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Local support program for 2SLGBTQ+

An understanding of the risks faced by people who are 2SLGBTQ+ is one of the factors prompting programing development at the Lloydminster Sexual Assault Services (LSAS).

Collaborative response coordinator Cassidy Shopland says as “every person’s journey is going to look different” the LSAS program is “client-centred to support them in what best fits their needs,” but she acknowledges a real danger facing someone who comes out.

“The program itself comes from a place of understanding that individuals within the 2SLGBTQ+ community are at a higher risk of experiencing violence,” says Shopland.

Nationally, six out of ten sexual-minority Canadians have been physically or sexually assaulted from the age of 15, compared to four in ten heterosexual Canadians, according to Stats Canada.

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Research conducted in the first half of 2021 in the Greater Toronto Area is showing that “2SLGBTQ+ identity-based family rejection was the main reason that led youth to homelessness.” Looking at family conflict over the pandemic months, the researchers found that “72 per cent of youth experienced verbal or emotional abuse and 39 per cent experienced physical abuse from family, regardless of whether they were living with their family during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The LSAS 2SLGBTQ+ program will be available in eight to ten sessions with an understanding that each client is on a life-long journey and may need more time before they feel they can go forward on their own. Clients are supported with information on topics like gender-identity, non-binary and gender nonconformity, sexual orientation understanding, supports for families with 2SLGBTQ+ children, transgender support, supports for survivors of violence, general crisis interventionist support, mental health related issues as well as referrals  to further resources says Shopland.

“We never limit or cut off our sessions. So if the client is still feeling supported and would like those sessions – we will continue them until the client says they’re in a space where they are ready to move forward without those supports. We believe that the client is the expert in their own journey. And so we allow them that space to share with us when they are ready to be done. So they could be coming for a couple months to a couple years.”

Shopland comments on the supports available for families.

“As parents we always think of what that future is going to be like for our children because we want the best for them – and so it’s exploring that their future might look different. They can still get married and have a child, but it might look a little bit different. Or as a parent or caregiver, you might always want to protect your children, and we can’t always protect them from the harmful things that other people may say or do. And so it’s also exploring all of these feelings that might be coming up for them and how they are processing it as well.”

Shopland adds a workshop will be made available to the community that looks at the Canadian 2SLGBTQ+ experience with a glossary of terms, statistics and topics like microaggressions to understand how words and actions impact people.

“So foundation knowledge, that is important for everybody. It also goes over myths and facts and about understanding pronouns and different types of pronouns that are out there as well. And talks about the programs that we have specifically here at the centre. And one of my favourite parts in there is that it talks about allyship – what does it mean to be an ally and how do we be an ally.”

The program is being fine-tuned with input from the 2SLGBTQ+ community, says Shopland.

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Her comments come as LSAS is preparing for its fundraising gala on Feb. 11 to repair the foundation of its building which supports this and other programs. LSAS needs to raise $450,000 for the upgrade. More details can be found on their website.

Residents can also call LSAS to get a tour of their building and learn about the services available.

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