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LGBTQ+

Embracing Chosen Family Durning the Holidays and All Year Round
Embracing Chosen Family During the Holidays and All Year Round 495 401 cj

Embracing Chosen Family During the Holidays and All Year Round

Embracing Chosen Family Durning the Holidays and All Year Round

Embracing Chosen Family During the Holidays and All Year Round

By Jay Baldwin

“It’s the most wonderful time….of the year.”

This time of year is typically associated with family gatherings full of celebrations, joy and togetherness. We are inundated by Hallmark movies, TV commercials, and social media posts that would have us believe that everyone should be sitting around a fireplace with their loved ones having the most wonderful holiday celebrations. Not everyone, however, has a family of origin they can or even want to be with for a variety of reasons. An increasing number of people, especially folks in the LGBTQ+ community, opt to surround themselves with their chosen family instead of their family of origin, not just during the holiday season but all year round.

Chosen families are the people we surround ourselves with who love us, support us and embrace us for exactly who we are. For many, they are far more loving and nurturing than the families they were born into. But it’s also important to note that a chosen family does *not* require the absence of a family of origin. Chosen family can exist as a powerful source of community in and of itself, or as an additional source of joy and support in addition to one’s family of origin.

Chosen families in the LGBTQ+ community have existed for decades. For centuries, the queer community has found a way to connect with each other and build systems of support when the heteronormative world was not a safe place to be seen and known. For many LGBTQ+ people who are seeking acceptance and understanding of their full selves, surrounding themselves with likeminded and like-identified folks can transform and even save their lives.

This holiday season, I invite you to think about our LGBTQ+ young people who are still navigating how to come out in their own families, facing rejection, or struggling to find their chosen family. I am proud to be donating to an organization called Transanta that helps deliver gifts to transgender youth in need, safely and anonymously. Transsanta was created because “right now, young trans people, particularly Black and Brown trans youth, are under attack across the country and around the world. The pandemic has exacerbated unsafe conditions for trans youth who are houseless, in foster care, in detention, and in abusive or otherwise unsafe housing situations. Transanta was created to show young people that they are loved, supported, and have a family of people around the world who care about them and want them to succeed.”

No matter what community we are a part of, we all desire and deserve meaningful and supportive connections throughout every stage of life. Whether you identify as LGBTQ+, or as a member of a different community entirely, I invite you to think about the concept of chosen family if you haven’t before, or what it means to be part of someone else’s chosen family. Who have you invited into your life who you consider family, even though you didn’t necessarily grow up with them? What kind of family do you want to surround yourself with and be a part of that you perhaps haven’t before? Whether you are with your family of origin, your chosen family, both, or neither, whether you are celebrating a lot, a little, or not at all, I see each and every one of you, and I wish you all a safe and healthy holiday season.

Celebrating Transgender Awareness Week
Celebrating Transgender Awareness Week 495 401 cj

Celebrating Transgender Awareness Week

Celebrating Transgender Awareness Week

Celebrating Transgender Awareness Week

By Leo Kirkham

Five Topics to Learn About This Transgender Awareness Week

It’s Transgender Awareness Week, which runs from November 13 to 19, 2022 and culminates in National Trangender Day of Remembrance, November 20.

What is Transgender Day of Remembrance?

November 20 is the National Transgender Day of Remembrance, which started as a vigil for Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was murdered in 1998. Founded by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith, the vigil honored all transgender people lost to anti-trans violence that year, and became an annual observance.

One way to be a trans ally is to attend a local Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil. The vigil often involves reading a list of names of transgender people who died that year. Gender Justice LA is hosting a vigil and so is LA CA Network.

What are transgender youth facing right now?

In the current culture, there is a strong anti-trans backlash against the social progress that has been made for transgender and gender non-conforming people. Transgender youth are facing the brunt of this backlash, under the guise of “protecting children” from the “harm” of progressive gender norms.

