Report Now Available To Facilities Across the Country

(San Francisco, CA, March 17, 2011)—A pioneering new report authored by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) urges group care facilities to reassess their treatment of transgender and gender non-conforming youth and to adopt policies and practices that provide these youth with appropriate, fair and equal care.

The report, released today and called “A Place of Respect: A Guide for Group Care Facilities Serving Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Youth,” is the first to provide comprehensive guidance about the treatment of transgender and gender non-conforming youth in group care facilities, including detention centers, correctional facilities, and group homes. The report also provides model policies and a framework for staff to ensure that all youth are given a safe and healthy living environment.

“It is vital for youth in both locked and unlocked facilities to feel safe being themselves, and not feel they have to hide or suppress their identities to be safe,” says report author Jody Marksamer, Esq., NCLR Youth Project Director. “Our goal was to dispel the misconceptions about transgender and gender non-conforming youth and make it easy for facilities to adopt best practices to create a safe and accepting environment for these youth.”

In 2004, NCLR and SRLP began noticing an increasing volume of legal inquiries from transgender and gender non-conforming youth in foster care and juvenile justice facilities, and found there was a lack of materials to help facility staff serve these youth appropriately, fairly, and respectfully. The two organizations teamed up to fill the void, developing a comprehensive report that provides facility administrators with the information they need to make effective policy decisions and adopt best practices that establish clear guidelines for the treatment of transgender and gender non-conforming youth in their care.

“By providing the right information and guidelines to group care facilities, we can greatly improve the level of care for the youth they serve,” said Marksamer. “Additionally, by creating a safe and respectful environment for these youth to be themselves and express their gender identity, we can decrease the possibility for future negative psychological issues, including drug and alcohol abuse. In streamlining their policies, facilities will be able to train staff and avoid potential legal conflicts, all to the benefit of the youth in their care.”

According to the 72-page report, “transgender and gender non-conforming youth often face serious physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in group homes, detention centers, and correctional institutions. Because staff members are often unsure of how to provide respectful and supportive services to these youth, they might unwittingly subject them to situations that are discriminatory and harmful.”

New research shows that significant numbers of transgender and gender non-conforming youth are in state custody, and that members of this group often face harassment. For instance, a Ceres Policy Research study in 2009 determined that as many as 13 percent of youth in detention facilities identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, or gender non-conforming. According to the report, “Medical experts agree that preventing transgender youth from expressing their gender identity or punishing them for doing so increases the distress they experience; undermines their emotional stability; and interferes with their care, treatment, and rehabilitation.”

“Transgender and gender non-conforming youth are disproportionately likely to end up in group homes and other residential facilities, due to the overwhelming rates of violence, harassment, and rejection they face from family and in foster homes,” said Elana Redfield of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. “Yet, workers in these facilities often have little or no training or information on how to care for these young people, resulting in placements that are unsafe or unhealthy. This guide is a much-needed resource, finally giving group home staff and service providers someplace to turn for information and best practices on transgender issues.”

The report includes:

A complete analysis of the medical and psychological aspects of being transgender or gender non-conforming, including a section addressing common misconceptions associated with transgender and gender non-conforming youth.

An in-depth explanation of the stigma, rejection, and harassment that many transgender and gender non-conforming youth face, and how this impacts their development and behavior.

An explanation of the legal responsibility of group care facilities to protect the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming youth under their care.

Best practices to address the needs of transgender and gender non-conforming youth along with solutions to potential problems facility staff members might encounter.

Recommendations for facility administrators related to leadership development, policy and practice guidelines, and staff trainings and evaluations.

Download the report now.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.