Social and Health Impacts on Gender Diverse People and How The Loft can Help

Social and Health Impacts on Gender Diverse People and How The Loft can Help

The Loft is intentional about being a non-discriminatory and safe space for all people no matter who they are or where they come from. To make sure we are competently responding to the needs of everyone, preserving their mana and respecting their energy, we must learn about the people accessing our service.

The Loft team and wider Loft whānau had the privilege of learning about gender diversity and the Rainbow community with The Collaborative Trust. Staff learnt about issues facing gender diverse New Zealanders and basic things we can do to make our services more friendly to the LGBTQIA+ community. 

The training talked about identity exploration and the differences between gender identity, expression, and how you sexually identify. It was particularly interesting discussing the correct use of pronouns and how to apply this in a social and community services practice. The importance of having correct pronouns and options on forms was highlighted and if it isn’t available, the impact that can have on someone having to pick an option that will misgender them. The inclusion of options for pronoun notation as part of our wellbeing assessment has assured our whaiora feel welcome. One of our non-binary whaiora who was seeking a Protection Order expressed relief knowing that we did not assume their gender, and we assured that their connection with a community lawyer would be prefaced with this background.

The Loft has signs in our reception indicating we are a safe space and ask people to advise their pronouns so that we can respect this in our interactions with them. We also have our own pronouns recorded in our email signatures as a sign that we are allies to the Rainbow community. You can learn more about pronoun use in email signatures here.

We also had a korero around the social and health impacts that affect the Rainbow community. They are regularly battling with mental health, housing, employment, social isolation, as well as access to quality health care. Our Kaitūhono Hapori (Community Connectors) have assisted transgender men and women in various contexts. Transgender people often struggle with accessing the residential services that align with their gender, as in the cases of family violence and drug/alcohol rehabilitation. We had one transgender woman who was facing obstacles accessing traditional safe housing for women. With the right advocacy and connections, one of our Kaitūhono supported her into motel accommodation via a local women’s refuge, along with the wraparound support that external agency could offer.

Another of our whaiora is a transgender woman who had been assaulted as a result of her gender identity. Again, our Kaitūhono advocated for her with Work & Income, resulting in allowance of a safety device that made her feel safer in the community.

Finally, we had a whaiora, a transgender man, who was seeking in-patient drug treatment through a men’s programme, though the agency wanted to put him in their women’s unit. This was completely inappropriate, so we wrote a support letter advocating for proper treatment that aligns with our whaiora’s gender.

The Loft practices what we learn in our trainings by offering appropriate support to all who visit regardless of gender or gender expression. We also have a list of rainbow-friendly psychologists for reference and maintain positive working relationships with agencies that promote gender awareness and support the Rainbow community.

While gender diverse people commonly experience discrimination, it was highlighted in the training that they have a unique strength and resilience which gives them a strong sense of inclusivity towards others, individuality and acceptance of difference, plus are passionate advocates for rights. We will continue to celebrate our safe space and be an advocate for the Rainbow community. If your organisation would like to learn more, there is a great resource here  which includes a guide for Mental Health professionals, terminology, sexual orientation, identity, and much more.

Thank you to Ari, from The Collaborative Trust, for taking the time out to inform and educate us about gender diverse people. The Loft welcomes the Rainbow community to seek out our service if you are struggling with any social or health issue and don’t know where to find support. 

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