioning can bring problems; however, they can have other problems that should be asked about and checked too.
- Know definitions before using them. If you don’t know a definition look it up but do not use the word unless you definitely know the meaning as it can cause offence and look very silly!
- Make sure the child has someone to speak to and has someone there for them that they are happy with.
The session helped me change from a very judgmental person to one that now understands more and can now say “You know what, I really understand (insert pronoun).” Hopefully our glossary and top tips will help others reach that point too, so everyone can communicate better with children, young people and adults from the LBGTU community to ensure they’re supported and respected.