All Podcasts

Social Sentinel Podcasts

Understanding the Isolation of LGBTQ Youth: Mitigating the Risk of Self-Harm

Transcript

[00:00:03] Social Sessions is a forum for discussing social-emotional wellness and safety issues in education.

 

[00:00:10] Amanda Rosenberg. We are so excited to have you here. Thanks for having me. You are a rock star in this community. You're doing great work, and I'll write an amazing organization, so I got a million questions. The first is maybe what is outright right.

 

[00:00:24] We'll start with that and what is outright Vermont.

 

[00:00:26] Yeah. Great. So Outright Vermont is the LGBTQ youth-serving organization for the entire state. It's so good. It's so good.

 

[00:00:34] Nonprofit not for profit nonprofit non-profit. Okay. So you're funded through donations and events you hold and the like.

 

[00:00:42] Yep a good mix of donors who are very generous of events that do fairly well and of state foundations federal grants a pretty solid mix you have like a milestone birthday that either just happened or is happening for the audience show right turns 30 this year.

 

[00:00:58] Thirty. Yeah.

 

[00:00:59] So good. Older by far than all of our youth. That's awesome.  Interesting I And think about that. All right. At some point, you kind of make that crossover.

 

[00:01:07] Yeah. And it started here. I think you mentioned in Burlington and. And what were the core service offering and kind of where did it go from here?

 

[00:01:15] Yes so outright Vermont was founded by six members, and it was started as a hotline and a Friday night group. So Friday night group in Burlington has met every Friday night no matter what. Since 1989 unbelievable.

 

[00:01:28] Yeah it really is unbelievable. And are any of the like the first group of youth that was part of it? Is there a legacy in terms of relationships deal of folks that have been working the organization for years and was a part of it as a youth and now work with them as a volunteer or staff.

 

[00:01:45] Yeah it's actually we that every family is really far-reaching and really lovely in surprising ways, so Representative Bill Lippert was one of our founders although still a volunteer with us. He's unbelievable we work with him frequently keep Gosling was one of our founders.

 

[00:02:00] He's also really funny.

 

[00:02:02] He used to teach for me when I ran the police academy training program, and I would bring them to talk about LGBTQ issues in the community and help educate law enforcement. And we will tell stories when we're not on air about the things that you could bring. I'd just say that the things that Keith would bring to the police academy with him to show the police academy recruits would turn them on all shades of red and purple which I thought was the best thing ever so growing up.

 

[00:02:27] Oh my gosh favorite people that are right youth the love that comes to the top of mind as D.J. Craig Mitchell.

 

[00:02:33] Oh sure. So good. Yeah. So this. And by now the organization's alumnus alumni wherever the way you say that is must be all over the country. I mean you must have gone far and wide about the world. I mean just a lot of people have come through the organization. Yeah. And you're more than Burlington. You're meeting all over the state.

 

[00:02:51] Yes. Friday night group has programs that meet in Burlington still Montpelier Morrisville Brattleboro. And we just started in Middlebury. Yeah.

 

[00:03:00] That's amazing. It's doing really good stuff. OK. So I have to ask you. I heard this term, and I need them still, and it means because as I've said to you before and we'll say again you know, I hope you'll take full license to correct me in any way that I should. What is a rainbow sheep?

 

[00:03:14] I think that's the best. I think it just it evokes an image that I love I just like it's not written.

 

[00:03:20] Well it's it's a joke for me in that I come from a fairly large family I've got sisters I've got a younger stepbrother and in my mom's extended family and my dad's extended family I am the only only one so I am the Rainbow Sheep.

 

[00:03:36] You are the rain now you were the only one who has maybe come out or come forward.

 

[00:03:40] Right exactly. Either Ray LaHood is paving the way for the ice event.

 

[00:03:44] That's awesome. I really think that's a funny way to characterize that. It's good. Rainbow Sheep. You make me think is as I'm reflecting on your comment that something I watched that I just watched the documentary on. Dr. Ruth Westheimer. On Hulu. There's a new documentary on Ruth Westheimer. It was fascinating. You know she was an Israeli army sniper.

 

[00:04:06] Yeah at one point our crew had to turn sexual health that unbelievable like I did that was the whole exact goal.

 

[00:04:11] One of the things that she was quoted as saying in the documentary. But of course, she said it a million times is that there is no normal everyone's normal. Right. So what I what it what it makes me reflect on in terms of what you're saying is that the systems have put artificial pressure or not the real pressure in creating artificial constraints in the sense of it's not the youth that are members or identify as being members of the LGBTQ community that have to figure out they have to figure out how to how to be in the world in a way that they can be accepted, but they are normal. It's the constraints of the systems around them. Yes, that isn't normal.