In Florida, all transgender youth undergoing medical transition are being detransitioned and banned from receiving gender-affirming medical care. Many other states are considering bills to restrict or ban transition-related medical care for minors, and even for adults. Still other states are banning transgender students from participating in sports – even in states where there are no out transgender students trying to compete in sports.

According to the Trevor Project, 94% of LGBTQ youth reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health. More than half of transgender and nonbinary youth considered suicide in the past year.

Is the news all bad?

No When transgender and nonbinary youth live with people who respect their pronouns, they attempt suicide at half the rate as trans and nonbinary youth who lives with people who don’t. Trans and nonbinary youth are less suicidal when their schools, homes, and online spaces are transgender-affirming. And when those trans and nonbinary youth have access to gender affirming name changes and birth marker changes on legal documents, they have lower suicide attempts (Trevor Project).

In short: If you are a parent to a transgender youth and you are reading this, your child is safer and has better mental health as a direct result of your love and support.

Additionally, progress is being made nationally for transgender and LGBTQ rights. At least 16 states and Washington D.C. are ranked as “high” for gender equality, according to the Movement Advancement Project. That’s where 45% of the LGBTQ population lives. In 2020, the Supreme Court held that LGBTQ employees are protected from workplace discrimination. In 2021, the Biden administration extended Title IX protections to transgender students by requiring that schools receiving federal funding not discriminate on the basis of gender identity (U Chicago).

What about transgender history? Where can I learn about that?

Transgender people are in the news a lot right now – but we’re not new. We’ve been around for thousands of years, as long as human culture has.

Since ancient times, hijras in India and kathoeys in Thailand have formed social and spiritual communities with each other, centered around a transfeminine third gender role. Before European colonization and in modern times, North American Indigenous cultures have recognized Two-Spirit identities: people who reach beyond the traditional male and female gender roles. There were Roman priests and a Roman emperor (Elagabalus) believed to be trans women.

In more modern history, the early 1900s saw the first gender affirmation surgeries. Much progress was made by Magnus Hirschfeld at the German Institute of Sex Research for transgender medicine and trans rights, before his work was destroyed by the Nazi Party in 1933. In 1952, American trans woman Christine Jorgensen’s gender transition brought awareness to North America of sex reassignment surgery.

Lesbian, gay, bi, and transgender people fought back against police violence in the 1959 Coopers Donuts Riots, 1966 Compton’s Cafeteria Riot, and the 1969 Stonewall Riots. In the 1970s, Lou Sullivan started FTM International and pioneered visibility for gay trans men. At the same time, feminist groups began to resist the inclusion of trans women in their spaces, which has become known as trans-exclusionary radical feminism. In the 1980s, trans women were victims of the AIDS crisis alongside gay and bisexual men. By the 1990s and 2000s, the Transgender Day of Remembrance had begun and trans marches were gaining popularity. Trans people began to be elected to public offices, and legislation began to recognize the rights of people regardless of gender identity and expression (Wikipedia).

What else should I educate myself on as an ally?

Some important issues to be aware of as an ally are intersectionality and the ways that transgender people of color are doubly impacted by racism and transphobia. For example, Black trans people and other trans people of color are more likely to be discriminated against in a job, be homeless, experience interpersonal violence, or experience mental health problems. Trans people of color have higher rates of poverty and more barriers to receiving gender affirming medical care and legal name and gender marker changes (National LGBTQ Taskforce).

Transgender people are diverse. We come in as many varieties as you can imagine. Which means that trans people carry other marginalized identities alongside being transgender: trans people can be gay, lesbian, or bisexual as well; we can be disabled or neurodivergent; we can be people of color; we can be poor, homeless, or incarcerated. Being aware of the issues facing transgender people and other diverse groups in society is the first step to being a good trans ally.

Happy Transgender Awareness Week. Thank you for reading and learning with us.

Creating a Safe and Welcoming Holiday For Your Queer Child
Creating a Safe & Welcoming Holiday for Your Queer Child 495 401 cj

Creating a Safe & Welcoming Holiday for Your Queer Child

Creating a Safe and Welcoming Holiday For Your Queer Child

Creating a Safe & Welcoming Holiday for Your Queer Child

By Leo Kirkham

The winter holidays are a time for family and friends to gather together in the spirit of gratitude and giving. But they can also be fraught with conflict and stress.

