Spotlight on Sogie
Happy Pride Month
With Pride Month well underway, we at Camino a Casa by Casa Pacifica celebrate and encourage our youth to accept and celebrate their identities. But Pride month doesn’t just end with June—Camino a Casa works year-round with our youth from Santa Barbara and Ventura counties to meet youth where they are most needed thanks to our Gender Expansive Services.
Introduction to SOGIE Program
Every human being, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, expresses themselves uniquely whether or not they identify as LGBTQIA+. Camino a Casa is a gender-affirming program. As a part of being a gender-affirming program, we respect the SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression) of all our youth. We meet youth where they are at in their identity by honoring their preferred name, pronouns, presentation, and cottage in which they wish to reside. We work with families to understand their youth’s exploration of their individual identity and how they can work to grow with, respect, and support their youth.
As part of the gender-affirming program, Camino a Casa clinicians run a therapy group called MyDentity. According to Hannah Marin, Psy.D., Camino a Casa Psychologist, “The MyDentity group is a therapy group run by a clinician, in all levels of our programing (Residential, Partial Hospitalization Program & Intensive Outpatient Program). It is a time for youth to explore and celebrate all aspects of their gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. SOGIE refers to characteristics of identity that occur in all humans, Since all humans have a “SOGIE”, everyone participates in the group.”
Challenges Our Client Face
One of the greatest challenges a youth faces is communicating their identities and being accepted by their families and the community at large. “We often experience that youth want to hide their identity from their families due to their fears of how parents or grandparents will respond, even if they’ve previously “come out, “says Marin. “For example, a transgender or gender nonconforming youth may ask we use their preferred pronouns and name within the program, then around family use their birth name and the pronouns that align with their biological sex.”
Many parents, caregivers, and families may hold a negative attitude toward the LGBTQIA+ community and act in ways that discourage a youth from expressing themselves or “come out”. A negative attitude, which may be the result of personal or cultural influence, also discourages parents from either seeking adequate mental health care for their youth or providing inappropriate care that may exacerbate existing mental health conditions. “We know from research that mental health is directly impacted by families’ acceptance around gender identity and sexual orientation,” says Marin. “So, in trying to support stabilization of a youth’s mental health symptoms and to improve family cohesion, it’s generally a goal to help both the youth and families identify their emotions around the topic and create mutual understanding. It’s not uncommon that parents will share “it’s just a phase” or “it’s attention-seeking”, so psychoeducation is an important component of the work.”
What can we do?
Helping our youth express and understand themselves is just one part of the solution. In addition to learning more about themselves and accepting who they are, the families of our youth are encouraged to work on themselves. “Families can best support their youth by being open-minded and supportive as their youth explores and identifies who they are in the world, “says Katie Pfeiffer, Psy.D., Senior Program Manager. “Shaming, suppressing, and ignoring any aspect of a youth’s identity can exacerbate their youth’s mental health symptoms. It is already difficult to find one’s place in the world and it is even harder when a youth does not feel they are accepted by their family.”
Some of the exercises a family may participate can include:
- Being mindful of the language used to speak with
- Be open-minded
- Seek additional help if you are struggling accepting your child’s sexual identity or gender expression
At Camino a Casa we aim to create a safe space for our youth to explore their gender issues in a safe and supportive space, as such Taryn’s story.
By working together with youth, their families, and the community, we can increase the mental health and wellness of LGBTQ+ youth. All Camino a Casa youth are eligible to participate in our My-Dentity group, which is an optional therapeutic group with a focus on exploring SOGIE. Because we understand the importance that family plays in the stability and well-being of the youth we serve, all efforts are made to maintain ongoing contact and communication with those important to them. This is done through phone communication, facilitating visits, inviting families to important celebrations, FEAT activities, family therapy, and facilitating youth involvement in their community of origin. In addition, to the work we do internally to support our special populations, we also engage community partners who specialize in these populations.