 

[00:04:54] Yes. If you are going to the doctors and they hand you a form to fill out an intake form you've never been before, and they say. They're female, and you're a nonbinary trans kid. That's an experience of strength. And you're instantly isolated. You're instantly isolated to you you instantly don't know what will happen if you tell your health care provider who you actually are how they're going to respond to that. You don't know if they're going to connect you to gender or affirming services or if they're going to miss gender you and use your legal name through the entire visit. Right. So it's that there's a level of risk and a long stretch.

 

[00:05:28] It's everything is stressful. Everything is stressful. And so then you self medicate you self-harm. You think you don't feel leaving.

 

[00:05:35] And so the Friday night groups allow a place where you can come and get a break. You can get a break while you're trying to figure out how to be who you are in a place which you are normal and everything around you isn't normal, and you are talking to youth who have gone through similar things or are going through similar things.

 

[00:05:51] You can learn who their doctor is. If it's been a good or bad experience for that, you can hear that there is advocacy you can do in your school to make the teachers respond to your preferred name instead of your legal name right. So there are all these points of connection and activism that happened within this tiny group it's really unbelievable.

 

[00:06:09] It's a great organization. One of the things that I've come to appreciate about the work you're doing and I've done is this idea that you're working with you know individual youth meeting them where they are in their journey and trying to try to navigate the complexities of the world around them in light of its acceptance of them. You mentioned something around the idea of minority stress theory you just would love to understand that better I'm sure there are you know school leaders all over the country who are going to want to understand what that is and then maybe how it affects them and their understanding of supporting the student in their community that identify with the LGBTQ.

 

[00:06:46] Yeah. So the original study was done looking at the experiences of bisexual and gay men and what the study found was that these men who are navigating the world with a marginalized identity with a minority identity were disproportionately likely to experience chronic stress which led to a whole host of risk behaviors and an outcomes including experiences of chronic stress self medication substance use an increase in smoking that we see in the LGBT community and so it really helps speak to the way that the inherent outcomes that the outcomes that we see in the LGBT community are not inherent to identify that it's inherent to the way that you are forced to navigate a world that tells you that you're bad or wrong or off or other.

 

[00:07:43] And so I see that play out in the experiences of youth when I hear from parents who say things like well I won't let my kid be trans because of there a really high rate of suicide. They won't let them right.

 

[00:08:00] And that's not how that works. Just to be clear to everyone watching this that is not right.

 

[00:08:07] And what I can hear in that is concerned for the safety of your kid, and I'm.

 

[00:08:12] We can build from now I'm on board and what that serves to do when you try to force a kid to be someone who they're not the work of Doctor Caitlin Ryan and the Family Acceptance Project demonstrates clearly that high rates of family rejection can increase a youth risk of experiencing suicide over their lifetime up to eight times more than youth who experience even very low level of your ingestion because of drugs.

 

[00:08:39] So isolating and harmful and low level of rejection is still not the same as acceptance celebration.

 

[00:08:47] No, it's still rejection. Right.

 

[00:08:49] But even very low rejection to very high rejection has a hugely disproportionate outcome for LGBT youth which is which just so sad and also hopeful because there is prevention in that right.

 

[00:09:01] We can work with families to mitigate their reactions when youth are coming out to them to decrease the level of harm that youth experience and improve their outcomes.

 

[00:09:10] Sure. Just as a Muslim I'm thinking you know they're experiencing it at the personal micro-level in terms of everyday interactions, and then you look at some of the national discussions about gay rights and such and it's it compounds that some exponential force.

 

[00:09:25] Yes. That's so fascinating because before marriage equality was the law of the land. Another research study was being done on the relation between youth suicide rates and in the states where marriage equality laws were being passed when it was going state by state. And what they found was that youth suicide rates in states that passed marriage equality were being reduced by almost 10 percent really. And it's not because 16-year-olds are knocking down the doors of City Hall to get married it's because you could start to picture a future where you could live the life that you wanted to live. And so even the impact of. Macro-level policy and decision making a huge impact on the direct lived experience as very young people sure and how right the way you say that.

 

[00:10:12] If they could open up additional thinking and this idea that they could see a future for themselves. One supported in the community in the workplace with the laws and I know from my own experience with members of my own family the struggles they had with the lack of that equality and what that did around rights to health rights to survivorship rights to medical issues. I mean it was a mess in every way shape or form, or so I think. I mean I like the way you said that a future that they could see themselves and so what. So you're working day to day with youth that are in need of services that you're providing. What are those services and what are you like. Thomas more about how you're personally influencing through the organization the work you're doing with kids Yeah so.