For LGBTQ people especially, the holidays can be a trying time. Whether they are visiting family who don’t fully accept their identities, being reminded of childhood trauma, seeing a past abuser, or struggling with an eating disorder, the holidays can bring up anxiety for queer and trans people.

You love and accept your queer child. So how can you make the holidays a safer, more welcoming space for your child?

Talk to your child

The first step is to have a conversation with your child about the upcoming holidays and any family visits. Ask them if they have any stress, anxiety, or worries about the holidays. Ask them how you can support them best. Ask what they need during the holiday, whether it is space and time to be alone, verbal support from you during family conversations, or the opportunity to be engaged in holiday activities like cooking and cleaning.

Talk to family members and friends

Have a conversation with any family and friends who will be visiting during the holiday. Set expectations early about what behavior is expected of them. Tell them that homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic comments will not be allowed.

If your child uses a different name or pronouns than what they grew up with, tell visiting family that they are expected to use the correct name and pronouns during their visit. Practice with them, and role model how to apologize if you make a mistake with pronouns. (Apologize briefly, say the sentence again with the correct pronoun, and move on. Do not over-apologize.) Treat your child the same as any other child.

Meaning, invite your child’s significant other to the holiday, if you would do the same for a heterosexual child. Treat their significant other with friendliness and respect. Welcome them as a part of the family.

Use your child’s preferred name and pronouns, just as you would for a cisgender* child. If you need to practice with pronouns to get it right, do so! Practice with other family members, practice writing sentences about your child, and practice using your child’s pronoun in your thoughts and out loud. If you need a resource for practicing with pronouns, try this website.

*Cisgender refers to someone who identities with the gender they were assigned at birth. For example, if the doctors told your parents “it’s a girl!” when you were born and you identify as a woman today, you are a cisgender woman.

Ally is a verb, not a noun

Be an ally to your child during the holiday. If a homophobic or transphobic comment is made, don’t stay quiet. Speak up! Address the inappropriate comment and make it clear that similar language or attitudes will not be tolerated at your holiday.

If the conversation grows into an argument, give your child permission to leave the room while you work it out.

If you feel that an argument about LGBTQ issues is inevitable with your family, consider hosting a smaller gathering without homophobic or transphobic relatives so that your child can experience a peaceful and comfortable holiday with you.

Help another queer or trans child this holiday

Not every child is as lucky as yours. Many queer and trans kids do not have accepting families. Consider sharing your love and generosity with another child in need.

You can write a letter to an LGBTQ child this holiday season (Your Holiday Mom) or donate a gift to a trans child who otherwise couldn’t buy a binder, a pride flag, or an LGBTQ book (Trans Santa).

Thank you for reading, and happy holidays!

Coming Out Again and Again
Coming Out Again & Again 495 401 cj

Coming Out Again & Again

Coming Out Again and Again

Coming Out Again & Again

By Leo Kirkham

As Dr. Sarah Bruce wrote in her blog post for last year’s Coming Out Day, coming out is a journey, not a destination. There is rarely one single moment in a person’s life where they come out, but rather, a series of choices every single day about whether to come out to the random stranger cutting your hair, or to your neighbor, or to your doctor. This puts LGBTQIA people in the position to choose safety or authenticity: Do I choose the comfort of this person knowing my identity, or the comfort of them not knowing?

Coming out can bring feelings of joy, relief, and even euphoria – but it can also bring feelings of fear or anxiety. For some LGBTQIA people, in their journey of exploring their gender and sexual orientation, find that they need to come out again as something new.

Personally, I came out as bisexual before I came out as a lesbian. Then I came out as nonbinary, changed my name, and starting using they/them pronouns. Each coming out marked a new stage of my journey to finding myself, and a step closer to my truest, most authentic self.

