Supporting LGBTQ youth is rewarding, hard and important work.
We know (and research demonstrates) that queer and trans spectrum youth face unique challenges due to the homo, trans, bi, queerphobia that are still so present in society and are compounded by sexism, racism, ablism, classism and colonialism. We also know that youth who are supported by their friends, family, providers and community can thrive and build amazing lives.
The Ontario Human Rights Code explicitly says that it is against the law to discriminate or harass someone based on their sexual orientation (including being same-sex relationship), gender identity and/or gender expression.
Some advice for supporting queer and trans spectrum youth:
Learn: Your openness to learn and understand is so important. Learning more about the LGBTQ community goes a long way. Being a good ally means knowing what language is okay and being respectful of names, labels, pronouns, relationships and presentation. Much of learning is unlearning, letting go of expectations and assumptions. Much of learning about your youth may also mean you learn a lot about yourself; so many reactions and emotions can be involved, from surprise or excitement or anger or grief. It can be hard and that’s okay. (What’s not okay is taking out how you feel on others.) We’d love to welcome you as an ally to both your youth and our LGBTQ community.
Listen: Let your youth tell you about their experiences and what they need, in their own words and when they are ready. Coming out and transitioning don’t have a specific timeline or set path, and your youth may need time to find the language that feels right to describe their journey. Don’t assume.
Love: Loving and accepting youth, as they are and as they change and grow, is essential. Caring about someone isn’t always easy, but a compassionate, non-judgemental and trustworthy adult makes a profound difference, especially for youth who are struggling. Caring and loving yourself along the way is important too, so make sure to get the support you need.
Places to Start
The Genderbread Person
What if my child is gay, lesbian or bisexual?
PFLAG Guide to Being a Trans Ally
Trans and Gender Nonconforming Identities
Impacts of Strong Parental Support for Trans Youth
Delisle Youth Services: Parents of LGBTQ+ Youth
CPATH: Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health
Egale Human Rights Trust: Every Class in Every School:
Guidelines and Protocols for Trans Care
Rainbow Health Ontario
Re:searching for LGBTQ Health
Toronto District School Board: Gender Based Violence Prevention
Trans Pulse Project
WPATH: World Professional Association for Transgender Health