Posts tagged Dr. Laura Farmer

Supporting Gender Diverse Youth

20160304_130842I attended the Supporting Diverse Gender Youth training at Lynchburg College. This training was sponsored by the Virginia Counseling Association. The facilitator was Dr. Laura Farmer, Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech and the President of the VA-ALGBTIC which is a sub group of the Virginia Counseling Association. Dr. Farmer teaches ethics courses at Virginia Tech so she made that the foundation of the training that she presented. The training featured faculty members, graduate students, community providers, and school counselors. The training allowed us to look at gender issues from a number of different elements. We first focused on laying the foundation. In laying the foundation Dr. Farmer made sure that we all had a base understanding of gender related terminology. We each were given a sheet and encouraged to get into groups to link definitions to various terms. With this activity even seasoned professionals had their struggles. It made me realize that no matter how long we spend in the profession there is always room to learn and better ourselves. Next we talked about the areas of competence that we would need as professionals in our work with gender diverse students. The final elements that helped to tie things together included a discussion of best practices, ethical considerations, and ways in which we can improve our school and work environments. This was the most beneficial element of the day as it allowed many folks in the room to share experiences specific to their work environment.

Supporting Gender Diverse Youth

grad travelI recently attended the conference Supporting Gender Diverse Youth which was held at Lynchburg College and facilitated by Dr. Laura Farmer. The points of focus that were really helpful to me were introduction to terminology, ethical and values-based considerations, and best counseling practices as they pertained to counselors and their interaction with youth who identify as LGBTQ. It’s important to have a working knowledge of LGBTQ issues and concerns but it’s also important to work towards developing an appropriate manner of interacting with LGBTQ individuals so as to contribute to an overall accepting environment.

I found the introduction to terminology to be very important because I identified with the notion that was discussed in that many people are unaware of how to speak to individuals who identify or may be considering identifying as members of the LGBTQ population. We discussed terms that are no longer appropriate and a breadth of terms that recognize individuals with identities that I have never been introduced to before. Most importantly in my opinion, we discussed the value of merely asking individuals “how do you identify?” if we are unsure of how to speak to them or are unsure of how they identify. Sometimes, it may not be as vital to be well-versed in LGBTQ terminology so much as it is to show positive regard towards individuals and a willingness to learn.

Much of the conference was directed with consideration to the practice of school counseling but the implications can be applied to multiple settings. Practices that support LGBTQ youth include respecting their gender identity and expression, using their chosen names, ensuring they are allowed to fully participate in school in ways that are consistent with their gender identity, and to prioritize student privacy. These practices reinforce the need to allow individuals to choose how they are to be a part of their environment and for the people around them to not make impositions upon them instead. For all people who interact with LGBTQ individuals, it is critical to allow them to express themselves and not impose our values upon them if we are to truly create an inclusive environment.

At the conclusion of the conference, we all talked about what we learned and how we can advocate for members of the LGBTQ population whether or not we are in direct contact with LGBTQ individuals in our roles as counselors. Attending this conference was very helpful because it gave me exposure to a population that I did not have much knowledge about but it also helped me learn how best to help this population and advocate on their behalf. Having the basic knowledge that I now have from attending this conference, I feel much more comfortable in terms of my ability to interact with LGBTQ individuals in a counseling role and feel that through continued education, I can really strengthen my competence in this area.

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