Participating & Proud: A Matter of Social Justice

In the week leading up to the Pride Parade in Seattle, we share a new series named, “Participating & Proud.” YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish staff and volunteers are participating in the parade this upcoming Sunday and we will take you through many of the reasons why it is important to do so. Members of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer (LGBTQ) community are also members of our YWCA community and many of them face unique housing and homelessness challenges due to their sexual orientation and gender expression. The YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish CEO, Sue Sherbrooke, believes, “Standing with our LGBTQ clients, staff, volunteers, board members and supporters is one concrete way we express our belief in the dignity and worth of every human being.” We hope this blog series is one more way that we can help take a stand and work towards ending homelessness for everyone.

Written by Nora Johnson, a Family Advocate at the YWCA I Seattle I King I Snohomish Family Village in Mountlake Terrace, and a member of the SO/GI committee. 

It’s Gay Pride Week in Seattle, and here at the YWCA I Seattle I King I Snohomish, we are proud to be participating in the Parade on Sunday, June 24th. It is also a perfect time to introduce the Firesteel community to the work of Sexual Orientation/ Gender Identity (SO/GI) Committee here at our YWCA.

Every sign, business card and email signature displaying the YWCA logo includes the ambitious tag line, “Eliminating Racism, Empowering Women”. Towards that end, employees of the YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish, participate in a number of groups under the umbrella of our Social Justice Initiative (SJI). The SJI recognizes that many of the causes of poverty and homelessness are embedded in society, and responds to this by working to create internal culture supporting the elimination of institutional racism, sexism, and other discriminatory practices, to increase knowledge of the intersection of poverty, class, race and gender, and to support authentic trust-based relationships with communities and each other.

The experience of homelessness for members of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer (LGBTQ) community, is fraught with unique challenges. As many as one in four homeless children identify as LGBTQ, and a significant number of LGBTQ adults report experiencing discrimination when seeking housing, and employment. Additionally, many shelters are ill equipped, and occasionally unwilling, to accommodate the needs of people whose sexual orientation and/or gender expression may be considered problematic, and for whom dormitory style sleeping arrangements, and open showers, as well as assumptions of heterosexuality and gender conformity, can become tangible barriers.

As the YWCA CEO Sue Sherbrook observed, “The LGBTQ community has experienced violence and discrimination for a very long time. Standing with our LGBTQ clients, staff, volunteers, board members and supporters is one concrete way we express our belief in the dignity and worth of every human being.” It is in this spirit that the SO/GI committee was formed as, “an open committee (both LGBTQ members and allies) working through the lens of racism, to close the gap of disparities in service delivery, and needs of staff as it pertains to the LGBTQ community”.

Current SO/GI projects include a survey of perceived needs among LGBTQ staff, compilation of resources for staff and clients within the community, defining a consistent policy for meeting the needs of transgendered shelter residents (Angeline’s has done some great work on this.), developing a staff presentation addressing LGBTQ needs in a culturally competent way, and establishing an LGBTQ Caucus for agency staff to network and support one another in the workplace. Oh, and did we mention the Pride Parade?

Throughout this week we will explore the needs of homeless LGBTQ folks, and highlight the good work that is being done in our community to create safety and empowerment for all of us.

Hope to see you at the Parade!

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