“We’re all just walking each other home.”— Ram Dass
We have the opportunity to walk alongside young people as they sort through
questions and negotiations of identity, and we want to ask ourselves if we need to
widen the space for gender expression and different ways to love, in our own lives
and in our homes and facilities.
Sex education and re-education for both staff and clients.
Sex education within a treatment agency should include content relevant to the
population and not based on curriculum for non-abused children/teens. Issues
related to premature exposure to sex, as well as content about LGBTQ issues
should be clearly articulated. Resources for young people should be provided.
Developmental experiences: Frank and Open Discussion within the treatment
Members of the team share their own sex education: (what were you told
about sex? Homosexuality? Masturbation? Promiscuity?)
How much of what you were taught do you still believe?
Is what you believe contrary to the goal of inclusiveness, tolerance, and
affirmation? How can this dichotomy be managed?
Is there fear of admitting/addressing “value conflicts” within the team?
(result in an uneasy peace; conflicts are acted out rather than spoken)
Gender Identity Exercise: In working with young people, exploring and
understanding how we experience and express gender takes on unique urgency
given that is an inextricable piece of our identity as we evolve toward adulthood.
Consider creating “gender lifelines”, documenting memorable events in our lives
that specifically brought about awareness of gender.
Beginning with earliest memory, recall events and people through one’s life that
contributed to how we feel today about being male and female.
Plussing. Gay teens make the journey to adulthood through a society which
provides them with negative feedback. This can lead to self-hatred and anger and
reluctance to make friends for fear of discovery. The loss of self-respect, left
unchallenged, can lead to depression, substance abuse, dropout rates much higher
than non-gay youth, and thoughts of suicide. Gay teens, more than most, need to
receive consistent feedback with regard to their strengths and positive qualities.