But coming out again, and again, was scary. Will the family members and friends who loved and accepted me as a lesbian, still love and accept me as nonbinary? Will they use my new name and pronouns? If I change my name or pronouns in the future, will they understand?

Every new coming out brings with it a new wave of doubts and what-ifs.

Sometimes, family members or friends are accepting of a person’s sexual orientation, but not their gender identity. Or they are okay with their child being gay, but they don’t believe bisexuality is real. Or they were fine with someone changing their name and pronouns once, but think, does that person have to change them again?

There is also the fear of reinforcing negative stereotypes about the LGBTQIA community. For example, I feared coming out as a lesbian and reinforcing the stereotype that bisexuality isn’t real, or that all bisexuals come out as gay in the end. This stereotype isn’t true, but often LGBTQIA folks, like other minorities, face the burden of having to represent their entire community. Stigma and stereotypes arise when individuals are taken to represent all LGBTQIA people.

Instead, we should give individuals the freedom to explore their identities without judgment. Every new coming out should be greeted with joy and celebration. Tell your child or loved one, “Thank you for trusting me. Thank you for telling me. Thank you for being your true, authentic self with me.” By creating a safe environment for your loved ones, you encourage them to be confident, be brave, and be themselves.

How to Affirm Your LGBTQ+ Students
How to Affirm your LGBTQ+ Students 495 401 cj

How to Affirm your LGBTQ+ Students

How to Affirm Your LGBTQ+ Students

How to Affirm your LGBTQ+ Students

By Jay Baldwin

It’s back to school season, and schools across the United States are welcoming a new set of youth into their classrooms. Going back to school can cause a variety of emotions for students, and LGBTQ+ students are no exception. Many queer and transgender young people have a particular set of challenges to navigate in school settings, and teachers and school staff can make a profound difference in their LGBTQ+ students’ lives by showing them support, affirmation and acceptance. The statistics for many students in the LGBTQ+ community are staggering. The Trevor Projects’ National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health reports:

  • 6 in 10 LGBT students report feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.
  • LGBTQ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers

It is important to emphasize that LGBTQ youth are not inherently prone to suicide risk and mental health issues because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but are at higher risk because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society. (Trevor Project, 2022)

As a teacher, staff or other student support individual, here is the statistic that is most important to remember:
LGBTQ youth who report having at least one accepting adult in their lives are 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt in the past year.

Being an accepting adult could save one of your students’ lives. Here are some simple but meaningful ways that you can be an affirming and accepting adult for your students:

Create visual cues in your office/classroom that signal support for the community

Because many people in the LGBTQ+ community rely on non-verbal cues to know whether someone or somewhere is safe and accepting, small items like a rainbow flag, a safe space sticker, or a pronoun pin that says your own pronouns can signal to your students that you are going to affirm and support their identity.

Avoid gendered language

Using non gendered language is one of the simplest but most affirming ways to create an inclusive atmosphere and also avoid misgendering students. Instead of saying “boys and girls” or “ladies and gentlemen,” try “folks”, “everyone” or “friends.” Use your students’ names as opposed to referring to them with “Mr. or Ms.”

Ask students how they’d like to be referred to

Some students may use a different name or pronouns than you may first assume. One helpful tool is creating a “getting to know you” form that includes asking students what pronouns and name they’d like you to use for them at the beginning of the school year. Because some students live in homes that do not affirm their identity, make sure to ask whether or not it’s okay to use these pronouns and name when speaking with their parents or caregivers.

Keep an open mind, and be prepared to make mistakes

Do you have a student whose identity you don’t completely understand? Maybe you keep slipping up on pronouns, or feel like you don’t know the right terminology? It’s okay to make mistakes or not understand everything right away. The most important part is to keep an open mind, apologize when you make a mistake, and be committed to continually getting to know your students and the ways they want to be seen and known.

Provide statements of affirmation.

Tell your students that their identities are valuable and beautiful. In a world where LGBTQ+ people are regularly under attack, your students need this more than ever.