 

[00:11:01] So the idea is that you get to connect to their peers so everyone afraid in a group is LGBTQ queer trans are questioning including the adults who facilitate it. So the idea is that you not only get to be in a roomful of LGBT peers but they also get to connect to LGBT adults to start that work of being able to envision a future with you in it so good.

 

[00:11:26] Yeah, mentoring coaching connecting like that.

 

[00:11:30] Yeah. So that's our flagship program, and since then we've grown into a really robust set of services. So we look at a few spheres for intervention. One is connecting youth to a sense of authentic self, and that is built through peer connection through exploration through being celebrated in their identity. We are the place that youth come to try out their new name.

 

[00:11:54] So they'll sit and fight in a group and say I'm using this name now everyone calls me this. And everyone just does it. And that happens in very few spaces in their lives.

 

[00:12:05] It's got to be so emotional. It's like I mean like just sitting here thinking I'm talking I'm getting emotional about it. I mean it's it's kind of an incredible experience for for someone who's struggling to find a place in the world and who hasn't felt accepted to be able to walk into this organization and be with people who take them for who they are and take that stress off their shoulders for that period of time has got to be just incredible. That's incredible.

 

[00:12:30] I can work with you. I mean I don't know if I'm gonna see if you get a part-time job or full-time job for me right. Yeah, it's good. So what else. So there are that.

 

[00:12:38] JOE Yeah. So we run a week-long residential summer camp called Camp outright. We're planning, for now, it's going to happen in August. We bring about 70 youth for this week of programming, and it's a mixture of traditional summer camp experience with the queer and Rambo twist.

 

[00:12:55] So we have everything from lake swim time and archery and cabins with no electricity or hills to Vermont kind of camera experiences, but we throw in some drag one to one. We are history.

 

[00:13:08] So the Friday night talent show is a little different Yeah exactly.

 

[00:13:14] I'll stand right now.

 

[00:13:14] It's it's a really really special weekend and it's exactly what you're saying where you know in the rest of their worlds you youth to often have to mute their authentic selves in order to make the people around them accept them or more comfortable or to steer away from experiences of violence or harm. And so when they come to camp out right there one hundred and fifty percent themselves because here is space where you can change your name and pronouns every day, and we don't care we'll roll with it.

 

[00:13:41] And so for them to be able to have that exploration and the space to really dig into who they want to be and how they want to navigate the world with the support of the commune I confessional confessional as like I'm listening to I'm thinking to myself you know trying to empathize how exhausting it has to be every day to live your life not who you know who you think you are who you are so that you can satisfy someone else. Yes, you know, and it's survival in every way shape or form. You know it could be both physical survival as well as emotional mental.

 

[00:14:14] Yes and even economic because in many states in this country, you can still be fired for being LGBTQ. And so if you think about it and the largest employer in the country has just been directed not to accept trans members into the military service. And so if I'm thinking about how to impact change and help youth envision a future I'm going to need policies to help me get on board with that.

 

[00:14:39] It's it feels like it could be overwhelming. So I like a couple of thoughts I come out. So how do you personally keep your spirits and you know attitude? What do you do when you're doing difficult work you're with people every day who are struggling you're. So what do you do to kind of keep yourself tied into the optimistic side of what's going on?

 

[00:15:05] Yeah I actually don't find that to be super hard. And whenever I am really struggling with the weight of the work, it's usually because I haven't spent much time with you lately.

 

[00:15:16] So watch me get your energy. So that wasn't my question.

 

[00:15:20] So a lot of the third tier of the work that we do aside from individuals and pure connections and community is looking at how we change systems and so we do a lot of professional development work in schools we're working with a lot of state partners to help now help them create systems that are more supportive of the youth.

 

[00:15:39] So you're going from I mean that's one of the things I want to ask you is that the individual experiences that you are working within you are shaping and understanding and supporting translate into larger or illustrate larger systemic issues. Yeah. So what does that look like? Tell us more about what that link is and how the organization and all the work you're doing is helping to tackle that. But what do we want to learn from that?

