A couple of weeks ago most of the GP down south staff from all regions, made their way to Mandurah for training with the Freedom Centre. GP down south is made up of a diverse team of people who regularly work with youth, the vulnerable and diverse.
We were challenged to identify our biases and confront them. A lot of the time we operate on automatic pilot and assume we are not biased. However, we often have hidden prejudice that shows up in the way we interpret and interact with certain situations.
Something many of us found useful was to define the distinction between gender, sex and sexuality. Gender: Thoughts, behaviour, expression. How you move through the world and want others to see you. It is how we see and feel about ourselves. Gender is not the same as sex. Sex: Biological characteristics that align your body with being male, female or intersex. Sexuality: Who and what we are attracted to. Can include romantic / emotional attraction and sexual attraction.
“People aren't born with prejudice -the moment we are born we are inundated with messages (spoken and unspoken) about different types of people.
Negative biases and stereotypes can impact how we interact with individuals personally and at work. Recognising your bias is an important step in becoming an ally. The more aware we are of our own biases and their impact on our behaviour, the easier it is to ensure that our personal beliefs don't undermine our effort to support LGBTIQA+ people.” (GLSEN, 2016)
When we can understand how power and privilege intersect to create the framework that fosters the rise of stigma and judgement, then we are over halfway to pushing it to the kerb and take on better beliefs and behaviours that lead to a more inclusive and safer world for everyone.
It is imperative for mental health and well-being that we all try to learn and understand these things. LGBTIQA+ communities are uniquely affected by social and emotional health problems, from potential social rejection and lack of social support to more severe depression and anxiety symptoms. It is our mission at GP down south to ensure we make a positive contribution to the health and wellbeing of those experiencing, or at risk of, poor health outcomes in our communities. From that safe space with the freedom to ask any questions we wanted, we came away with :
An understanding of important terminology relating to LGBTIQA+ people
An awareness of the stigma and disparities in healthcare which impact LGBTIQA+ people
Foundational knowledge and awareness to inform safe and inclusive practices in the workplace
If you are interested in expanding your knowledge , the Freedom Centre offers the following services:
Peer mentoring education and training, social support for young LGBTQIA+ people;
Training, resources and support for sexual health education and capacity building;
Harm reduction services for people who inject drugs;
Free condoms and safe sex resources;
Counselling and integrated support for people living with HIV.
I can safely say we all came away with a fresh toolkit and knowledge to move through our work and personal lives with more consideration and understanding.
GP down south is an exemplary not-for-profit community organisation. We have been providing health and wellbeing services in the Peel regions and the South West of WA since 1994.