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Transcripts of Selected Group Discussions on CYC-Net

Since it's founding in 1997, the CYC-Net discussion group has been asked thousands of questions. These questions often generate many replies from people in all spheres of the Child and Youth Care profession and contain personal experiences, viewpoints, as well as recommended resources.

Below are some of the threads of discussions on varying Child and Youth Care related topics.

Questions and Responses have been reproduced verbatim.

ListenListen to this

Same sex relationships?

Should we encourage youth to have same sex relationships if they feel that this is their orientation? Same conditions would apply as opposite sex relationships – we meet their partners, they behave responsibly, safe sex etc.

I’m interested to hear everyone’s views.

Dave Sinclair
CYC Student

Hi Dave

Yes ! Absolutely – in the same way we could encourage safe, healthy respectful and loving relationships in a heterosexual relationship – equality is at the heart of good relational practice.

John Paul Fitzpatrick
University of Strathclyde

Hey Dave,

I absolutely think we should encourage youth whatever their sexual orientation is to meet people and socialize. This is important for long-term comfort and love once they become adults. If we frown upon it or even discourage it then we will hurt the youth in the long run and could even make them feel ashamed. LGBTQ youth have at a higher risk to commit suicide because they don't feel accepted by others. Isn't the point of youth care work to meet the young person where they are and be that support system they might not have anywhere else?

I live in Canada where same-sex couples have all the same rights as a heterosexual couple do and this week Toronto has come alive to host a World Pride event. It personally doesn't bother me what a person's orientation is, whether it is a youth, co-worker or stranger on the street. I would have the same reaction. Who you love is none of my business, if that person makes you happy, then who am I to judge?

Kathryn Colford

The youth we work with in Child and Youth Care tend to arrive at our doors with significant (and often traumatic) relationship "baggage", meaning the core relationships from their young lives were dysfunctional in any number of ways. We need to encourage and empower youth to have safe, non coercive, mutually beneficial relationships. We need to provide safe, healing spaces for youth to explore and define who they are and to discover who they are/can be in relationship. One's orientation (itself a fluid concept) does not alter our obligation to do so.

Evelyn Downie, YCW
Nova Scotia

What messages are u conveying in the manner in which you frame this question? Are you or the organization you work for open to youth being who they are or who others want them to be?

Is it okay for you in your work to encourage youth to explore heterosexual relationships? All persons need support and guidance in relationship building regardless of who they are with.

What education night you or your organization need to embark on to meet the needs of youth exploring same sex attraction lead full filling, safe and healthy lives in romantic relationships? Youth who date members of their gender often have to deal with social stigma, bias and hateful judgements and real danger of attack, isolation or abandonment by people they love and of others and need support. Parents need support often too. PFLAG may have a chapter near you. There are countless resources on the web for reaffirming actions for youth exploring lgbtq identification. Stay away from resources that are biased or not affirming as they can do incredible damage to a young person.

How lucky this young person has you to help guide them in developing healthy relationships with members of their same gender!

Peter D.

Why wouldn't we? What I would like to know is how to discourage relationships amount housemates. It is a pretty standard rule that housemates or kids housed in the same facility should not be in a relationship together. How is this discouraged?


Hi Dave,

It is a very important question because same sex relationships are still very much a taboo topic – even though many people don't believe so.

You are going to encounter a wide range of opinions, because this is very much a subjective opinion for most.

You should consider the culture of the organisation as well.

In my opinion, yes why not? Treat it like any another relationship.

I think the biggest obstacle is our own baggage and beliefs about gay, lesbian, bisexual, transexual or intersex orientations/situations. When you deal with that (our own beliefs), the rest is easy. The real questions to ask is "what do I believe about this, and how do my beliefs affect my work and relationships with the children I care for?".

I think we should encourage children to be who they are, whatever that may be, and provide them with a safe accepting environment. But we should not "encourage" same sex relationships – any more than we encourage hetero-sex relationships... Why would we?

It remains a sticky topic however and it will for a while, and you are bound to deal with many different opinions on the matter. I guess the best we can do is to model acceptance of all people.

Good luck.

South Africa

We need to teach youth about healthy relationships, consent, self respect, birth control, and safer sex practices. Sexual orientation is completely irrelevant.

Carol May Watson

I think instead of using the word encourage we use the word support, and yes it is our job as Child and Youth Care Professionals to support youth in their development. The important issue for LGBTQ youth is to let them know that we are supportive and affirming, and we need to meet the youth where they are by supporting them in any way the youth needs. For some youth they are questioning and exploring, and their gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation (SOGIE) may change and this is where Child and Youth Care workers have a hard time, is when their SOGIE changes, but the important thing is that we support, no matter what. Exploring SOGIE is no different than any other development process. For example, if a client wants to dress like a “goth” one day, and a “prep” the next day, would we have an issue? Probably not.

