Support For People Experiencing Gender Inequity
Support comes in many different ways to those who are judged, mistreated, and not accepted for who they are.
By Marissa Roberto
LGBTQ+ Allies in Schools, Communities Ignite Self-Purpose
Many topics considered ‘taboo’ are hidden due to society’s generalized expectation of privacy. Due to topics of gender and sexuality often going unspoken or unexplained in depth, seeking credible resources can often be difficult, especially when one does not wish to publicly convey certain pieces of themselves out of fear of exclusion.
Society’s expectation of privacy comes at a price, the price often being misunderstanding and simple ignorance towards these topics.
“Most communities that I’ve seen, that I’ve interacted with, they resist different forms of expression, purely because they haven’t seen it before,” Nathaniel Taylor, Hall Supervisor at the University of Notre Dame Australia, said.
“You have communication skills and you need to learn how to use them. Because if you can’t learn how to live with or relate to other people you will struggle in a bunch of areas in your life. I think that is essential to have someone like me here in this building doing what I do because it’s a pressure cooker situation. You get people coming from all kinds of different backgrounds, different cultural experience, social strata, you get people for a bunch of different walks of life and again it comes back to a language. I need to always remind them that as far as I’m concerned, they are all equals here. It is my job to care for you all equally. And it is my job to mediate your conflicts all equally,” Taylor continued.
Community social structures such as family or support groups hold great significance due to the human necessity of belonging. This phenomenon can be explained when looking at the third tier of Maslow’s Hierarchy, a psychological analysis of human needs that identifies that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and that some needs take precedence over others. Once each level in the hierarchy is fulfilled, the next level is what supports the motivation of an individual. This hierarchy begins with fulfilling the physiological needs of survival, then safety, love and belonging, esteem and ultimately, self actualization.
Livvie Forbes, agender and pansexual individual, advises to, “Find other people that are struggling because you’re all going through the same thing. Even though it’s different situations it’s all the same underlying tone so try to find something in the community.”
Without the support of community as seen in the third tier of love and belonging, self-growth can be inhibited unless outlets of community are found and utilized. Having a sense of community and belonging allows one to progress towards self-actualization, the realization or fulfillment of one’s potentialities.
In A Theory of Human Motivation, Maslow says, “People who have been satisfied in their basic needs throughout their lives, particularly in their earlier years, seem to develop exceptional power to withstand present or future thwarting of these needs simply because they have strong, healthy character structure as a result of basic satisfaction. They are the ‘strong’ people who can easily weather disagreement or opposition, who can swim against the stream of public opinion and who can stand up for the truth at great personal cost. It is just the ones who have loved and been well loved, and who have had many deep friendships who can hold out against hatred, rejection or persecution.”
According to Ryan Boyd, a secondary education and social studies teacher, “The benefit of having multiple structures of positive influence that you can turn to during a struggle is simply the fact that all of your different components at every level, whether it’s your parents, your family, your friends, coworkers, religious organizations or whatever, every issue that you deal with in life is probably going to pertain more so to one of those different groups, and by having those different groups available to you, you can find people that are like-minded, that can understand that struggle and can offer you different solutions.”
By having different support systems available, it is more likely that one will progress towards self-actualization. A manuscript from the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health states that in those who attend communities, “research finds that being a member of a GSA is associated with better academic achievement and interpersonal relationships and more comfort with one’s own sexual orientation and personal empowerment.”
However, having inclusive LGBTQ+ community groups or programs does not necessarily mean that LGBT youth are able to attend. According to the 2011 GLSEN National School Climate Survey, nearly half of the youth who have a group or program in their area said that they never attended (43.8 percent of the youth who have a program, 18.2 percent of the entire sample). Reasons why youth do not attend even when they have access to a group may include not having reliable transportation, and others might not feel comfortable attending. Additionally, students who were not out to their parents or peers reported lower levels of community group and program attendance than students who were out.
These types of circumstances, such as lack of comfortable communication outlets, often cause one to seek knowledge in alternate ways, that does not necessarily require directly reaching out to others. Just as there are a multitude of support structures that one can physically be a part of, there are also support groups that accommodate a more private atmosphere. For instance, an outlet in which information can be shared and received comfortably while maintaining privacy through online resources and support groups. There, one is able to gain knowledge while maintaining confidentiality by utilizing online resources or communities outside of those in one’s typical physical community.
According to Boyd, “When you feel like you have options and freedom to kind of choose what is best for you and how to tackle a certain issue, it gives you more power. It gives you more of a sense of, I can overcome this, I have all these different solutions I can turn to, and not only that, you get in a little bit of an insight about how many people actually care about you and you can see that and maybe that in itself is enough to overcome that struggle.”
Raising a concern for the need of different types of outlets and practices, Taylor states, “I think that resources, that we have, are largely too theoretical. And that makes it hard for us to translate things into places like here or anywhere in the world, because you see those theories starting to trying to get teased out in practice. You see people struggling because they’re used to trying to work a structure or system and when you have something like that it’s going to be like pushing against what an is organism and that a community, a community is an organism. So we need to have a greater level of flexibility with how we approach the building and nourishing of communities. I think the best resource we have as humanity is building community.”
As an alternative outlet, online resources can create very safe environments for learning, and can also create safe
communities where people of similar circumstances can hold discussions, share information, advocate, and come together to understand and solve issues within and surrounding the community. Many seek online communities because there is such powerful opportunity to communicate with people around the world who may be able to relate to their experiences. Support groups are another valuable outlet, providing a safe and secure space in which one can express and reflect.
Pastor Jim Goodyear of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Huntington Valley stated, “The internet may have some resources, but I would caution and I would say check your resource out. Visit a credible resource from the internet. Does it come from a viable health center? Does it come from a viable organization that is open and affirming and willing to have you ask your questions? And it may not give you a clear answer but it might give you some things to think about.”
Goodyear added, “I would check out local organizations in the area. So here in the Philadelphia area I would certainly recommend the William Way Center in Philadelphia which is a LGBTQ community center. It is a place where people who are not heterosexual in other words, can go and find various resources. They have study groups, they have peer counseling there, they have activities. It is a safe place where questions can be asked. And even for the younger folks and when I’m saying younger, I mean under 18. There’s also another organization in the Philadelphia area called the ATTIC which is a LGBTQ youth group specifically designed for teens under the age 18. Again they also have various resources for them that are very credible.”
Taylor concluded, “In many cases, residential living here is a snapshot of upper middle-class society. And it helps you to understand how that area of society really has a lot of work to do before we can come together as a world, and love and support each other as much as we need to do. Because this community and these communities, rather, that I manage, always always come up with the same problems. And I don’t know how to fix those problems that occur, or have a occurred at least, every semester so far. But it has forced me to reevaluate my worldview, it is forced me to reevaluate my communication skills. I think wherever there is challenge in your life there is a learning edge. And I am constantly challenged in this job, as such I am constantly learning. And I think that everybody in the world needs a lot more challenges.”
By Caelan Woryk