 

Wishing you all a wonderful back to school season, and here is to creating a safer and more inclusive world for all of our LGBTQ+ youth.

Coming Out As the Parent of An LGBTQ+ Child
Coming Out as the Parent of an LGBTQ+ Child 495 401 Jay Baldwin

Coming Out as the Parent of an LGBTQ+ Child

Coming Out As the Parent of An LGBTQ+ Child

Coming Out as the Parent of an LGBTQ+ Child

By Jay Baldwin

Every week, I meet parents who tell me the story about their child or young adult coming out to them as LGBTQ+. For some parents, their child came out to them at an early age and they are a few years into their journey. For other parents, their children only just came out in the past few weeks or months and they are just starting to navigate what it all means. Whatever the case may be, just as a LGBTQ+ youth has their own coming out process, parents and caregivers of LGBTQ+ youth will have their own coming out process too.

Some parents may find it easy to accept their child as LGBTQ+, while others may express hesitation or uncertainty about their child’s identity. While the journey to understand, accept and affirm an LGBTQ+ child throughout their life is not linear by any means, there are often common themes, themes and emotions that I see expressed by parents who are raising an LGBTQ+ child, regardless of their level of acceptance. Often, this starts with a lot of questions that come from a place of uncertainty, confusion and fear. Depending on one’s cultural and religious beliefs, many parents may wonder things like:

Is my child just going through a phase? Will my child ever get married or have children? Did my parenting style cause my child to be this way? How will people treat my child? How and when do I share my child’s identity with others? 

At Kaleidoscope, we want parents to know that these are all normal and understandable questions and reactions to a child’s LGBTQ+ identity. We also want parents to know that we offer several support groups for parents of LGBTQ+ youth to share their experiences, give and receive support, and learn about valuable resources. Here are a few commonly asked questions:

I’m nervous about attending a support group. What can I expect?

The purpose of our groups is to support you wherever you are in your journey. You are welcome here, and you will not be judged or shamed in any way.

I love my child, and I am also grieving the life I thought my child may have had. Can a support group help me with these kinds of feelings?

Parent support groups can help parents realize that grieving is a process. It is not linear and it takes time to adjust. It can be comforting to talk with other parents who may have similar feelings or initial reactions. Sharing these emotions in a safe space can provide an opportunity for self-exploration of one’s own biases and fears. It can often provide parents with a sense of hope to hear from other parents who have moved from a place of grief to acceptance.

There are groups for parents of neurotypical children and neurodivergent LGBTQ+ children. Is parenting an LGBTQ+ child similar for both cohorts?

Although each child with autism has a unique experience, LGBTQIA+ young people that are also on the autism spectrum may face more complex challenges than their neurotypical peers. It’s important to listen to these young people and consider the potential influence of certain factors, such as theory of mind deficits, social challenges, sensory sensitivity, and more, while also recognizing that autistic youth have as much of a right to identify and express who they are as neurotypical young people.

I’m interested! Where do I sign up? 

If you are interested in joining our Parent/Caregivers Support Group in English or in Spanish, please contact Dr. Joselyn Valle at [email protected]

To inquire about our new Parent Education Group for Parents of LGBTQ+ Autistic Youth that begins in September, contact Dr. Sarah Bruce at [email protected]

Kaleidoscope's Pride Month Recap
Pride Month 2022 Recap 495 400 cj

Pride Month 2022 Recap

Kaleidoscope's Pride Month Recap
kaleidoscope's

Pride Month 2022 Recap

All of us at Kaleidoscope so enjoyed Pride Month 2022. June was a busy month for us and we thoroughly enjoyed participating in so many joyful Pride events.

We kicked off our month with Pasadena’s DCFS LGBTQIA+ Resource Fair on June 1st. It was a true pleasure to share information about our program with the many wonderful DCFS staff who attended the Resource Fair, and we appreciated their interest in our program.