 

[00:16:04] Yeah so one place the direct correlation I can look at is I was working with a lot of youth who were involved with the Department for Children and Families in the foster care system. So we know nationwide that homeless and runaway youth 40 percent of them are likely to be LGBTQ, which is a disproportionately huge rate for that community. Staggeringly so and so they and they're also disproportionately likely to be involved with family services of some kind. And so I was working with youth who had case managers who were in foster care who were looking at adoption and that system wasn't quite sure how to support LGBT youth. So residential services would be license to work with males or females. And so trans used were being housed with people who didn't share their gender identity, and we're misgendered within their own supportive programs that were supposed to support this problem. They had case managers navigating internal systems that needed their legal name and biological marker. And so every time you got a new case manager you'd have to come out again, and we've been doing that and re-explain it and navigate that again multiple potential victimizations is that experience or you just give up because you don't want to have to do that again with another person and you're not sure how they're going to react and maybe your experience will be detrimental to your overall wellness because you need them to know what's going on with your foster family, but you can't come out to them because they might not listen to you about what's happening after that. So you don't feel safe. So I started work with the Department for Children and Families to help them create a policy to direct the workforce for how to support LGBT youth. It's called policy 76. We're about two years and now and it served a few functions. It helped direct residential programs that they could, in fact, support youth based on their gender identity and not their sex assigned at birth, which was a huge shift.

 

[00:18:20] It directed a workforce that not allowing youth to access Gender Affirming medical care was not a neutral option that the experience of rejection and harm was so increased if that kind of service was denied that it actually was causing more harm. And so in the spirit of serving youth they stopped telling youth that they needed to wait until they aged out of the program that they could start looking at who your medical provider could be and what sort of services you could access from them in a more holistic way which is really important and also gave directives for incorporating a preferred name and pronoun within the system and including in case notes and in court documents with. And this part is really important with youth direction. So we require case managers to talk to youth about who they are what name they want to be referred to us and who that safe to do with. So if you're a kid who is trans, and you want your case manager to use a new name for you the case manager needs to assess with you whether that happens just here in this office between us whether you want that reflected in your case notes and who might see those whether you want that in the court documents where your bio family might see it and whether or not see for that to happen. And so you get to be in the driver's seat of their own information in a way that's really new, and I think that they feel they have some control.

 

[00:19:56] Yeah in a world where they may not always feel like you're having a lot of control.

 

[00:19:59] Yeah. And so my work has looked a lot. Like how to infuse trauma-informed practices like giving survivors control over their own narrative and stories into the work that we do it outright and the way that it's reflected out into the community.

 

[00:20:14] You got me you mean thinking. For all the years that I was part of educating the public safety community on gender or sexual violence one of the things that we would often use as an exercisers is you know how many times does a survivor tell his or her story you know and who do they tell it to and you begin to look at you know somewhere in the north of 25 30 times in the system between they tell the first officer then the second officer, and then they tell the prosecutor then they have to tell the judge I mean it goes on and on and on, and it's it wears you down. Is the message we got you to know from survivors they said it's a disincentive for us to want to you know want to move forward. We become reluctant.

 

[00:20:54] So it's eye-opening as I listen to you talk about giving youth who are experiencing you know a marginalized you know living life and having been pushed to the fringes in many ways some control back is incredible. Yeah, it's good stuff. It's no wonder why you like to do this. Yeah. You know one of the things that we do you know social settings mission is is really is not really. It is not really you know the safety and security of our youth of our schools and of our universities colleges and K12 school district that's really where our passion is. And part of our service or product or service or service looks at that climate or safety and security and wellness. And we've been very deliberate about how we include the search for.

 

[00:21:45] Harm around homophobia and racism and anti-Semitism and the like. You've got me thinking deeply about are we doing enough in the way we construct our library and what we're looking for and how we're doing it because given what you've said and what you've educated me on.

 

[00:22:04] If if the LGBTQ community is that much more at risk than statistically they would be showing up in our service you know as potential indicators of their own harm as such more than maybe any other group would. You got me thinking about gee I think I may have a part-time job for you that you may not want another part-time job, but I think you've just got me thinking about what that looks like. Because you know today's youth, nearly all of them communicate digitally. You know I'm you know I'm in my 50s I'm a digital immigrant I had to learn how to use technology. Are our kids I mean my teenage children are digital natives seamless. Yeah, all they know. Yeah. And what I often find when I'm talking to other folks you know maybe my age or older is that they don't always connect with well. Well, why would someone post something like that? Well because it's an extension of your brain. If you only know digital conversation Pictures or it never happens. Right. Absolutely. So a lot of thinking around that being the case then a lot of that leakage of harm is going to come from members of the LGBT community disproportionately.

 

[00:23:20] And are we doing enough to understand that. Yeah because that's part of why you're here.

 

[00:23:24] But you know just in the conversation when I approached the work with DCF one of the first sort of opening conversations that we had before the policy was you know even thought of one person said Well I don't know why we're undertaking this kind of work. We don't even know that we have that many of this kind of youth.

