What makes a safe space safe anyway?
People often think that, because they don’t work at a shelter or service provider, they don’t have a role to play in the effort to end LGBTQ youth homelessness. The reality is: Everyone can make a difference! LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness interact with more than just the folks working at shelters. They also go to coffee shops and libraries, ride public transportation, go to school, use social media… To put it simply: They live life! We all share the same world – and we all could do a better job at making that world a better place for young people. This page will take you through some of the ways you can create a more inclusive and affirming environment for young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ).
A safe space sign or sticker is a simple way to send a message to everyone who enters a space that all identities are welcome and supported. Make sure your safe space signage is placed somewhere people can see it – like your office door, your email signature, or your website!
Not every space has restrooms created with the intention of all-gender access, but they can still be designated! Single stall restrooms can easily be converted to all-gender with a simple sign. If single stall restrooms do not exist, allow youth to use the restroom in which they feel comfortable. The same accommodations should be applied to locker rooms and showers, even if it means finding times during the day when only transgender young people have access to the facilities.
A diversity poster is another great visual cue to consider. It's important that young people can see themselves represented in the world. By displaying posters featuring diversity in gender presentations and with themes of diversity and inclusion, you can send a message that all sorts of young people are welcome and valued in your community.
When it comes to creating a culture of safety and inclusion at your organization or company, formal policies must be enacted to reflect the change you're making. A general rule of thumb is that if it’s not written, it doesn’t exist. Policies protect both youth and staff, and policies supporting LGBTQ youth should be displayed prominently. Ever hear of the phrase "Know Your Rights?" It applies to policies, too! Let LGBTQ folks know that they're respected and protected by your organization.
LGBTQ+ Affirming Paperwork
Paperwork, even if only used internally, should always reflect the gender, pronouns, and name of a client or employee. State-required filing systems may not provide a field for entering a name or gender outside of the name and sex assigned at birth, but your organization should. Brochures and websites should reflect that your organization or company is an affirming, supportive, and safe space for everyone, specifically LGBTQ young people. During first impressions, everyone should be asked their name (which may not match their legal ID) and their pronouns (which may not match their legal gender marker). This can be modeled by offering your own name and pronoun first. Asking additional questions, such as gender and sexual orientation, can wait until a relationship has been developed.
Set the example.
Take photos of your safe space today and post on social media with the hashtag #TrueColorsDay.
We have all sorts of visual cues available for sale at a discount price! We've also included downloadable versions below, in case you'd like to make your own: