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USA

Training urged for state workers on interacting with LGBTQ youth

All state employees and contractors should receive "basic training" for interacting with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth, according to a report publicized Thursday that seeks to confront the stubborn problems of violence and homelessness that disproportionately affect certain groups of young people.

So-called LGBTQ youth have been three times as likely as others to be "forced into sexual contact against their will," and they are also three times more likely than others to be "hurt with a weapon at school," according to the report.

Corey Prachniak-Rincon, director of the Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Questioning Youth that issued the report, said he does not have an estimate for what the basic training would cost, but he said content has been developed and the training could be conducted online.

The commission also reiterated its recommendation that state agencies encourage employees to voluntarily share their preferred gender pronouns – such as he, she, or the gender-neutral they.

"A lot of people would be amazed how many youth prefer to use gender-neutral pronouns," said Prachniak-Rincon, who goes by the gender-neutral pronouns of they, them and their.

The report also recommends that government agencies collaborate on addressing familial rejection of LGBTQ youth, finding that such rejection is a "root cause" of other problems that LGBTQ youth experience disproportionately, such as homelessness.

"The disparities facing LGBTQ youth in the Commonwealth are vast and varied, but most are closely tied – in one way or another – to the rejection and exclusion of these young people from broader society," the report concluded.

This fall Massachusetts voters will cast ballots on whether or not to repeal the 2016 law banning transgender discrimination in public accommodations and granting transgender people access to bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

The report publicized Thursday describes the "incredibly tenuous nature of the advancements that LGBTQ youth have seen, especially those facing intersectional forms of discrimination."

Elijah Oyenuga, a 20-year-old transgender man from Dorchester, described experiences he had at a hospital emergency room that made him apprehensive about seeking out emergency medical care.

Suffering from a panic attack as teenager, Oyenuga went to a hospital and the staff appeared "confused" by his gender identity while treating him, and "mis-gendered him" while he was there, adding to his stress, Oyenuga told the News Service, after addressing a group of LGBTQ supporters at the State House on Thursday.

Then after hurting his knee, Oyenuga received medical care and one nurse "didn't understand" his gender identity, he said. Those experiences made him "not want to go to the emergency room anymore," according to Oyenuga who did not specify where he was treated.

Grayson Anderson, a 16-year-old who identifies as non-binary, was pleased by the "amazing and supportive" staff at school "even in a mostly conservative town" – Westfield. School officials have accommodated Anderson's non-binary identity, Anderson said.

Feelings of rejection can contribute to homelessness among LGBTQ youth, and the report noted that some studies find LGBTQ youth face more than twice the risk of homelessness than their peers.

The report recommends policies to make it easier for homeless youth to obtain state IDs. Legislation seeking to achieve that outcome received a favorable report from the Transportation Committee.

The report also recommends banning so-called conversion therapy, whose practitioners seek to influence people to become heterosexual, and recommends "decriminalizing consensual sexual relations among parties close in age," without specifying age ranges.

By Andy Matzger

12 May 2018 

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