Our next event was the fabulous WeHo Pride Street Festival and Parade on June 4th and 5th. The atmosphere during this weekend was positive, upbeat, and inclusive. The LGBTQIA+ community and their allies brought the fun and everyone was in a great mood. We gave rainbow striped notepads, erasers and lanyards to the folks visiting our booth and we were told our unique pronoun pins were the most popular give-away at the event.

The celebration continued at LA Pride on June 11th. We were truly honored to be a beneficiary of Cheer LA’s fundraising. Cheer LA is an active group of volunteers seeking to promote awareness, spirit, and diversity in the LGBTQIA+ community through dynamic cheer, dance, and stunt performances. Kaleidoscope is thrilled and grateful to receive over $1000 from Cheer LA.

We wrapped up June with one last event, the San Fernando Valley Pride Party on June 25. This family event, held at the Van Nuys Civic Center, was filled with joy, pride, and lots of karaoke!

In addition to attending Pride events, we provided two training sessions for the staff at Muskingum Health Center in Zanesville, Ohio. Muskingum Behavioral Health offers compassionate and effective counseling, prevention and recovery services along with recovery housing. Our Kaleidoscope team members provided a “LGBTQIA+ 101” training to the staff and a “Best LGBTQIA+ Practices for Clinicians” for their clinical staff.

We provided one training session and facilitated three candid conversations for the Segal Benz corporation. We received feedback that these sessions were transformative for the attendees and Segal Benz said they were so thrilled with the Kaleidoscope presenters that they booked their 2023 with us!

And to round out the month, Kaleidoscope provided a webcast on June 7th titled, “Providing Affirming Therapeutic Support to LGBTQIA+ Youth and Young Adults.” This free webcast offered practical strategies and suggestions for mental health professionals, educators, parents, allies, and the community at large. If you missed it or would like to re-watch it, please click here for the recording.

All in all, it was a fun and productive month. If you would like to lend your support to The Help Group’s Kaleidoscope program, please donate here.

Happy Pride everybody!

Our Bodies Are Already Ready by Jay Baldwin
Our Bodies are Already Ready 495 401 cj

Our Bodies are Already Ready

Our Bodies Are Already Ready by Jay Baldwin

Our Bodies are Already Ready

By Jay Baldwin

Summer is upon us, which for many of us brings up images of splashing in the ocean, relaxing by the pool, and soaking up the sun. But every year right before summer, the inevitable shadow is cast upon this otherwise bright season. “Are you beach body ready?” the ads ask us. “Get yourself ready for bikini season!” From magazines, to diet ads, to many other kinds of media, the message is clear: Only certain kinds of bodies are acceptable, desirable, and appropriate for summer, and if we don’t have one of those kinds of bodies, we need to get them “ready”

The Ideal Body Type?

The “ideal” body type in our culture is typically one that is white, cisgender, thin, and able bodied. Messages like this are rooted in patriarchy, misogyny and racism, and have perpetuated a great deal of harm toward people of all genders. Queer and trans bodies, which have been historically othered and positioned as less than compared to their straight and cisgender peers, are impacted by these messages in very specific ways. Not only is there pressure to “get one’s body ready” from an aesthetic standpoint, there is the actual process of moving through the world and buying a swimsuit that can be very challenging for many LGBTQ+ folks, particularly transgender, non binary and any individual – trans or cisgender – who is gender non conforming.

Swimwear can perpetuate the Gender Binary

Swimwear and bathing suits are almost always gendered pieces of clothing that perpetuate the gender binary – the idea that there are only two genders (men and women) and that there are “acceptable” or assumed ways that boys/men and girls/women will dress. They also emphasize certain body parts that can cause trans, non binary and gender non conforming individuals to experience gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is term that describes unease, discomfort or anxiety – sometimes severe –  that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex characteristics and their gender identity. A day at the beach or the pool, one that we associate with fun, carefree times, can be a deeply uncomfortable experience, or one that is avoided altogether, for anyone who cannot find swim wear that is comfortable, affordable and affirms their gender identity and expression.

