LGBTQ youth are often confronted with a number of challenges including bullying, sexual harassment, family and societal rejection, and discrimination. Research has indicated that LGBTQ youth are not passive recipients in the face of assaults but rather have a variety of coping strategies in order to remain resilient, having the ability to confront such adversities and “grow.” The following list of coping strategies has been offered by LGBTQ youth. There are multiple ways to cope. There is no one right way to cope. Each youth is unique and his or her situation is different. This list of Coping Strategies has empowered LGBTQ youth in their personal journeys.
We suggest that you look through this list and put a check mark by the coping strategies you have tried. Hopefully, these strategies have helped you. But, if you feel you could use a little extra help, we suggest that you look through the entire list and then choose any new strategies that you would like to try. This list of coping strategies is intended to help you discover new ways that you can move forward on your personal journey to feel more empowered.
If there are additional things that you have found helpful that are not on this list of Coping Strategies, please add them at the end so we can share them with other LGBTQ youth. Thank you for taking the time to fill out this Empowerment Checklist.
The Coping Strategies fall into five categories: (I) Self-acceptance, (II) Connecting with others, (III) Physical and Emotional Self-care, (IV) Being Socially Active, and V Being Flexible. Please review all five lists, indicating which one’s you have tried.
I understand what LGBTQ means (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning).
I can list what is good about being a member of LGBTQ.
I resist accepting stereotypes associated with what it means to be male or female.
I experiment with gender roles, being able to display both male and female traits.
I sometimes choose to hide my sexual orientation and gender identity.
I have a sense of freedom and feel stronger for rejecting societal stereotypes.
II. Connecting with Others
I have the courage to believe in being who I am and reject the negativity others try to put on me.
I can define myself by positive traits, not only in terms of my sexual orientation and gender identity.
I share my daily experiences with supportive others (friends and adults).
I developed an “ally,” and thus, not feel alone.
I have searched out the services and support of members of the LGBTQ community.
I feel connected with others.
I visit places that are tailored to LGBTQ youth.
I talked to others who have had similar experiences of “coming out” and learn from their experiences.
I am a member of a social support groups such as a gay-straight alliance; hanging around people who are nonjudgmental and accepting.
I volunteered (or plan to volunteer) to help LGBTQ groups. I have attended (or plan to attend) a pride day event.
I have visited (or plan to visit) various websites, read books, watch movies, attend concerts, and listen to music that helps me feel connected and more empowered. (See the list of Website addresses at the end of this Checklist.)
I share my coming out experiences with others, who are just coming out as a way to help them through a difficult time.
I can just enjoy myself like any other youth.
At school, I can find a person (teacher, counselor, coach, and peer) who can be supportive.
I can answer the following questions: “If I were absent from school, who besides my friends would notice I am missing and would miss me?” “If I had a problem in school, who besides my friends could I turn to for advice and guidance?” “How can I build more school friendships and allies?”
III. Physical and Emotional Self-Care
I am responsible and take care of myself.
I know what to do and say if someone calls me names, teases, or bullies me (for example, calls me “a fag”).
I make smart decisions and avoid risky situations.
I avoid unsafe places. I have risk assessment skills that I can use.
I am careful about who I disclose to about my sexual orientation. The world is filled with homophobic and transphobic individuals and groups. I can be vigilant and cautious, when necessary.
I have a plan of what to do if “coming out” is a negative experience. I know how to get help and whom to talk to (for example, Youth’s Helplines on PFLAG and www.reachout.com ).
I have a plan on what to do if someone “outs me.”
I engage in emotional self-care . I ask for help when I need it. I can use relaxation and mindfulness and meditation activities; engage in activities that I like to do and find enjoyable, either alone or with others. (listen to music, text and use my computer, read, be with friends, exercise, dance, etc.)
I do activities that give me “positive feelings” such as feelings of joy, gratitude, forgiveness to myself and others, and awe by enjoying nature.
I engage in some form of exercise on a regular basis in order to make me feel better.
I plan for the future and have hope about how things are changing and improving. For instance, how attitudes are changing toward the LGBT community (laws about same-sex marriage and public acceptance). Keep things in perspective.
I have learned to “talk back” to the emotional part of my brain. I can learn to exert control over my impulses, and emotional urges that may get me into trouble.
