EmpowerMT supports, mobilizes, and engages LGBTQ+ youth and allies as leaders in tackling individual and institutional transphobia and homophobia in an effort to build safer schools and communities. This is accomplished through our local LGBTQ+ drop-in group Youth Forward, the development of statewide Gender and Sexuality Alliances (formerly Gay-Straight Alliances) youth leaders and adult mentors, and by coordinating a coalition of statewide partners working towards LGBTQ+ inclusion through the Montana Safe Schools Coalition. EmpowerMT is a sought-out resource and model for supporting, empowering, and creating safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth in Montana.
Youth Forward is a safe and supportive drop-in space for youth 13-18 who identify as LGBTQ+. Youth Forward takes a holistic approach to meeting the needs LGBTQ+ youth through weekly activities such as interactive discussions, peer-to-peer support, leadership development, guest speakers, and community engagement.
We explore topics such as Healthy Relationships, LGBTQ+ culture, Youth Empowerment, Healing through Self-Care, Know Your Rights, Exploring the Gender Spectrum, Family and Support, Poetry and Art Projects, Religion and Spirituality, Allyship Skills, Positive Identity Development, and so much more!
Youth Forward will meet every Wednesday from 4:00-6:00pm at Empower Montana located at 2300 Regent suite 101. This time will be consistent throughout the summer, but is subject to change once the school year begins. For more info contact our staff at 406-541-6891 or email email@example.com.
BE YOU CREW
Be You Crew is a weekly educational support group and for LGBTQ+ identifying youth and allies between 4th and 7th grade. Be You Crew is a safe space for young LGBTQ+ people to explore and gain confidence in their identities and for non-identifying youth to learn about their LGBTQ+ counterparts and how to effectively be an ally.
Throughout the school year, Be You Crew meets weekly on Thursdays from 4:00-5:30pm. This group meets at the EmpowerMT Office located at 2300 Regent Suite 101. For additional information or to learn about Be You Crew’s summer plans, feel free to give us a call at 406-541-6891 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
MONTANA Gender & Sexuality Alliance (GSA)
Research shows that GSAs provide a safe space for students to find support and safety within their school environment. EmpowerMT has long been recognized for empowering LGBTQ+ youth across the state of Montana and in 2012 we were designated the Montana statewide coordinator for the GSA Network. The Montana GSA Network provides support to these student clubs to improve their school climate for all students through:
- Supporting GSAs: we provide support and guidance for all clubs – from emerging GSAs to well-established groups seeking to take on a significant project.
- Leadership Development: tailored training to empower LGBTQ+ student leaders and allies. We also support GSA advisers and other school staff and administration.
- Resources and Tools: compilation of local, statewide, and national resources, tools, and media catalog for students, educators, and families.
For questions about starting a GSA, improving your GSA, requests for resources or more please contact us at email@example.com.
MONTANA SAFE SCHOOLS COALITION
The Montana Safe School Coalition (MSSC) believes that no student, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, should ever feel too afraid to go to school. That is why 15 years ago the MSSC was formed as, a partnership of youth and statewide agencies to respond to rising concerns from students, parents and educators about anti-LGBTQ+ bullying, harassment, and violence. MSSC provides tailored interactive workshops designed to help educators identify the many forms of anti-LGBTQ+ bullying, harassment, and violence taking place in their schools and what the impact is on students’ mental health, academic achievement, and the overall culture of the school. A critical objective of the training is helping teachers, counselors, and administration identify the harm caused to all students as a result of anti-LGBTQ+ violence.
To join the Montana Safe Schools Coalition or get more information on scheduling a training near you please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Above is a map of resources for LGBTQ+ youth in the state of Montana. If you know of a resource that does not exist on the map, please email email@example.com with the resource’s information.
As an organization that strives to support LGBTQ+ youth, we have listed some valuable resources below. If you have further questions that are not answered by these resources, do not hesitate to contact us for any questions you may have.
Coming Out As You is a new pocket-sized resource that helps youth navigate the coming out experience in a safe way that encourages critical thinking. You can download the worksheets online, at TheTrevorProject.org/YOU.
Links to non-Federal organizations found at this site are provided solely as a service to our users. These links do not constitute an endorsement of these organizations or their programs by CDC or the Federal Government, and none should be inferred. CDC is not responsible for the content of the individual organization Web pages found at these links.
People in the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to experience social stigma, discrimination, rejection, abuse and ostracism from society and even their families. People who identify as anything but heterosexual often face more challenges in their life, in addition to daily stressors, and as a result are at a higher risk of developing mental health and substance use disorders.
Drugs have a more drastic effect on children and teens than on adults because the brain continues to develop until about age 25. As children grow older, the brain develops unevenly. The parts of the brain in charge of coordination, emotion and motivation develop much more quickly than the parts that control reasoning and impulse.
“One of the biggest things I struggle with as a trans woman is accepting myself, honestly. This society does not cater to me or to people like me, so I’m always in a constant battle of validating my own identity while having society tell me to throw it away.”
Explore the issues related to gender and learn the impact gender inclusiveness and diversity can have on children and teens. We provide an array of services designed to help families, schools, professionals, and organizations understand and address concepts of Gender identity and expression.
Substance abuse and addiction have been a widespread issue in the U.S. for decades. Still, these problems seem to affect some demographics more than others. For instance, the LGBTQIA community is significantly more prone to substance abuse and addiction than the general population.
