In Honor Of Trans Awareness

In Honor Of Trans Awareness
Beth Zacher Burke, LCSW, Clinical Program Manager, Camino a Casa

As a clinician, I have been running groups for LGBTQ youth and to explore SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression) issues for my entire 13 year clinical career. Currently, as the Clinical Program Manager at Camino a Casa by Casa Pacifica, I facilitate our weekly MyDentity group, where we provide space to youth to explore SOGIE-related issues. Many of the youth that we serve that are struggling with emotional dysregulation and high-risk behaviors, have also dealt with discrimination, family rejection, bullying, and school issues that can go along with identifying as LGBTQ+.

My favorite thing about the MyDentity group is that youth with all different SOGIEs, whether they identify as LGBTQ+ or not, can come together and bring up issues and get support from their peers. The group is optional, and we always start with ground rules, to make sure that everyone is able to express themselves and feel safe doing so. The importance of having this space can’t be understated. Just by creating this space, we send a message to the youth that we will support them while they are with us and accept them for who they know themselves to be. Some youth have never experienced acceptance in their lives.

This week, in honor of Trans Awareness week (November 13-19th) and Trans Day of Remembrance this Friday, November 20th , we watched a video clip and members opened up about their own SOGIE’s. One of the youth stated that she could never come out as transgender to her parents, and that the only place she has ever felt safe to come out is with her peers and staff in the Camino a Casa program. Another youth agreed, stating that although she knows her dad can’t accept her, she gathers strength in knowing that while she’s here at the Camino a Casa program, she can be the “fastest transgender girl to run the 5K tomorrow.”

Finally, we discussed Trans Day of Remembrance, and youth were saddened to learn that between October 1, 2019 and September 30, 2020, 350 trans and gender-diverse people were murdered worldwide (that we know of). We remembered Latisha King, who was murdered by a classmate in 2008 while living in emergency shelter at Casa Pacifica. We discussed safety in the world and the agony of feeling like just being oneself could bring harm and danger. The youth wanted to do something to honor the trans lives that have been lost, and came up with the brilliant idea to make posters and then have Casa Pacifica post them to our social media sites.

I am disappointed that we live in a world where so many of these youth face discrimination for being themselves, but am honored to be able to serve the amazing, creative, and brave youth that come into our program. It is my greatest hope that when they leave our space, they feel supported and loved for who they are, and that they can go out into the world and be visible and celebrated for living their truths.

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