15 Ways to Create Safe Spaces for LGBTQIGNC Identified People!
Use passive advertising. Create a welcoming environment using posters and brochures which communicate that your office/school/practice is a safe space.
Encourage your schools and offices to create gender neutral bathroom options. Understand that this is a heath issue as well as a safety issue for trans people and other gender non-conforming folks (no matter what they identify as!)
Do not make assumptions regarding your student/clients/friends sexual or gender identities.
Do your own homework! Educate yourself about the LGBTQIGNC and/or LGBTQIGNC-friendly resources in the community. Don’t depend on your LGBTQIGNC friends/clients/students to do the work for you.
Allow people to process their gender identities and sexual orientations at their own pace. Pronouns and names may change a number of times; sexual orientation may shift between a number of identities. Coming out is not a one time event. Allow for flexibility in identity, even if it is confusing to you.
Use appropriate language through listening to your friend/student/client describing their sexual orientation and gender identity in their own words.
Become familiar with the CASS Stages of coming out model in order to provide the appropriate support. Along with this, also understand that coming out is a different experience for all individuals.
Do your research to become familiar with the specific risk factors and behaviors that LGBTQ people face (see the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network [glsen.org] executive summary).
Listen to LGBTQIGNC voices. In addition to research of risk factors/behaviors, also become familiar with LGBTQIGNC culture through movies, documentaries, books, and magazines. Seek out media created by and for LGBTQIGNC folks!
If someone comes out to you, help them identify other safe and unsafe people to come out to.
Don’t “out” people, either through gossiping or because you think others have a “right to know.”
Allow people to come out at their own pace.
When referring, do a “warm hand-off”: call first to confirm the referral site is a safe space for LGBTQIGNC identified people.
Create inclusive intake forms so your student/client does not have to bear the burden of coming out to you and asking if you are “ok with it”. For example, instead of boxes to check “male” or “female,” leave a blank space so people can fill it in with whatever they choose.
Avoid using hetero-normative language during lectures, student/client interviews and conversations.
When it’s safe, interrupt problematic language using your own strategies, or one of the strategies below. Try to be as respectful and constructive as possible when reclaiming the safety of a space.
Strategies for interrupting:
Remember your goal is to interrupt and to reclaim safety, not to engage in a debate about “right” and “wrong”.
Asses safety first, avoid interrupting if you might be putting yourself or someone else in danger.