Some resources and tips for parents that will help you best support your LGBTQ+ child:
Talk and listen. Parents who talk with and listen to their teen in a way that invites an open discussion about sexual orientation can help their teen feel loved and supported. Parents should have honest conversations with their teens about sex, and about how to avoid risky behavior and unsafe or high-risk situations.
Provide support. Parents who take time to come to terms with how they feel about their teen’s sexual orientation will be more able to respond calmly and use respectful language. Parents should develop common goals with their teen, including being healthy and doing well in school.
Stay involved. Parents who make an effort to know their teen’s friends and know what their teen is doing can help their teen stay safe and feel cared about.
Be proactive. Parents can access many organizations and online information resources to learn more about how they can support their LGBTQ+ teen, other family members, and their teen’s friends.
Engage with your child. Your lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ+) child requires and deserves the same level of care, respect, information, and support as non-LGBTQ+ children. Ask questions, listen, empathize, share and just be there for your child.
Get the facts about sexual orientation and gender identity. Learn new language and the correct terminology to communicate effectively about sexual orientation and gender identity. Challenge yourself to learn and to go beyond stereotyped images of LGBTQ+ people.
Here’s a quick lesson on two frequently misunderstood terms:
- Sexual orientation—Describes to whom a person feels attraction: people of the opposite gender, the same gender, or both genders.
- Gender identity—A person’s inner sense of gender—male, female, some of each, neither. Transgender people have a gender identity that is different from the gender to which they were assigned at birth.
Some people ask, “Isn’t transgender just like being gay?” No. Transgender describes a person’s internal sense of gender identity. Sexual orientation describes a person’s feelings of attraction toward other people. Transgender people have some things in common with gay, lesbian,bisexual and queer communities, but gender identity is not the same as sexual orientation.
Get to know the community. What resources are available? Find out if there is a Gender & Sexuality Alliance (GSA) at school, a community group for LGBTQ+ and questioning teens, a bookstore with a selection of books and magazines on LGBTQ+ issues, or a LGBTQ+ community center nearby.
Explore the Internet. There is a growing amount of excellent information on the Internet that connects people with support and materials on these important topics. Three excellent Web sites are Youth Resource, Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). For a diverse selection of links to a variety of LGBTQ+ sites, including education, family, health and wellness, and multiple identities.
Find out where your local Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) meets. Many parents say that their connections with other parents of GLBT kids made a world of difference in their progress toward understanding their young people. Finding another person you can trust to share your experience with is invaluable. Many people have gone through similar things and their support, lessons learned, and empathy can be very valuable.
Don’t make it ALL there is … just because your child has come out as LGBTQ+ does not mean the young person’s whole world revolves around sexual orientation or gender identity. It will be a big part of who the youth is, especially during the process of figuring it all out, including what being LGBTQ+ means to them. Still, being LGBTQ+ isn’t the sum of life for your child, and it is vital to encourage your child in other aspects of life, such as school, sports, hobbies, friends, and part-time jobs.
ASK your child before you “come out” to others on the child’s behalf. Friends and family members might have questions or want to know what’s up; but it is most important to be respectful of what your child wants. Don’t betray your child’s trust!
Praise your LGBTQ+ child for coming to you to discuss this issue. Encourage the youth to continue to keep you “in the know.” If your child turns to you to share personal information, you’re must be doing something right! You are approachable. You’re sending out consistent verbal and non-verbal cues that say, “Yes, I’ll listen. Please talk to me!” Give yourself some credit—your LGBTQ+ child chose to come out to you. Congratulations!
Find out what kind of support, services, and education are in place at your child’s school. Does the school and/or school district have a non-discrimination policy? Is a there a LGBTQ+/straight support group? Do you know any “out” people, or their friends and loved ones, to whom you can turn for information? (Before doing so, again refer to tip number 7, above. Ask your child if it’s okay for you to “come out” about the child.)
Educate yourself on local, state and national laws and polices regarding LGBTQ+ people. On the national level, LGBTQ+ people are still second-class citizens in regard to some national policies and their rights are not guaranteed by law. Consider educating yourself about this and finding out what you can do to work toward extending equal rights to LGBTQ+ people in the United States. A good place to start is the National LGBTQ Task Force.
PoliticalEquality FederationHuman Rights Campaign (HRC)National LGBTQ Task ForceVictory FundBisexual BIENESTARBiNetUSABisexual.orgBisexual Resource C
The Family Acceptance Project ® is a research, intervention, education and policy initiative that works to prevent health and mental health risks for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) children and youth, including suicide, homelessness andHIV – in the context of their families, cultures and faith communities.
TIPS FOR SCHOOLS
Here are some tips for making sure that your school is inclusive and capable of meeting the needs of LGBTQ+ youth:
Encourage respect for all students and prohibit bullying, harassment, and violence against all students.
Identify “safe spaces,” such as counselors’ offices, designated classrooms, or student organizations, where LGBTQ youth can receive support from administrators, teachers, or other school staff.
Encourage student-led and student-organized school clubs that promote a safe, welcoming, and accepting school environment (e.g., gay-straight alliances, which are school clubs open to youth of all sexual orientations).
Ensure that health curricula or educational materials include HIV, other STD, or pregnancy prevention information that is relevant to LGBTQ youth (such as ensuring that curricula or materials use inclusive language or terminology).
Encourage school district and school staff to develop and publicize trainings on how to create safe and supportive school environments for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and encourage staff to attend these trainings.
Facilitate access to community-based providers who have experience providing health services, including HIV/STD testing and counseling, to LGBTQ youth.
Facilitate access to community-based providers who have experience in providing social and psychological services to LGBTQ youth.