Do you know what the letters LGBTQQIA represent? With that, Angela Reynolds, LCDC II, SWA, Primary AOD Counselor, Maryhaven Adolescent Care Unit at Pomegranate presented this month’s All Staff workshop on LGBT/Diversity 101 which focused on sensitivity training, affirming cultural change, and providing effective treatment to the LGBT population regarding mental health and substance use disorders. The training is important because this population is 3x more likely to attempt suicide, be homeless, and at a higher risk for HIV/STD and victimization, and also has the highest rates of alcohol, tobacco and drug use. It’s important to understand the meaning and risk of self-disclosure and provide a safe space. ‘Coming out’ is a life-long process. [The letter ‘L’ =lesbian; ‘G’=gay; ‘B’=bisexual; ‘T’=transgender; ‘Q’=questioning; ‘Q’=queer’ (not straight); ‘I’ =intersex (used to be called hermaphrodite/both); and ‘A’=allies or asexual.
Many social-demographic questionnaires which used to feature a two question identifier for “Male” or “Female” sex (the biological term for species), now consider sexual orientation (attraction), sexual preference (likes to receive/participate in/with) and sex assigned at birth “FAAB”, “MAAB”, or “trans”- for different from sex assigned at birth or “transgender”-lives as a member of gender other than anatomical. Back in ‘the day’ feminists objected to being called ‘girls’ or objectified by the dominant male culture in business. Not only were terms called into question, but behaviors related to them and old school classifications and what was considered acceptable. Reynolds explained that one’s gender identity is an internal perception. “Cisgender” is conforming with one’s own nature/natural being and “gender queer” may be both, neither, moving between, or overlapping.
In working with a population entering and/or well into puberty, perhaps having experienced abuse and/or a disrupted home life, these questions of identity and connection are exceedingly important, especially coupled with mental and/or behavioral health disorders. For speaker Reynolds, a diagram of a gingerbread person is apt. The brain represents identity, the heart orientation, the anatomical parts-sex: male and/or female, and the whole gingerbread person represents one’s self-expression, each trait as experienced on a continuum. Regardless, this is about human beings under construction with histories, feelings, dreams, hopes and an entire future ahead. Compassion is called for. Handle with care!
The Social Justice Advocate’s Handout:
A Guide to Gender by Sam Killermann