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Prevention Work In LGBTQ Communities featuring Guest Writer Johnanna Ganz

First, I am not the sole authority on the LGBTQ community. There are many voices and many identities that I do not represent. I use my position and the things I have learned through my education and work experience to inform the work of sexual violence prevention in the LGBTQ community. In order to talk about prevention among adults, we have to trace back the roots of cultural messages that kids receive about their bodies, identities, and sexualities. We have to consider the larger picture in which sexual violence occurs.

1. Recognize and dismantle the systemic construction of LGBTQ status as problematic or outsider. That’s a lot of big words. What this means is that every element of our culture—family relationships, education, religion, media, etc.—needs to change the messages they send about sexual and gender identity. It’s not just changing the idea that being LGBTQ is bad; it’s bigger than that. This is about changing the narrative and assumptions that being heterosexual is fundamentally normal and good—this kind of thinking creates a narrative that still places LGBTQ as outsiders to what is “normal” and thus, deserve to be marked as different—even if that’s not a bad thing being marked creates greater potential to harm. This video can be a good starting place to help put things in perspective.

2. Create/Teach a Sexual Education Course That Includes Gender and Sexuality Diversity. This normalizes LGBTQ existence and it doesn’t make assumptions about what is normal. Providing a truly comprehensive curriculum removes the stigma of being LGBTQ, which removes the power to use LGBTQ status as a weapon of control. Sexual violence is about the exercise of privilege, power, and control over another person. Fear of being harmed, losing your job, housing, or loved ones is a powerful tool to keep people compliant and all are completely legal in some states; these are ideal conditions to allow sexual violence to be ongoing and/or unreported. This toolmight help!  

3. Understand that Intersectional Identities Matter. When working to prevent sexual violence, it is important to be thinking through and taking steps to address how different intersections of identities might increase or decrease the likelihood and long term effects of sexual violence victimization. Other structural oppressions like race or disability status or social-economic status might impact victim/survivors. These elements matter in addressing prevention work especially within the LGBTQ community.

4. Grasp the legacy and prevalence of violence against LGBTQ identified folks. It is essential to understand that the rates of violence against LGBTQ folks are off the charts. Specifically, understanding that the rates of sexual violence against Lesbian, Bisexual, and Gay identified folks are (almost all) higher than their heterosexual counterparts. For trans-identified folks, the rate of sexual violence are as high as 1 in 2. It’s still legal in 28 states to discriminate against LGBTQ people in the arenas of employment and housing. Meaning that you can be fired or refused the right to housing based solely on LGBTQ status. In 29 states, public accommodations discrimination is legal. For credit and lending practices, it’s legal in 37 states to discriminate. These maps can help you see what this looks like in reality.

That’s a little big for just us, right? So, focus on what you can control! What changes to education curriculum can you make in your community? How does your organization unintentionally create subtle messages that privilege heterosexual relationships or does not acknowledge the existence of LGBTQ status? Sexual violence prevention in the LGBTQ community starts so much earlier than in late adolescence or early adulthood. More importantly, sexual violence prevention for LGBTQ identified folks isn’t just a problem for LGBTQ folks. This is stuff thateveryone needs to know about and work towards.

Final helpful hints about doing prevention work within the LGBTQ community:

1.  our best tool will always be to listen and honor the information give to you by those in the LGBTQ community.

2.  Work with community leaders and be a public ally to the LGBTQ community, whether or not the communities are visible in your area. Remember that living as an out-and-proud LGBTQ person can literally endanger someone’s life, livelihood, housing, etc.

3.  When doing prevention and advocacy work, do not out people. Ever. Ever. EVER.

4.  Use the pronouns and names people give you. You do not decide what is or is not valid for anyone other than you. Be a mirror and reflect back what you hear from the folks right in front of you. Do not carry over every lesson and apply it to every situation.

Carry on and keep doing great work, prevention friends!

Featuring Guest Writer: Johnanna Ganz