What we can do is make sure that youth understand what a healthy appropriate relationship is, and what safe sex is, no matter who the youth is exploring a relationship with (no matter if it’s a male/male relationship or a male/female relationship). We shouldn’t be treating any relationship different, because that can be grounds for discrimination and creates an environment of mistrust which can cause other youth to not want to explore their SOGIE development. Also, just because an environment is affirming does not mean more youth will become LGBTQ, but rather they will feel comfortable just being themselves.

Chelsea Krise

Hey Dave,

I am also a student and am currently working with youth in a community setting. Our office operates on a voluntary and somewhat drop in basis so my opinion is reflective of my experience there. The youth I work with who are discussing relationships are ages 12-16.

I wouldn't say "encouraging" intimate/romantic relationships is something I would ever do, but I definitely ensure the girls feel as though I am not judging their relationship choices. I would never discriminate against a client who is in a same sex relationship and would not treat a conversation with them any differently than other clients.

I do always encouraging discussions around healthy relationships with individuals and in groups. Safe sex practices are something that comes up regularly in conversations and whether a client is in a same sex relationship or not, ensuring everyone understands the risks associated with what they're doing is the important part.

With clients who aren't choosing to use safer sex methods and are with multiple partners I try to find more accessible resources to give them like the sexitsmart app we have in Ottawa that allows clients to receive free condoms in the mail. I have also gone to the Sexual Health Centre with clients to receive information on birth control and so they know of another location they can receive free condoms and do sti testing.
Relationships are a normal and healthy part of life and as long as clients are being safe and can identify what is healthy in a relationship and what isn't then I believe we can be a positive and supportive part of that, as long as it isn't against our organization's policy.


Jael Henri
Algonquin College

Why would it be any different than if they were dating someone with a different ethnicity or race? We apply our practices to all kids equally, as you suggest.

Lorraine Fox

Interesting question Dave. I would encourage you to remove the “same sex” part of the relationship and ask yourself the question for all youth. Should we encourage youth to have relationships? How do we explore the risks and benefits of relationships with youth in a healthy and developmentally sensitive way? What are the youth looking for in a relationship? Etc…

I find that removing any focus on gender allows for a more open and less targeted exploration. And yes, in these conversations, disclosures are often made. If I am careful to keep my language gender neutral (e.g. what qualities attract you in a person?), it allows youth to come to conclusions that they most likely are aware of. I am careful to talk about ‘my partners’ and all aspects of daily life in a gender neutral way as well.

For younger individuals, I would talk about friendships in much the same way. I would not assume the gender of friends they may have.

Here is a great Ted Talk about sexual relationships that offers a new and more empowered metaphor for talking about sex: pizza!

With parental permission, I may watch this video with youth. On the other hand, I often encourage parents to watch this with their children and offer and opportunity to talk about it together if the youth or parent feels they need support.

Sheila Porteous

I don't necessarily believe we should encourage or discourage sexual relationships for youth, but instead, probe into questions that get youth thinking so they can make an educated decision for their lives. What does it mean to him/her to be in an intimate relationship? Intimate – what is that? Does it necessarily mean sexual relationship? Physical? social companion? Spiritual connection? Best friend? etc? What are they looking for in the relationship. Same goals to share? Are they afraid to be alone or are they experimenting with different social scenes or orientation as means to find belonging or find out who they are? Or, do they feel confident on who they are and where they want to go and now taking a stand in being in a relationship with a partner they know is suited for them?

Many questions to ask, as each individual is on their own journey. Specifically with same sex relationships, I believe it is important for the individual to do deep self reflection and have supports to help clarify if that is in fact who they are as a person, or if it is an exploration/curiosity, or perhaps confusion and what that means going into the future (children? family supports, friendship circle of trust and support) – I think safety and responsibility of choices is key, and so it is up to the youth to decide what is best for them, but they need the structure of sound reason to help guide them and answer some tough questions.

Sometimes, this takes youth deep into thought about why they crave intimacy. Sex VS intimacy are 2 separate things. Especially if there are issues of past or present experiences of abandonment, abuse, molestation/rape, neglect, low self esteem, co-dependancy, addiction, etc, the question of why they desire to be in a certain relationship can get messy. Is it a HEALTHY or HARMFUL relationship?

Many questions to ask.... important questions to ask. Connection and trust.

Dana MacCallum

Absolutely! Youth who identify as LGBTQ should have the same rules as youth who identify as heterosexual. I am curious to hear what reasons come up with why this shouldn't be the case, because I personally can't think of any reasons why we, especially as Child and Youth Care workers, should discriminate against LGBTQ youth.