 

[00:23:46] This was well. So this was somebody not connected with the organization.

 

[00:23:51] Not that right. Right. Really. And but that's it that's the understanding that folks have. And it's true too that I've heard similar remarks from school-based personnel. So a parent called very upset because the school that their kid within had done a health unit; the only time LGBT identity had come up was in the HIV AIDS unit. And when the parents said that's really messed up, the teacher responded Well we don't really have that problem here.

 

[00:24:19] And so there's a whole bunch of things wrong with that statement, first of all, it's not a problem at all. Second of all, guess what, it's actually here. And if you think if you used to think that that is going to be the response from the adults around and then I think I was.

 

[00:24:35] Going to tell you, of course, that's why you don't know that you have youth here because you have that attitude and they're not going to tell you.

 

[00:24:42] And so you end up you know so then you end up that's the other part of your job. So when it looks at I think I understand it when you're looking at the youth, it's the intellectual, physical, emotional support that gives them a safe place to be who they are needs to be. And then when it comes to the rest of the community, it's that conversation about. I can I respectfully help you understand where you may be wrong. Sometimes I'm guessing you're doing it right in their face. Other times you have to build more diplomatic about it right. To get that point across but that's going to be exhausting as well. That's chipping away at something that's overwhelming.

 

[00:25:18] Yeah and I found that the most impactful times were able to do that is when we can be the conduit for youth to say directly to the adults who are impacting their lives and so how can we. Oftentimes we create panels or opportunities for youth to take the lead in some of the education work, so they hear directly from the youth.

 

[00:25:39] Yes, that's powerful.

 

[00:25:40] We have a really really awesome program called Leadership Day where we take this year is about 110 youth and faculty advisors to the State House. We have a whole day of learning how to advocate they testify in committee hearings they do a Q and A with a panel of our legislators on the Hill. It's really, really awesome. And one thing that we've seen is that you know legislators show up in droves to hear directly from youth and so one-year years ago now our youth were like it's really hard for us to use public restrooms and that as a problem it causes a lot of harm. Fast forward I think it past two maybe three years ago now the legislature was able to hear that create legislation representative the liberal was instrumental in it. So with his help and with direct communication from our right youth they were able to pass a law that said public restrooms need to be accommodations for everybody and you need if you have a single-use restroom it has to be on gendered that's all.

 

[00:26:42] Yeah I mean when the university went through the process and the buildings, and I was, and he was the chief of police at the time, and we were moving through it. I remember. Both the swell of advocacy and yes and then I remember the swell of what we're not doing that right. And again I was acutely aware of how isolating those conversations must have been for the members of the LGBTQ community who were like Oh here we go again. Right. And we just here we go again. But it's pretty amazing. Yeah. Vermont we've done some good stuff from this state but yeah I know it's good. It's good. What. What about what is there about the work you're doing and the the the the efforts underway that I haven't asked you about what you really want to make sure that people know because there's folks all over the country who are going to be watching this who are gonna be asking themselves Are we doing enough or are we stepping up to the right ways or you know what. What do we want to make sure that they hear from you?

 

[00:27:43] Yeah, the thing I've seen the most impactful for the experience of harm that youth are facing is the presence of one supportive adult.

 

[00:27:56] So so one supportive adult and they use life can drastically decrease their likelihood of suicidal ideation can give them a person to go to if they're experiencing harm in their relationship can give them someone to talk to if they don't have the right resources around healthy sexuality gives them a person. And so when I think about the authentic connections I've had with adults as a young person they were so much based around the adult being curious about what was going on with me about hearing what I was saying without immediately offering advice from you know a very adult he on high perspective but really just being present with my experience and then being able to offer resources or opportunities that reflected what I was saying. And so that is the work that I try to carry through with youth. I'm listening to the things that they're telling me I'm reflecting that back. So if a youth wants to talk to me about their girlfriend all talk about their girlfriend with them as long as they want to, but I don't make the leap from you told me to have girlfriends so; therefore, you are a lesbian. Right.

 

[00:29:06] I'm just not that dichotomous. There's not that much more complex than that.

 

[00:29:10] Right. And so I'm I'm listening very carefully to exactly what they are saying, and then I'm reflecting that back to them to show that I'm listening right. These are advocate tricks that the entire movement has incorporated for decades that adults just like to be heard with it's the right thing to do. Oh yeah.

