Today’s guest blog comes from Natalie Gardiner, the Strategic Leader for Transgender Services for a large integrated health care organization serving nearly 4 million members.
Transgender Awareness Week (November 14-20) is a time to celebrate, build awareness, and take action against discrimination and violence facing transgender communities. Given the recent election and an atmosphere of intolerance, this could not come soon enough.
Bullying is up—so closely tied with this election that the Southern Poverty Law Center deemed it the “Trump Effect”—and so are calls to LGBT crisis support hotlines. Dr. Diane Ehrensaft, Director of Mental Health at UCSF’s Child and Adolescent Gender Center, captured the sentiments of her young clients, “They feel anxious and scared and they feel betrayed. What’s going to happen to me? Will I be beaten up at school?”
So what should transgender youth and their allies—their parents, family members, friends, teachers, and other professionals—do?
Recognize the raw emotion. Whatever you may be feeling—anger, grief, betrayal—that feeling is real. Dr. Ehrensaft says, “We all want to jump in and say it’s ok but [kids] need room to say ‘It’s not ok.’”
Get immediate professional support if you need it. Talk to a professional if you are feeling anxious, depressed, or having thoughts of suicide. If you or a loved one needs immediate help, call:
- Trevor Project (866-488-7386) or visit their website
- Trans Lifeline (877-565-8860)
Surround yourself in community and family support (and, if you’re an ally, be affirming). Isolation can heighten feelings of depression, loneliness, and anxiety. “This is the time that a collective experience is critical” says Dr. Ehrensaft. Spend time with supportive parents, friends, or family members. Meet up with a local transgender youth community group. If there is not one in your area, join a virtual community group like The Gender Spectrum Lounge or TrevorSpace.
For parents and other allies, provide affirming support. “The critical issue is that we have their backs right now,” says Dr. Ehrensaft. There are great resources available to help you build affirming environments at home, in schools, and beyond:
- Gender Spectrum—parent support groups, resource guides for parents, allies, schools, and other professionals to create gender inclusive environments and address issues
- PFLAG (formerly Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)—400 chapters across the U.S. with resources for families and allies including peer to peer support services
- The Transgender Law Center—legal information, resources, and consultation
- Local gender health centers across the country provide resources for transgender, gender expansive, and gender nonconforming youth and their families, including: Lurie Children’s Chicago, Boston Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and UCSF’s Child and Adolescent Gender Center
Celebrate and raise awareness. With Transgender Awareness Week commencing, you can get involved to celebrate your (or a loved one’s) experience, raise awareness, and take action. Here are how some organizations are providing these opportunities:
- The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is highlighting how to build affirming clubs and schools and how to be an ally and trans hero
- Gender Spectrum’s Transgender Awareness Week program provides opportunities to share your story, learn from others, and make an impact to create gender inclusive schools
- GLAAD is highlighting stories, issues, and ways to get involved in Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20th)
Transgender Awareness Week “is the time that the spotlight is for you,” says Dr. Ehrensaft. “You will be seen and heard. You are special and we will celebrate that and make sure that keeps happening.”