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Blog: Introducing the Top Tips for Trans Inclusion in Youth Work Spaces

Rachel Barr, Senior Health Promotion Specialist with Healthy Respect in NHS Lothian, writes about the development of the “Top Tips for Trans Inclusion in Youth Work Spaces”, a new resource about to be launched for the youth work sector in Edinburgh and the Lothians.  

Now more than ever, improving young people’s experiences particularly those affected by inequalities is key to the work we do at Healthy Respect. We know that trans and non-binary young people are much more likely to experience bullying, discrimination and exclusion more than any other group of young people.

It is against this backdrop of young people’s experiences that an exciting piece of partnership work emerged in the shape of a new resource ‘Top Tips for Trans inclusion in youth work spaces’.

Specialist support services like LGBT Youth Scotland offer LGBT young people high quality experiences but can we be confident that trans and non-binary young people are always made to feel welcome, included and safe when they walk into any universal youth space or service across Lothian? Unfortunately, not.

We see the impact of this in the quote below from a young person in response to the Top Tips:

  • "This is really cool, I only went to a youth group once, but I had to tick a box to say boy or girl and when I said I was non-binary the staff told me I had to pick one of the boxes because they didn’t have that option. I didn’t go back." - Young person, 16

Healthy Respect have been fortunate to work alongside LGBT Youth Scotland, LAYC (Lothian Association of Youth Clubs) and the Wester Hails Youth Agency to raise the profile of equalities work in the youth sector, with trans and non-binary young people’s experiences at the heart of this. One of the outcomes of this work is the Top Tips resource.

A key part of Healthy Respect’s role is delivering training to teaching and youth work staff. Often at the beginning of training, participants cite feeling worried about ‘getting it wrong’ when it comes to LGBT inclusion.

The Top Tips demonstrate that small practical changes can make a big difference in helping trans and non-binary young people feel safe and welcome in services. It gives workers practical tips, they can easily embed into their practice, giving them confidence and increasing their ability to implement trans inclusive practice.

The youth work sector is diverse, with many groups taking place in small community spaces or in parks and on the streets. We want the Top Tips to be easily applied in all settings, particularly in those smaller grass roots organisations with fewer resources. Visibility is an important way to let LGBT people know they are in a safe space.

Even a small youth club can put up a poster or have leaflets on display. Detached youth workers can wear rainbow lanyards to show young people that they are inclusive. Accompanying the Top Tips resource is a poster that can be used to let young people know the space is inclusive of all identities.

The QR code on this poster leads to LGBT Youth Scotland website, a place where young people 13 years and over can find a range of supports to meet their needs.

Can the Top Tips do it all? Can they make all spaces inclusive and non-discriminatory for trans and non-binary young people? Maybe not…. There is no doubt considerably more training, awareness and listening to young people’s experiences is still needed. When it comes to trans inclusion, practice is varied.

However, we are optimistic that the Top Tips for Trans Inclusion in Youth Work Spaces are a big step towards trans inclusive practice across Lothian. We hope they help create many youth work spaces that are welcoming, inclusive and safe. Where trans and non-binary young people can thrive and be the person they want to be.

Rachel Barr has a background in youth work is the lead champion for LGBT Youth Scotland's Gold LGBT Charter journey in her team.

Find the 'Top Tips for Trans Inclusion in Youth Work Spaces' here.

Find the 'All Identities Are Welcome here' poster here.

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