 

[00:29:28] I hope that the the the adults in your life when you were that you point to that you're clearly emulating. Like I get the sense that you had some good experiences with people who listened or at least experiences that taught you the way to do it the way that it needed to be done. And it looks like you're passing that on. Which I think is is meaningful like I hope those adults out there watching. I hope whoever you are you're watching this conversation because this is really good. You did good right. And I hope that all the kids the youth kids choir correct that are watching. Just appreciate how thoughtful yours. What that looks like. I get asked all the time what's you know I've been working on school safety for a long time. You know whether it was the chief at the University chief of police or whether was a consultant I did in this company and the former company, and I get asked all the time what's the key to a safe school and I always say it's not the alligators in the moat and the door locks and all that stuff. Yeah. OK. If you need it, it's every youth knowing there's one adult in the school who will listen to them and is there for them. Yes, that's it. That's the secret to doing it right.

 

[00:30:41] There was a study I'm not going to remember the exact specifics around it, but it was a story that's really stuck with me in the approach I take with you. I think it was a school in Texas didn't exercise in there with their entire staff and administration where they put all of the names of the kids up on the wall and f f you as an adult and that building could call that kid by name could recognize them outside of school and call them by name and he knew one thing that they were really interested in and you could put a star by their name and and so the adults all did the exercise and a lot of kids had more than one star and some kids had no stars in and at the end they looked at the kids who had the most stars and those were their top-performing kids and they looked at the kid that had no stars and those were the kids that were really struggling and what they. That's a really good research story. What they strategized was that their new mission was to build those connections with youth like your mandate is to go make a connection with the youth who had no star you learn their name you learn to recognize them when you find out one thing about them. Those kids started doing better. This is so good. Their attendance line up their grades went off.

 

[00:32:00] I mean so then you get one supportive adult so and then here you are Amanda making that connection to a youth in the community one on one you know their name you know what's important to them you know where they're struggling you know where they're succeeding, and you're listening and being a part of that conversation and being present, and you're making that difference in their lives and because of the work you're doing and outrage is doing. They will grow up hopefully to have inner strength and resolve to be able to survive some of the challenges they'll face. So a lot of what you're doing without right is giving the youth that you work with the ability I liked what you said they could see a future because they can relate to. So you're giving them access to adults and other people who might look like them sound like they think like them who are like them. So what was that like in your life. What what what was that what did that look like with you growing up.

 

[00:33:01] Yeah. So I graduated high school with a class of 39 other students small rural small and rural. There was nobody out in my high school that was not a thing that was present, and there were you know some kids we would whisper about, but nobody really knew. And I had the joy of working with two women who were business partners and life partners. I have a summer job in high school and into college and so and I just remember I would always say things like oh I just really want that type of really you know I'm not I'm not I'm not that way but you know I really like that type of relationship where you're you're engaging with the roles that fit you best because it's who you are and not because it's expected of you and I really enjoy your connection with one another. It seems truly authentic, and I had all this admiration for, but I never identified with it because I didn't know that queer women could look like me you could also be very feminine could also you know there's this stereotype around what lesbians look like or what by women look like. And it's all very like stereotypical who's stereotypical, and so and there there's a moment that I remember I'm sorry mom in the car with my mom and my two older sisters, and my mom said Well thank goodness we made it through puberty and none of you are gay. And I just remember thinking Oh yeah that I thought would have happened by now if it was supposed to happen for me like I wouldn't you know there's the story of like I knew since I was 7, but I didn't tell anybody, and I think that that is true for a lot of people and firms are not for it's a narrative that box is again constrained.

 

[00:34:43] Yes. It's not a right.

 

[00:34:45] Yeah. So the narrative of heteronormative city is you look a certain way you behave a certain way you date a certain way, and you don't deviate from that. And especially if you don't have representation if you can't see mine. They give Director Dana talks about seeing mirrors windows and doors so mirrors when you can see yourself reflected in your community a window is being able to look out and imagine possibilities that you didn't know existed before. And a door is being able to access that future that you want for yourself. I've got my eyes, and I didn't have any of those things.

 

[00:35:22] You know when I was growing up, and so it took me many more years to be able to explore an authentic sense of self that did include queerness. That did include by Where did you find me.

 

[00:35:31] Where did you feel like you.

 

[00:35:34] You fought you finally but that you began to find that I had graduated college and I had given myself some really intentional space for not dating anybody. And that was when I had the time and space to really explore who I wanted to be and not just to other people expected me to be.

 

[00:35:57] How do you think the experience and I'm gonna make a presumption, and you may correct me on this. I hope you do. If I need to be corrected. Yeah. How do you make the presumption that what do you think is different between the lesbian experience in this way to get experience. I was wary of the trans experience in this way. Are there sare there definitive commonalities and yet are each of those communities within the larger LGBTQ community experiencing very differently. How they come to terms with accepting who they are in terms of their work, but how do they acceptably always look like me. You have experience as a queer woman who identifies in a certain way who looks a certain way all the things you talked about, and there are. My guess is some of that experience translates to every part of the overall community. But then some of that experience is different. So do you see those differences in the youth? Am I looking at the right way or am I trying to create artificial separations?