For trans, non binary and gender non conforming youth who are just coming into their identities and their bodies, this can be a particularly vulnerable time as we head into summer. These youth may be in various stages of coming out and/or in gender transition. They may wonder “Is it safe to present as my chosen gender in a swimsuit? Will I be able to use the correct changing room without being harassed? Will I be misgendered if I wear one kind of bathing suit versus another?”

Affirming Support can make all the difference

If an LGBTQ+ child or teen needs support and help finding a bathing suit, an affirming adult can make all the difference. Let the LGBTQ+ youth in your life know that you know this is not an easy experience, and that they deserve to feel comfortable and happy in their bodies, no matter what they are wearing. It is also important to emphasize that you understand that clothing has no gender, and that they are not obligated to wear anything that gender norms dictate they “should”.

Fortunately, there are now many gender inclusive companies that make swimsuits for LGBTQ+ youth and adults that are comfortable, high quality and gender affirming.

10 Best Places To Buy Gender Inclusive Swimwear has wonderful reviews of many companies that make swimwear for all bodies, genders and gender expressions, and is a refreshing departure from companies that only sell outdated “men and women” swimwear.

This summer, I want to say to the LGBTQ+ community, we’re already ready! We were ready long before anyone told us that we should look, think and act according to harmful and quite frankly ridiculous standards, and we’re waiting for everyone else to catch up. The time is now. May we celebrate our queer and trans bodies, in all their uniqueness, strength and diversity, and shine just as bright as the summer sun.

Kaleidoscope’s Postcard Project 495 400 cj

Kaleidoscope’s Postcard Project

Kaleidoscope’s Postcard Project:

Empowering LGBTQIA+ student and allies to let their voices be heard

This past March and April, multiple Gay Straight Alliances and Diversity Education students across The Help Group participated in Kaleidoscope’s postcard activism project in response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Students were invited to write postcards addressed to the office of Governor DeSantis, voicing support for the LGBTQ+ community and speaking out against harmful legislature that would further restrict the rights of LGBTQ+ students and the educational rights of all students in Florida. Although the Don’t Say Gay bill was sadly passed in the middle of this project, students were given the opportunity to speak out against several other anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and voice their concern and protest. In designing their postcards and participating in this small but meaningful form of activism, students were given a variety of templates to choose from, though the majority of them used their own beautiful words, voicing opinions that all students have rights to education, freedom of speech, and basic human rights.

Statement of Position

In the recent months, we have witnessed a series of nationwide legislative motions that were strategically designed to cause harm to LGBTQIA+ youth and their allies. Most notably, Florida’s Parental Rights In Education bill aka ‘Don’t Say Gay’ was signed into law by their state governor, Ron DeSantis. The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill will prohibit classroom education surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity, and in essence will obligate its teachers to ‘out’ their students (without consent) to their parents. Kaleidoscope condemns the passage of this outwardly discriminative and dangerous bill and others that are similar in nature. For instance, the Texas Senate bill (‘1646’) that would classify providing gender affirming health care to transgender minors as child abuse. As we know, banning discussions around LGBTQIA+ history and limiting supportive services to the community does not stop youth from being LGBTQIA+ youth, in the same way as trying to rid the world of left-handedness was unsuccessful. You are born LGBTQIA+ in the same way you are born left-handed. Oppressive laws and ignorance cannot change this, but what it can and will do is prevent LGBTQIA+ youth from living authentic, safe, and fulfilling lives.

In their National Survey on LGBTQIA+ Youth Mental Health 2021, The Trevor Project reported, “42% of LGBTQIA+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth and 94% of LGBTQIA+ youth reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health.” Kaleidoscope strongly recognizes the notion that supporting LGBTQIA+ youth is not indicative of child abuse; and all allies do, in actuality, is save lives and prevent suicides. NiiLee Cyrus (@jesuisniilee) a trans and queer liberator, educator, and mental health advocate said it best, “My trans agenda is not to turn cis children into trans, but it’s to turn trans children into adults.”

