LOS ANGELES Los Angeles-area gay, bisexual, and questioning male and transgender (GBTQ) youth of color face individual, organizational, and structural barriers to educational, health and social services, according to a new study by UCLA's Williams Institute. The study, entitled, "Provider Perspectives on the Needs of Gay and Bisexual Male and Transgender Youth of Color," sheds light on the needs and resources available to this little-studied population.
"GBTQ youth of color struggle with homelessness, poverty, family rejection and bullying," said Ilan H. Meyer, the study's principal investigator and Williams Institute Senior Scholar for Public Policy. "Yet, serious barriers exist to providing youth with culturally competent care."
Both schools and service providers struggle to provide institutionally-supported GBTQ-friendly services. Participants were education, medical, and social service providers in Los Angeles. They reported that teachers who want to increase the visibility of GBTQ youth are in need of institutional support, as they are sometimes met with negative reactions from students, parents, and other school staff. And while some individuals within health and social service agencies were equipped to support GBTQ youth, organizations lacked institutional policies, practices or training opportunities to better serve this population.
Even LGBT-oriented services often lacked clear policies and training to help staff serve the needs of the diverse LGBT community; for example, in how they handle prejudice related to race/ethnicity and transphobia among the youth they serve. Further, LGBT-oriented services in Los Angeles County are concentrated in West Hollywood, making it difficult for GBTQ youth who live outside of that neighborhood to access specialized services.
Economic disadvantage and geography stood out as obstacles to obtaining services. "For GBTQ youth of color who need to help support their families, and for homeless GBTQ youth, employment may take priority over educational or social services, said co-author Angeliki Kastanis, Williams Institute Public Policy Fellow.
The report's recommendations for improving support for GBTQ youth of color include:
Increase inclusion of GBTQ youth of color in school-based educational and after school programs, such as athletics, academic clubs, and college preparation courses.
Connect GBTQ youth with adult LGBT role models to facilitate mentorship relationships.
Provide training about best practices and organizational policies related to services to GBTQ youth of color in both LGBT and non-LGBT specific organizations.
Have specific policies in place that are sensitive to the needs of transgender and gender nonconforming youth in schools and service organizations.
Establish connections among community organizations, schools, and other stakeholders to increase opportunities for youth to access and receive needed services, ease transitions between services, and lower the risk of redundancy in service provision.
Integrate care required for some GBTQ youth of color when they experience multiple and challenging stressors, such as homelessness, family rejection, behavioral issues, or substance use problems.
Encourage governmental and private funders to work with service providers to develop creative funding mechanisms that address the needs of GBTQ youth of color.
The study is based on semi-structured qualitative interviews with 39 participants from 20 LA-area organizations. The study was conducted to assess, specifically, the needs of male youth of color, but many recommendations may be relevant to other LGBT populations. More on the study's findings and methodology is available here: http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/ACCESS-final-rev-aug-2013.pdf
The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law is dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy. A national think tank at UCLA Law, the Williams Institute produces high-quality research with real-world relevance and disseminates its work through a variety of education programs and media to judges, legislators, lawyers, other policy makers, and the public. For more information go to: williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/.