Sexual and gender minority (SGM) children and youth are questioning or self-identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) at increasingly younger ages. All too frequently, these young persons feel marginalized and live with fear, harassment, physical or sexual abuse, and a sense of being alone. The demand on teachers, social workers, physicians, psychologists, school counselors, and others caring professionals to provide services and guidance to these individuals is rising exponentially.
As a multivariate population across race, ethnocultural location, class, and other differences, SGM children and youth remain particularly vulnerable. Indeed, as a growing body of transdisciplinary research indicates, they often experience schooling and healthcare services, as well as government and legal services, as sporadic, fragmentary, and insufficient to address the stressors and risks associated with living with the adversity and trauma induced by heterosexism, sexism, genderism, and homo/bi/transphobia.
Key stressors can include 1) neglect by such significant adults as parents, school administrators, teachers, school counsellors, and family doctors and other healthcare professionals; and 2) abuse and victimization through symbolic violence (such as anti-gay name calling and graffiti) and physical violence (such as bullying that includes assault and battery). Key risks may include truancy, quitting school, and running away; developing alcohol and drug addictions, emotional problems, and mental illness; and suicide ideation, attempts, and completions. These dire realities indicate the urgent need for greater synchronicity in research, policy, and practice arenas to deal with these stressors and risks.
Focusing on meeting this need, two leading researchers at iSMSS, Dr. André P. Grace, Professor and Director of Research, and Dr. Kristopher Wells, Assistant Professor and Director of Programs and Services, are conducting research and publishing and presenting their work, with three key goals aimed at making life better NOW for SGM children and youth youth. These goals are:
- to develop evidence-based approaches to comprehensive policy development and implementation focused on meeting the needs of SGM children and youth in education, healthcare, and other sociocultural spaces;
- to advance inclusive education, including comprehensive health education, for SGM children and youth, drawing on new studies that conceptualize growing into resilience as a non-linear, asset-building process of assisting youth to problem solve and thrive; and
- to improve the educational preparation and continuing development of caring professionals including educators and healthcare professionals so they can better serve SGM youth.