IV. Being Socially Active
I have a desire to become more knowledgeable and aware about issues that affect the LGBTQ community.
I can learn about the history of the LGBTQ community. What sacrifices others have made in the past to address the needs of LGBTQ individuals.
I can list famous people in the past and present who are homosexual, bisexual, or transgender. I can look to them as inspirational models and mentors.
I can educate and support other LGBTQ youth as well as “straight” peers.
I can work to bring about changes in my school. For instance, become part of a gay-straight alliance; encourage my school to reduce bullying and sexual harassment offering specific recommendations ; and how teachers and principals can become more sensitive to the needs of LGBTQ youth. I can work with others to bring about these changes. I see myself as a “change agent.” I can make a difference.
I can become more vigilant about homophobic comments such as “That’s so gay,” and educate others about gender stereotypes.
I can participate in school and community activities such as public forums, political rallies, LGBTQ activities, and student-led drama groups that devise and perform plays about homophobia in order to educate others.
I can gain strength through advocacy and by engaging in empowerment projects.
V. Being Flexible
I can pick and choose from this list of coping strategies and use what I think will work for me in a particular situation. I can evaluate how well it worked and learn from the outcome.
I can be flexible in how and where I spend my time and with whom I share my story.
I am comfortable with my gender identity and sexual orientation.
I can be “in charge” by having “SMART” goals—Specific, measureable, attainable, relevant, and time-limited goals. What is it that I value most and what is my ACTION PLAN to achieve these goals and help myself and others.
List any other strategies or activities you have used to feel more empowered about your sexual orientation or who you are. _____________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.
www.glaad.org, www.reachout.com, www.glsen.org, and www.glsh.org
Possible Ways to Use the LGBTQ Youth Empowerment Checklist:
can be used in many different ways by youth and those who serve them:
LGBTQ youth can be asked, “If they are at all interested in learning how other youth like themselves have become more empowered being a member of the LGBTQ community?” if they answer “yes,” then the empowerment checklist can be given to the youth. This should be followed up with a discussion of what the youth thought of the checklist items? Which coping strategies did he/she check and a discussion of examples how the youth used that coping strategy and how did it work? “Were there any coping strategies on the Checklist that the youth thought he/she might want to try?” discuss where and how this coping strategy might be employed? What barriers or obstacles might get in the way? How could the youth tell if the coping strategy was working? “Is there anyone the youth would like to show the empowerment Checklist or share what he/she has learned?”
It is not JUST taking the empowerment checklist that WILL be helpful, but the discussion that follows that WILL be MOST valuable.
For instance, if there is a group of LGBTQ youth who meet, they each can be asked to fill out the checklist and then they can discuss the notion of coping strategies in the group which coping strategies did they already use and are there any others on the list that they could try? In future group sessions, they can discuss this “strengths-based approach” to building resilience.
They need to focus their story telling on sharing the “REST OF THEIR STORIES” of what they are doing to cope, in spite of whatever distress they are experiencing in school, home, and in the COMMUNITY.
The LGBTQ YOUTH EMPOWERMENT CHECKLIST can be added to various websites, as a self-assessment tool. As a result of going through this list, there is the possibility of providing suggestions for ways to cope more effectively and build resilience.
Those who want to be of support to LGBTQ youth such as family members, educators, ministers, and friends can become familiar with the items on the checklist and in the process of providing help incorporate some of the coping strategies listed. Provide LGBTQ user-friendly resources and create an inviting learning safe environment.
Parents of LGBTQ youth can review this youth empowerment Checklist and glean examples of ways to support their children. Parents need to be encouraged to convey that “I love you, I accept you, be who you are.”
Members of the LGBTQ community when providing information and guidance to LGBTQ youth can give explicit examples of how they used the various coping strategies and how engaging in that coping activity proved helpful. These accounts should be engaging and instructive. Highlight the LGBTQ “It gets better” campaign.
STORY TELLING IS a POWERFUL MEANS OF BEING SUPPORTIVE. The empowerment Checklist can act as reminder in the guidance of such “story-telling,” as a form of modeling or mentoring.
Members of the media and governmental officials can use the Checklist as a guide to evaluate what supportive resources are indeed available in schools, in the community, and the like to provide ways for LGBTQ youth to navigate successfully their personal journey? Encourage the use of gender-neutral language.