The Delaware County Children’s Advocacy Center (DCCAC) sponsored a training for the law enforcement, child welfare, mental health, and medical professionals who make up the Multi-disciplinary Team (MDT) serving the interests of children victimized by sexual abuse.
The training, led Michelle Kline, was titled Opening the Closet Door; MDT approaches inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity. The ultimate benefit will be for individuals of any sexual orientation and gender identity to feel safe and supported by MDT professionals.
Michelle started with definitions: “assigned sex” is male, intersex, or female; “gender identity” is men, gender queer, or women; “gender expression” is masculine, androgynous, or feminine; “sexual orientation” is attracted to women, attracted to men and women, or attracted to men; “sexual behavior” is interacting with men, women, or both men and women.
The definitions provided language that for some professionals is very new. This helps them use the right terminology with other professionals and with lesbian, gay, bisexual (LBG) and transgender youth.
These youths are disproportionately victims of sexual abuse and violence. According to published research, LBG youth are 1.2 times more likely to report parental physical abuse and 1.7 times more likely to report being threatened or injured with a weapon or otherwise assaulted. Transgender street youth in are more likely to be involved in the sex trade than non-transgender counterparts.
Using inclusive language the moment the professional makes contact with the youth can make a big difference in the youth feeling safe. Questions might be phrased, “Do you have a partner?” or “What pronouns do you prefer I use?”
Other steps toward making these youth feel safe are using inclusive paperwork that shows different forms of relationships, inclusive language in brochures, and options beyond male and female for stating one’s gender identity.