 

[00:37:05] No. Well, what I think I hear you saying is that there's that LGBTQ is a huge umbrella that covers a whole host of you know sexual identities and gender identities, and everybody has both. But you know it's not like the trans community also has a sexual identity. We tend to focus on their gender identities because that is what is so flashy and causes the most in your face as much as it stands out maybe more will and I think it stands out because the system has been set up to squelch that right. So it's not as though trans people are trying to be in your face but that the everyone else around them.

 

[00:37:50] It's like hey take a step back and then you're right.

 

[00:37:54] Well we've ingrained gender and so many systems in the way that you navigate your day to day that it becomes impossible to not think about your experience of gender if it doesn't match the mold of what you're supposed to be walking through the world with. And so for me as a cisgender as this means same and so I was assigned female at birth I still identify as a woman a message gender woman as assistant or woman. I don't have to worry about what type of facilities the restaurant I want to go to dinner is going to have, or there's a women's room for you, and it's gonna be accessible, and nobody's going to question if I use it. And in fact, my privilege is so deep that even if I use the men's room, it's a little bit like oh haha The lines are shorter. Like I don't have to worry that people are gonna feel threatened me or me and threaten me because I've used a bathroom that does not correspond to my gender identity right.

 

[00:38:46] It doesn't matter when you're not wearing that. Someone who meets you doesn't know that part of who you are by looking at you know what they would stereotype what that means.

 

[00:38:55] Yes. And that has caused some very interesting conversation. So when that voice is we we partnered with a program that helps to employment services for the older community and so we had a really lovely receptionist who we were working with for a few months and I had put this deck of postcards out to advertise for pride as the queer celebration in town happens in September and she picks it up and she looks at it and she's like What's this for. And I was like well it's for Pride parade it's to celebrate the LGBT community in Vermont. She throws it away for herself she's like oh oh like this disgusted look, and she said oh well here's an opportunity for you.

 

[00:39:43] Well, here we go. Oh, this is gonna be a great opportunity to think about that.

 

[00:39:45] And and it was two-fold rates. She was the receptionist for an organization that serves all survivors. And so my first comment was this along with than anybody who needs our help needs to be able to call and say what is going on for them and they can. Let's get that from you.

 

[00:40:03] No matter what I say is bad on so many levels shat on so many have the courage to pick up the phone and reach out for help and then the people they reach out to you isolate them. You're the gatekeeper for organizing your son.

 

[00:40:15] I need you to get that under control.

 

[00:40:17] And also you should know that I'm clear and that had to be a whole other conversation. She must've been like yeah, but it was helpful because we had worked together for months.

 

[00:40:26] We had a great rapport. She liked me a lot. I liked her a lot. And so here was a really great moment where she thought she knew everything she needed to know about the LGBT community and about you and she made assumptions.

 

[00:40:38] She did not know how important it was.

 

[00:40:40] I mean so I'm just thinking what a gift you gave her because you opened her eyes to some ignoramuses and some assumptions that I hope she was intelligent enough to absorb and say this is life-altering I think to the point that we've been talking about I. There are many members of my family who identify as part of the LGBT community. And I would you know what. I worked at the university for so many years. It was LGBTQ it was it went through much later. So I kind of whenever I'm saying it I'm hitting like six different places I want to get it the way I think it is to be to the LGBT cube community and they didn't. And they don't to this day meet the stereotype. So I grew up with very masculine gay men right. I didn't grow up with whatever the other side of that is whatever that gets defined as. And so I think that that was important. I think in shaping my identity around what that means. And I think having the opportunity to be able to look at you and have a conversation with you and have you say you know I have privilege when there are other members of that larger community that don't have that privilege, and it's got to be painful. I mean every day even more so you can never. I mean I'm a large white male I can navigate all kinds of scenarios. And it's not you know I can be stomping on all kinds of issues that I'm not aware of as a result. This is very powerful stuff you're doing. It made me also think of you when I was doing a lot of work in helping in part around sexual and gender violence. We would talk to both you know men and women in a room talking about the experiences, and I would ask the men in the room how many times a day did they think about their personal safety. Now I'm asking men who I presume in the given the setting we've said are hetero men right who don't identify as being now very realistic that a large part of that population may have identified with the LGBT community. And the men in the room when I would ask you know how many of you think you know almost not no one to think of and then no one asked the women in the room how many times a day do you think about your personal safety. And it was when I get up in the morning when I walk out there I want to brush my teeth when I think about the door when I'm thinking good. It's exhausting. And as I listen to you, I layer on top of that the safety around being a part of the LGBTQ community. What does that look like?

