What do we mean by GLBTI young people?
GLBTI is a commonly used terms in fields like health and sociology to describe a collective group of people who may identify as either Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender or Intersex. Other variations of this term include GLBTIQ, with Q to describe those people who may be questioning their sexual orientation. Another variation you might hear or see is LGBTI.
It would appear that GLBTI young people are ‘coming out’ about their identities younger and in greater numbers than ever before. However, most GLBTI young people are aware of their sexuality or gender somewhere between 12 and 14 years of age but may not necessarily tell others until they are into late adolescence or early adulthood (17 -20+). As a result, it is more than likely that as practitioners you have been or are currently working with GLBTI young people who have not disclosed their identities to you yet. A key to ensuring that GLBTI young people feel safe and included is to presume that some of the young people you are working with may be GLBTI, therefore to create an environment which is open, safe, welcoming and equal for them is important. First of all however, it’s useful to understand what we mean when we talk about GLBTI young people.
GLBTI young people are becoming more visible in our families, communities and organisations that work directly with young people. Increasingly young people are using one of these terms to describe themselves. Similarly, Same Sex Attraction (SSA) has become something of an umbrella term used to describe young people who are attracted to a person of the same sex as themselves. This may include young people who clearly identify themselves as gay or lesbian, those who see themselves as bisexual, those who are questioning or yet to decide and those who may be heterosexual but have feelings of attraction to someone of the same sex at one point or another.
The terms transgender and intersex may not be usual terms that young people use to describe their identity, however it’s important to understand the definition of these terms and what it may mean for the young person you are working with. Transgender usually refers to people who express a gender identity different from their birth-assigned gender identity. For people who are intersex this refers to individuals with medically defined biological attributes that are not exclusively male or female; frequently “assigned” a gender at birth, which may differ from their gender identity later in life (Poirier J, et al 2008).
There are a myriad of terms that are used by the GLBTI community to describe their sexual orientation and gender identity. For a useful summary of the different terms utilised, view the Glossary (attached).