reprinted from mentoring.org
As queer and trans people, we are incredibly resilient but we are also a vulnerable population. In recent decades, an increase in queer and trans visibility has made the world a better place for us to live. Still, the following has been recently reported:
Between 20-30% of transgender people struggle with addiction compared to an estimated 9% of the general population. (The Center for American Progress)
“The U.S. Transgender Survey (2016) found that transgender people are twice as likely to be living in poverty compared to the general population and three times more likely to be unemployed. Respondents reported higher than average rates of harassment, violence, and physical distress. One-third reported issues in seeking healthcare, while 30% said they had at some time been homeless. And 40% said they had attempted to commit suicide at some point in their lifetime, compared to 4.6% of the general population.” From Time magazine’s online edition, “Beyond Bathrooms: Inside the Largest Ever Survey of Transgender People in America.”
Queer and transgender people often function within their school, family, and workplace environments without receiving the understanding and belonging needed to experience safety. Anyone deprived of this basic need over time may have to overcome more barriers in order to freely be their authentic self. Loving community support and mental health resources empower people to heal and continue to grow into who they are.
At Queer Asterisk Therapeutic Services, our team of queer and transgender mental health professionals, educators, and mentors know that queer and trans people encounter these issues not because who we are, or who or how we love warrants it, but because we live in a society that largely does not accept our identities. There is an urgent need for well-informed mental and emotional health care for queer and trans people. And there is a growing demand for education among employers, families, schools, health professionals, community leaders, and mentors. As mentors to transgender people, even if we have good intentions for the support we provide, we may need to intentionally adjust our actions, in order to have a positive impact.
If you are a mentor working with queer and transgender mentees, here are some tips so that you can provide the best support possible.
When a transgender person shares an intimate part of their identity with you, honor and affirm their identity by using their correct name, pronouns, honorifics, and gendered or non-gendered terms when referring to them. If you ask someone their gender identity or pronouns, do so in a way that is not interrogative or invasive, but rooted in trust and relationship. Make it a normal practice to share your own gender pronouns, and to ask for others’, so that transgender folks are not singled out or put into vulnerable situations.
If you are given the opportunity to learn more about your mentee’s identity, listen to their self-definition and believe what they share with you. Know that LGBTQIAP+ identities are valid and real and that people who hold these identities deserve to be trusted in their self-knowledge. Remember that each individual is the expert on their own identity and challenging or disrespecting a mentee about a marginalized identity contributes to their lack of safety.
As mentors, our first commitment should be to do no harm. Keep this in mind for transgender mentees and consider using inclusive language in your policies and procedures, and in your intake paperwork. Making these changes may require us to deconstruct our own social conditioning about gender norms and stereotypes, in order to best respond to transgender mentees’ assessment of their safety. We may also find ourselves in a position to educate, when confronted with discomfort that may arise for cisgender staff or clients.
We developed a peer mentorship program because we recognized the need for community-based, affordable support for our clients. Our peer mentors are queer and trans community members and graduate-level therapists in training who are supervised by licensed mental health professionals. Peer mentors listen compassionately, provide fabulous companionship, and lend their expertise in everything from makeup to mindfulness, recovery support to sex-positivity, and entrepreneurship to fashion design.
Our mentorship program has become a way for queer and trans people, youth, families, adults, and partners alike who are new to the area to become integrated into the community. Receiving support from a mentor with shared identities and lived experiences can be a way for mentees to support their own initiation or transition as a queer or transgender person.
While queer and transgender people experience barriers to resources and care, many of our mentees are not seeking solely identity-related resources but are needing personalized one-on-one support to share about the difficulties and joys of coming of age, starting therapy, navigating family dynamics, or learning a new skill. The mentorship and companionship that occurs in our peer mentorship program allow mentors and mentees both to discover and share their gifts and wisdom. Growing and practicing in this important relationship allows our community members to deepen their sense of belonging, strengthen their resilience, and discover what it means to truly thrive.
Queer Asterisk is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization rooted in community and run by queer and transgender professionals. We exist to meet a growing need for exceptional mental health care to better serve queer and transgender children, adolescents, adults, and families. We provide affordable counseling services, comprehensive educational trainings, and robust community programming to promote individual and collective healing and wellness among queer and trans people. We envision a vibrant community that embraces authentic expression, where individuals with dynamic and intersecting identities can thrive.
Our queer and transgender therapists and educators partner with healthcare providers to ensure that queer and trans clients receive the most inclusive, highest quality of care possible.
Queer Asterisk has offices in Denver, Boulder, and Longmont, Colorado.
Learn more about our Peer Mentorship program, which is $20 per 50-minute session, at queerasterisk.com/peer-mentorship.
Contact us at 720-507-6161 for a free 20-min phone consultation, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reference and distribute our Etiquette Guide & Glossary of Terms to support your education.
Donate at queerasterisk.com/donate.