 

[00:43:14] Right. And in the analysis that the community so often has to do around emotional safety versus physical safety, my emotional safety might mean dressing the way that I want to dress when I go to school. And that might impact my physical safety you and others perceive that the things that I want to wear don't match the sex I was assigned at birth. And so how do we help youth navigate. How do we help recreate a world that has been set up to cause them harm so that they can go about their lives?

 

[00:43:46] They can be who they are. Yeah but 20 years ago an FBI researcher agent actually doesn't know what she did at the bureau. She may be an agent. Did the primary research on what's called leakage the idea that when you started with you, it was school focused kids it's now everyone but the youth. Talk about doing bad things before they do it. And it's called leakage. It was the idea that you know a note found or a comment made, or you know a journal entry about self-harm or harm against others. And one of the things that well the reason Social Sentinel exists is because we try to identify the leakage. You know before it turns into you know evidence of something ever happened you know as a preventative model and one of the things you've got me thinking a lot about is you know we have put effort into understanding homophobia and anti-Semitism or racism.

 

[00:44:44] But let's talk about homophobia and homophobia a term that encompasses the trans community as transphobia yes transphobia because I knew it does right. So it's homophobia transphobia. Right. I'm going to make a note of that because I want to make sure we're using the right language on that that we're doing enough in the homophobia. Transphobia in terms of how our system identifies but I'm thinking maybe we're not doing enough and maybe there's I think there's probably always more to be doing. Yeah, you know, and we're out looking for the leakage. And what I hear you saying is we want to support the community the LGBTQ community so that that indication of or the prevalence of them harming themselves. You know we can deal with that. And we're a company looking for signs of that. You know, just like where.

 

[00:45:28] Yeah. And it's so funny to you know as I hear user wisdom out and we do it all the time you know racism sexism when we get to homophobia and transphobia. It's only a phobia, And so I see a spider in the shower, and I jump out, and that's not what's happening here. Right. Like that whole mantra.

 

[00:45:50] So what's up to people. Right. So what's the what is the language is powerful right? NOAM CHOMSKY Well the words we use well with what's the right word.

 

[00:45:59] I don't think I have one but the reason I note it especially in the work that you're doing is because I think it's there are many places in the country where you can use that type of defense that talks about well I was so afraid of your purse showing that I was afraid so I had to.

 

[00:46:18] Right. Exactly.

 

[00:46:19] It had to cause the harm because I was so caught up in how disturbing it was for me to see a person with a beard in a dress. So I think so often about the way that we've constructed the way we approach the LGBT community to allow for. More leeway in your emotional and visceral response to that community as a cisgender heterosexual person.

 

[00:46:42] I think that is really powerful. That's a big insight for me. Yeah, that's a matter NOI for me a shifting of the mind. That's a phobia. You're right.

 

[00:46:53] All right.

 

[00:46:54] All right. So now I'm going to ponder on that. I'm going just to keep coming back to you. We're gonna have these sessions on a regular basis. Do I get a degree when this is over though I guess I'm gonna miss it ever to get an education or some people on a sticker? But there are stickers. Yeah. You know we can help you with that so much.

 

[00:47:09] This is this has been amazing. You know I'm, I'm just grateful for the work you're doing. I'm grateful for all right. I want to figure out how we can continue to support you like to find a way for you to work with us to help us be better at what we do because our service is designed to identify folks and people in need youth in need of help. This was about that connection helping identify information that someone gets to hear you, OK, you know is everything okay. And I think that there's a natural fit for the ongoing partnership relationship whatever it looks like. I just think it's good stuff.

 

[00:47:42] Well we've got a fire truck poll coming up in September.

 

[00:47:45] We missed last year's I think we way we were in last year's but I don't think we won last year. So I think I have to say right to say they are tech companies.

 

[00:47:52] Yeah January. Well, thank you.

 

[00:47:54] All right. But look at the look at me. I can pull like you know I'm strong I can pull strong you know big things that was built for that you know as I said my ancestors were built for building things right.

 

[00:48:03] That goes Yeah, it's good. OK. Thanks for coming. Yeah. Thanks for having. You're awesome. Keep up the good work. Thank you.

 

[00:48:10] Thank you for joining us for this episode of social sessions. Subscribe to our channel today and stay tuned for more.