The LGBT+/LGBTQIA+/2SLGBTQ+ community brings people together who advocate for rights and equality in relation to the diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity. As a therapist, one of the ways to support this mission is by being an ally to the community. According to Kids Help Phone, “practicing allyship means being in solidarity with and actively supporting the rights and safety of members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, even if you don’t identify as a part of the community.” It also means “taking action and demonstrating a commitment to promote inclusivity and create systemic change on an ongoing basis”.
How to Become an Ally of the LGBTQI+ Community
Naturally, the first step is to learn as much as you can. And since you’re here, it seems like you’re already doing just that. You’re on the right path! You might already be well-informed, but it’s equally possible that this is all totally new for you (you might find yourself somewhere in the middle as well!). In any case, we want to normalize the fact that some awkward mistakes might come up when you’re working with a member of this community. You might, for example, use the wrong pronoun during a conversation with your client, or you might assume that they are heterosexual. This is normal because it is a broad subject, still not very well understood by the general population, changes often, and is sometimes sensitive because it concerns the individual’s own identity. These types of mistakes will certainly provoke professional development that will evolve throughout the therapeutic relationship. Above all, the most important thing is to be aware of these mistakes and learn from them in order to grow both personally, and professionally. This way, you will be able to provide care and services more suited to your clients’ needs.
Inclusivity Tips to Incorporate into Your Practice
Use gender-neutral vocabulary in forms used by clients. This means avoiding any masculine or feminine pronouns or terms.
Remember to include your own pronouns in appropriate places. For example, your pronouns could be added to your email signature (first name, last name, [pronouns], professional title…) and in your videoconference name (first name, last name, [pronouns]).
Take care to find out about your clients’ sexual orientation when it is appropriate, and do not assume that they are heterosexual.
Get into the habit of starting the discussion with the client when you first start working with them by asking them how they would like to be addressed. Doing so will demonstrate open-mindedness and respect towards them and could actually help build the foundations of therapeutic alliance.
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