Jen Pothier

Dear Dave,
I think your question is one which by now we should all consider obselete and yet it is not. I am content to be heterosexual and happy not to be bi-sexual or homosexual, because that's the way I am – or was – I'm getting a bit ancient now. But equally if I had any other sexual orientation I would like to think I would equally be pleased to be that. So why is the question raised ? I think because we remain unsure and insecure about sexuality. This is a long winded way – which demonstrates my sensitivity about this – of saying you shouldn't have to ask the question Dave, but I think I know why you are. In the final analysis as you wisely imply, it should not matter at all. Working with young people in relation to their sexuality, we should not need to encourage anything, we should let it be.

Best wishes,

Safety always comes first in any relationship. So it is very important to educate the youth on safe sex practices. In regards to a same sex relationship, the importance is on the values and principles. That is what needs to be practiced. Those being: honesty trust respect communication love patience and tolerance. These are traits that we need to honor and practice with a partner in any relationship. :-)

G. Kowaski

I am listening to the arguments for same sex relationships in this forum as well as in other forums and one question comes to light in each of these. What are we really questioning: A youth’s right to make decisions, whether it be on sexual orientation or on what to eat, or is it really our own values about these subjects?

As child and youth workers we often do what is in the best interest of the child but my experience has taught me that this phrase is often a cover for what I think is in the best interest for this child based on my values and beliefs. In answer to your question I feel that yes, we should support a youth that makes such a choice, just like any other relationship. A youth has a right to choose. It is our responsibility to guide and support the youth to deal with the choices they make rather than to make the choices for them.

Darryll Viljoen

In being in a same-sex relationship myself, I would promote safety in any relationship. Meeting the partners is a great start. Being prepared and open to questions around safe sex and teaching about healthy relationships. What are healthy relationships? What does that look like? Those questions apply to anyone in or thinking about being in a relationship. I agree that one's personal Values, beliefs and principles should not be transferred onto the questioning client, it is self exploration and one that should be encouraged and not redirected.

Jennifer Bell

I just would like to throw my thoughts cuz some of you are focusing on the wrong word in this.

I would like to see ANY relationship formed with the youth more positive than negative. (although negative is another debate)

Same, opposite, who cares. (Well the youth does….. but really does it matter?)

Some youth need a long lasting relationship to grow into a better person. Others need a certain type of relationship to grow.

People in general need same as well as opposite “gender” (in the broad sense) to be: Challenged, comforted, welcomed and loved.

Donna Wilson

I appreciate the perspective on being aware of "best interest" bravado and our own projections and those of political correctness. Indeed we do need to be aware if we are promoting a social or political agenda regardless of the situation huh? It is also important that we educate young people on the interlocking systems of cultural and political, social and familial networks and milieus to determine how safe they are in coming out as gay or frankly as sexual at all. Sometimes it is not safe to be sexual or engage in sexual self expressions of any stripe. I am thinking here inn terms of abstinence-only communities, etc..

Peter D.

My opinion to the actual question is "absolutely", for many of the reasons already listed. However, that does not seem to be the real point worth discussing here (as it should not really be a discussion).
I believe this question points out a possible hesitation from yourself or possibly the agency in which you are at. If practitioners are feeling discomfort in working with LGBTQ youth, that is an important thing to recognize. If there are underlying bias/opinions that are not addressed, working with LGBTQ youth could be hurtful to them. I believe first looking at ones own values, seeing "where do I fit with this topic?" is the fist step. If there are bias' that you are aware of, sometimes the most supportive thing you can do is recognize where you cannot help and find external resources, or even other staff within the agency to FULLY support that young person.

Also keep in mind that many of the high-risk youth (at least in North America) are in compromised situations (aka homeless) due to the fact that fall on the LGBTQ spectrum. Many of these young people have been kicked out for being gay/trans, or have left home due to emotional/physical abuse for the same reasons. What these youth need is what everyone needs – to be heard, respected for who they are, and helped along the way in terms of education.

Laura Stolte

Support, support, support! Regardless of sexual preference, love the youth for who they are, the choices they make and the paths they walk.

Emma Jean

Good answer Laura. interesting that the question was posed as "same conditions would apply to opposite sex..." People still shy away from honest conversations. It's perfectly acceptable to have questions or concerns if you are not familiar with the queer community and what it feels like to be gay, bi, trans, even questioning.
Paramount to supporting all youth is helping them have HEALTHY and SAFE relationships. In my experience, people enjoy and appreciate the respect that comes with an open and non-judgemental dialogue.


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