Creating Safe Spaces uses interactive teaching methods and hands on exercises, focusing on the important elements which contribute to creating safe and welcoming environments for lesbian, gay and bisexual (lgb) individuals, couples and families in schools, health and social service agencies, community organizations, and other relevant settings.
In the last twenty years major advances have been made in various fields such as sociology, psychology and human rights legislation and the law, that have permitted Canadians to develop a new understanding of the place of sexual minorities in our communities. These developments have created a need for professionals to update their knowledge base, develop new intervention tools, assess and modify some of their policies and practices and examine their attitudes.
Day 1 : Building the Foundation for Effective Intervention
At least 1/3 of the population is not exclusively heterosexual. For most of us, whatever knowledge we’ve gleaned over time regarding sexual orientation has not been acquired in an academic setting. Yet, what we know, or what we think we know, forms the basis for our attitudes and our interventions.
In this first training day we will explore themes related to many of the myths that, if left unchallenged, negatively influence our attitudes and approaches toward these populations; We will focus on developing tools that fundamentally impact our understanding of the lives of l/g/b youths and adults. Some of the themes we will explore:
What causes sexual orientation?
- What do you say to a single mother who just found out her 15 year old son is gay and feels it’s her fault because she didn’t provide a good male role model for her child?
- How do you help a young woman who worries that her attraction to her female friend is a reaction to the sexual abuse she suffered as a child?
The many hypotheses surrounding the origins of homosexuality have been studied for almost a century. Much is known regarding this topic which, if better understood, could reduce the suffering of thousands of people who realize they’re attracted to someone of their own sex and feel it is the result of something having gone terribly wrong in their upbringing or physical development.
Where do our beliefs come from?
- Did you know that at certain points in the history of western civilization homosexual marriages were celebrated by states and churches?
- Did you know there are other species besides humans who live in monogamous same-sex couples?
Through an historical overview we better understand why and how we’ve come to stigmatize same-sex relationships. As we learn of other ways sexual orientation has been perceived and constructed through time, we challenge the current negative perceptions still widely help in our society.
How can I help?
In order to put into practice what we’ve presented, we will create, through the use of case studies/role-plays, situations with which you might be faced specifically tailored to your work context. Here are some examples of situations that have arisen for participants:
- A 14 year old girl is inconsolable a friend’s move to another province and no one, including her, understand why.
- A 45 year old man is confused because he loves his wife but seeks out sexual encounters with men.
- A 15 year old boy is thinking of leaving school because of the homophobic harassment he experiences daily from his peers.
- A lesbian couple is considering starting a family but is experiencing tensions as one of the two women does not think it necessary for people to know about their relationship or their sexual orientation.
Day 2 : The Arduous Journey to Self- Acceptance
Please note: day 1 is a prerequisite
In this second training day, we explore the complexities of what is commonly referred to as the “coming-out” process. All lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals have had to journey towards an acceptance of their same-sex attractions and feelings. This process can occur at any time in an individual’s life and presents different challenges for men and women, for youth, adults and even the elderly.
In day 1, we explored how this process is made difficult and even hazardous because of the homophobic and heterosexist attitudes and beliefs still present in our culture. In day 2 we present a 6 stage “coming out” model, detailing the challenges associated with each stage. The goal is to help us better identify where an individual may be in his or her process, which in turn helps guide our interventions.
How can I help?
In order to put into practice what we’ve presented, we will create, through the use of role-plays, situations with which you might be faced, specifically tailored to your work context. Here are some examples of situations that have arisen for participants:
- Parents share with you their concern for their 17 year old son who came out to them as gay 2 years ago but tells them he doesn’t want to date guys because he “doesn’t like gays”.
- A 38 year old female friend left her husband of thirteen years 2 years ago when she fell in love with a female colleague. since then, she’s left that woman and has dated at least 6 other women. What do you make of her behaviour?
- A 50 year old man has a serious drinking problem. he eventually confides in you that he’s had sexual encounters with men for the past 30 years or so, never once sober.
- A 15 year old girl asks you how she can tell if her strong feelings for her best friend, another girl, are “normal” or could she be lesbian.