The way we talk about things can often influence the way we think about them.
At Clinical Yoga Institute we believe in “person first”. This means that we prioritize the identity of individuals as human beings with unique experiences and identities over their status. For example, we avoid describing people as “depressed” and instead refer to them as “a person who is depressed.”
This concept can be carried out as well in the way we refer to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning) The continued use of “minority or marginalized” sets up BIPOC or LGBTQ communities in terms of their quantity instead of their quality and removes their personhood.
The word “minority” also emphasizes the power differential between “majority” and “minority” groups and can make BIPOC or LGBTQ feel as though “minority” is synonymous with inferiority. Though “minority” and “marginalized” may continue to be used in academic spaces, we understand how these terms create and perpetuate negative images and stereotypes of individuals that identify as BIPOC or LGBTQ.
Clinical Yoga Institute honors the unique experiences of Black and Indigenous individuals, People Of Color, LGBTQ and their communities. We believe in the right to be treated with dignity and respect. We strive to better understand, and effectively respond to the range of experiences held by individuals and families with diverse values, beliefs, and sexual orientations, in addition to backgrounds that vary by race, ethnicity, religion, and language.
What about those folks that identify as both? According to a UCLA Health article, youth who are Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) that also identify as LGBTQ+ representation of sexual orientations and gender identities experience higher rates of social discrimination and isolation, including bullying, family rejection and a lack of social support. Here are ways that families and friends can support LGBTQ+ and LGBTQ2S (Two-spirit*) -identified BIPOC youth:
● Help them find diverse representation: It is empowering for youth to see positive, diverse representations of people like them. Connect youth with TV shows, movies, books and social media that represent lives and experiences that mirror their own. This can help to affirm their identity.
● Listen and learn: As youth explain their experiences and identities, it is important to listen to them in a non-judgmental manner. Many of the terms youth use to describe themselves may be new to you (i.e. pansexual, genderqueer) and if so, it can be helpful to do some research before re-engaging in a conversation. This will reaffirm your willingness to support them.
● Encourage access to social groups and support: It is important for young people to be around other youth like themselves. Studies have shown that the more LGBTQ+ youth of color interact with each other, the more resilient they become. Further research has shown that youths who participated in a diverse and multicultural school-based Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) were less likely to miss school due to safety concerns, less likely to feel unsafe because of their sexual orientation and more likely to feel a greater sense of belonging in their school community. For youth without access to in-person resources, there are a number of online support communities that can offer support.
● Believe them, while also supporting their exploration: It has been well-demonstrated that few youths will change their minds about identifying as LGBTQ+. It is important to recognize that these identities are not a phase. At the same time, it is important to encourage and support exploration of gender and sexuality. Many youths will shift identity descriptors over time, depending on what feels most affirming, for example switching from identifying as “gay” to “queer” or from “transgender” to “genderqueer.” Though it may be confusing at first, these identity descriptors can be important in helping youth feel comfortable and understood.
● Advocate for inclusion in school curricula: The histories and key events for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people are often left out of school curricula. It has been shown that Black and Indigenous LGBTQ+ students who had some positive representation in their curricula were less likely to feel unsafe in their sexual orientation and gender expression. Encourage your local schools to upgrade their lessons to include this important history and information.
● Seek out alternative histories: In addition to advocating for inclusion in school curricula, help youth discover their history and the people who have fought for them. So much of mainstream LGBTQ+ history focuses on white people, even though an enormous part of LGBTQ+ rights were achieved because of the efforts of BIPOC individuals like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. Learning more about tribal histories can empower Indigenous youth by understanding that Two-Spirit people (LGBTQ2S) hold unique and powerful roles within their communities.
● Encourage other adults to do the same: Support BIPOC LGBTQ+ youth if they choose to have similar conversations with other adults such as extended family and family friends. Encourage other adults to listen openly and without judgement, to affirm youth in their exploration of identity descriptors and to encourage their search for social groups. LGBTQ+ youth benefit most from a robust community of support — a network of both peers and adults.
According to the MHA, 41% of our US population are BIPOC. 30% identify as LGBTQ. For more information on how to support individuals or for mental health help please reach out to https://mhanational.org or www.connect.uclahealth.org