Support for Care Leavers who identify as LGBTQ+
The two commonly used acronyms to define the ‘gay community’ are –
LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) or
LGBTQQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual)
Some now use LGBT+ to make sure that all identities are included to ensure no-one feels left out.
It is a positive and rewarding experience to find out what your real identity is which can have huge benefits for any individual’s wellbeing. Identifying as LGBT+ cab be liberating and it is also important to remember that you can identify yourself to whoever you want to be. It can take courage and resilience to reveal to society who you really are and most find the experience empowering.
For all services working with young people it is important that work carried out meets the needs of everyone. Care leavers are often seen as just that, a ‘care leavers’ and other aspects of their identity may be ignored. A young person’s identity is not about one thing and a young person many have many identities e.g. race, gender, social class and sexual orientations. Many young people face many forms of discrimination, such as sexism, classism, transphobia and more. It is really important that young people are supported and are free to be who they are or who they think they are at any given time. One young person told us –
“You don’t have to put a label on yourself, I think many people feel like they have to be either lesbian or straight or be gay – I don’t believe that and I think you should just be yourself. However you identify yourself you are still you…when you get a little a bit older you might start to change and think back to when you labelled yourself a lesbian then all of sudden you could be bisexual. I think just be you and don’t get pressured by society.”
Sexual orientation is often not part of the information gathered about care leavers; this may result in a potential gap for support and training for workers supporting LGBT+ care leavers. Many people use a search engine if they needed to find out about support and realise that more often or not young people need extra and appropriate support.It may be useful to watch this film created by young people for young people called ‘What is Gender?’ which combines animation and documentary interviews to explore how diverse gender can be. In the film young people share their views of topics such as gender binary, stereotyping, identity, pronouns and gender based bullying. The film also used real life experiences from participants to think about what it means to be transgender, trans or identify outside of the binary.
This film was created by Off the Record and Educational Action Challenge Homophobia (EACH)
“Although some may be completely comfortable with their identity, others might not and may require counselling or other forms of support.”
It may be difficult for a worker to deal with issues around homophobia and transphobia and many feel that they need extra awareness to help the young person to work against stereotypes and negative stigma.
Isolation was a further problem, as well as bullying and discrimination which all can make a young person feel alone. However, as a care leaver they may not have a substantial support system- providing a larger need for those working with LGBT+ care leavers to offer some additional support.
“To be aware of the support organisations and groups available in order to combat feelings of loneliness and isolation and to deal with potential bullying and homophobic incidents.”
Training was a further topic mentioned as something which could help to better support LGBT+ care leavers/those in care: some workers said that ‘hearing from people who are LGBT+ themselves’ as being particularly useful. Training by Off The Record has been delivered recently in Bristol.
“I feel that this is an area changing quickly and I feel I could use more training to enable me to support young people. For example, I have not come across any trans people in my work over the last 15 years but in the last 2 I have met 5 plus. I think this is a change in our society that we need to be trained to adequately support.”
“Listen to the young person – don’t rush them if you feel they might come out and wait for the right time. Don’t go up to them and say ‘I know you are gay’ just give them advice and make sure they have all the support they need.”
(Most of these findings come from the ‘LGBT+ Care Leavers Survey- Completed by Individuals Working with Young People in Care or Who Have Left Care’ written by Caoimhe Green (ex-Barnardo’s Care Leavers Service) and quotes from a film made with two young adults).
Freedom youth have group sessions for those aged 13-19 which provide a social, informative and safe supportive space with workshops and discussions. Freedom also has a group for 19-25 which provides a safe space for support, advice and social opportunities. Freedom involves itself with campaigning, activism, mentoring and event organisation. Freedom also offers a one-to-one counselling service.
An organisation that challenges homophobia and transphobia in Bristol who also act as a good resource for contacts for local and national support groups. They also promote services, events and social groups and provide a forum for LGBT+ communities to have a voice and influence in consultation and policy development.
FLAGG Bristol is a support group, serving the west, for family and friends of LGBT+ individuals in Bristol. It gives an opportunity for people to explore issues and shared experiences as well as their fears in a safe space.
Support for trans young people and their networks and provide a helpline aimed at supporting transgender youth up to age of 19, their families and professionals working with them.
Terrence Higgins Trust
The Terrence Higgins Trust is UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity who support people living with HIV and amplify their voices to advise and help people using the service to achieve good sexual health.
Which stands for Barnardo’s Against Sexual Exploitation and offers support for young people who are at risk or are being sexually exploited. They offer one-to-one support to deal with problems and issues as well as offering practical support.