Kaleidoscope stands in solidarity with our allies in Florida and Texas (and, Idaho, Indiana, etc.) who are at the forefronts of fighting the anti-equality bills in their home states. Here in Southern California, Kaleidoscope is teamed up with The Help Group’s nine specialized day schools to help empower their student body in writing post-cards addressed to state legislators in opposition to the various anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation. Legalized, systematic oppression based on archaic cis-hetero ideology and binary thinking is not new. Therefore, we will continue our fight towards sexual and gender liberation by actively supporting and fiercely protecting our LGBTQIA+ youth.

P.S., gay, gay, gay, gay, and gay.

-Kaleidoscope team

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Kaleidoscope offers a range of affirming services; including trainings, consultations, and presentations in community settings. Please reach out to Kaleidoscope to collaborate on their mission to continue improving the quality of life for all LGBTQIA+ youth and young adults. You can email [email protected] to inquire more details.

The Intersectionality Of The Autism and LGBTQIA+ Spectrums 495 401 cj

The Intersectionality Of The Autism and LGBTQIA+ Spectrums

The Intersectionality Of The ASD and LGBTQIA+ Spectrums

April is Autism Acceptance Month, a time to increase understanding of people with autism, and to provide continued support, kindness, and compassion for the autism community. Acceptance is also a big part of Kaleidoscope’s mission to provide services for young people on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and gender expression. April is an important month for us as we celebrate our clients who are on both the autism and LGBTQIA+ spectrums.

Several studies now show that there is a distinct intersectionality of the Autism and LGBTQIA+ spectrums. Intersectionality is defined as a crossroads where two seemingly different things overlap. For example, the research shows that a high number of autistic people identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer as compared to the general population. “Most of the data that we are seeing is that the rate for autistic people who identify as LGBTQIA+ is two to three times higher,” says Clinical Psychologist Eileen T. Crehan, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Tufts University. But larger studies need to be conducted before the true rate is known, she says.

We also know that gender, like autism, exists on a spectrum. The two spectrums, gender and autism, are now considered to frequently overlap. A recent study revealed that gender identity (a person’s internal sense of their own gender) and sexuality are more varied among autistic people than in the general population, and autism is more common among people who do not identify as their assigned sex at birth. Research shows that children with autism are 7.6 times more likely to express gender variance. Clinicians and researchers have noted a trend over the last twenty-five years with increasing numbers of children who are seeking professional care related to gender identity who also identify as autistic or having autistic traits.

Overall, autism appears to be more prevalent among gender-diverse people. A larger percentage of autistic people reported their gender as being something other than strictly male or female, as compared to other people. Gender diversity is defined as an Identity beyond the male/female binary framework. A 2018 Australian survey of transgender teens and young adults found that 22.5% had been diagnosed with autism. Research suggests that people who have an autism diagnosis or autism traits are more likely to identify as transgender. One study found the rate to be 2 -3 times higher in people who have autism.

For some autistic LGBTQIA+ young people, there is a sense of isolation and of not belonging. Belonginess, as defined by Dr. Kenneth Pelletier, at the Stanford Center for Research and Disease Prevention, is “a sense of belonging that is a basic human need – as basic as food and shelter.” Dr. Pelleetier continues, “Social support may be one of the critical elements distinguishing those who remain healthy from those who will become ill.”

Our Kaleidoscope team understands that our autistic LGBTQIA+ clients may find some aspects of “belongingness” challenging due to deficits in social communication and difficulty initiating social interactions. Our hope is that our social support groups can be a resource for those who seek to belong in a community. Our online and upcoming in-person LGBTQIA+ social support groups, Pride Club for teens and Coffee Chat for young adults, offer a sense of empowerment and increased self-esteem for young LGBTQIA+ people, due to a kind, inclusive environment with non-judgemental peers.

Research proves that accepting behaviors by peers and adults such as respect, support, and kindness, can positively impact autistic LGBTQIA+ young people as evidenced by higher self-esteem, better overall health, and a belief that they will be healthy, happy adults.

Cheers to a happy Autism Acceptance Month!