Although lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer identified (LGBTQ+) people are as diverse as the general Canadian population in their experiences of mental health and well-being, they face higher risks for some mental health issues due to the effects of discrimination and the social determinants of health. Three significant determinants of positive mental health and wellbeing for those who identify as LGBTQ+ are social inclusion, freedom from discrimination and violence, and access to economic resources.
Language is a powerful tool that can help us create inclusive spaces for everyone. Often, not knowing or not feeling comfortable with the language can act as a key barrier for individuals who want to meet the needs of sexual and gender minority persons.
A pronoun is a word that refers to either the people talking (I or you) or someone or something that is being talked about (she, it, them, and this). Gender pronouns (he and hers) specifically refer to people that you are talking about. A "preferred gender pronoun" (or PGP) is the pronoun that a person chooses to use for themself. Often PGP's are used during introductions, becoming more common in educational institutions.
Never refer to a person as “it” or “he-she” (unless they specifically ask you to.) These are offensive slurs used against trans and gender non-conforming .
If the person seemed well-intentioned, or even if you’re not sure what their intent was, be kind.
Explain kindly that what they said or did wasn’t inclusive, friendly, or correct.
Focus on the behavior, not the person. Many people just don’t know.
Don’t leave them flying blind for the future! They are just going to run into the same mistake. Provide a correction, then explain why it’s better (It's Pronounced Metrosexual, 2020).
Let others know that jokes and comments based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, etc. are not funny.
If you feel safe, let those who behave disrespectfully know that you don’t appreciate it.
If you feel safe, let spectators know they are not helping.
Responding to meanness with meanness won’t help matters.
Show kindness and support to the targets of negative behaviour.
Demonstrate to others that you are willing to listen and talk with an open mind.
Ensure that your language and behaviour are respectful to all people.
Be aware of your own prejudices and work to change them.
Speak out against bias in your community and in the media (AHS Community Helpers Program, 2020).
Your friend has told you for a reason. They trust you to be there, so listen and hear what they're saying.
Suicidality has a lot of stigma around it, but it's something people deal with a lot. Often all we need is for someone to listen while we talk through suicidality the same way they'd listen to any other serious topic. Sometimes your friend might have coping mechanisms that feel scary to you, like substance use or self-injury. Talk to your friend about how they can do the things that work for them more safely: not drinking and driving, having trusted people with them, not sharing needles, being mindful of where and how they self-injure, etc.
We’re often told that suicidality is irrational. It isn’t — when your material conditions are really bad, suicidality can feel as logical as jumping from a burning building. Understand what got a person to this place and understand why they might not want to live. Ask your friend questions: What would be helpful from you? Do they want to talk about what’s going on or would they prefer a distraction? Someone to sit with quietly? Something else? Your friend might not know, and that’s okay too.
Society treats trans people badly. Remind your friend that what happened to them is unjust and that society is messed up. If your friend is dealing with bigotry or rejection, be their champion. Now is not the time to play devil’s advocate for why their parents might misgender them or tell your friend that their transition is hard for their partner too.
Support your friend by providing them with resources, such as the ones below.
Find support for yourself, whether it's family, friends, or a professional. Remember what is and isn't your job; You can be there for your friend, but you can't necessarily change how they're feeling or what they need to do.
It can be tempting to go ask another friend or family member for help. Doing this makes it harder for your friend to confide in you. Only bring other people in if your friend is comfortable with it.
Familiarize yourself with local resources. Ask questions when you're unsure. Attend training in your local area (Trans Lifeline, 2020).
Get help anonymously in more than 170 languages or find other supports using this free and confidential helpline.
Get help anonymously in more than 170 languages from 8 AM - 8 PM daily.
Inspires people across the globe to share their stories and remind the next generation of LGBTQ+ youth that hope is out there, and it will get better.
A non-profit society that's here to help transgender and non-binary individuals.
Safe and judgement free place to talk, text, and chat.
Red Deer College Counselling Services
100 College Boulevard
PO Box 5005
Red Deer, AB T4N 5H5
Counselling Services Hours
Monday-Friday: 8:30 am - 4:30 pm
*extended hours on Wednesday until 6 pm
Closed Saturday, Sunday,
and all Statutory Holidays
Red Deer College recognizes that our campus is situated on Treaty 7 land, the traditional territory of the Blackfoot, Tsuu T’ina and Stoney Nakoda peoples, and that the central Alberta region we serve falls under Treaty 6, traditional Métis, Cree and Saulteaux territory. We honour the First Peoples who have lived here since time immemorial, and we give thanks for the land where RDC sits. This is where we will strive to honour and transform our relationships with one another.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).