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Lisa Athan recently presented to 50 plus school counselors, social workers, psychologists, private practice practitioners and administrators at CarePlus in Bergen County, NJ, in February, 2019
on the topic of LGBTQ Inclusive Schools and Responsive Counseling: Clinical Care, Intervention, Policies and Procedures.
The workshop provided an overview of the contemporary context for LGBTQ youth, a review of youth mental health issues that affect this population. Research in the past years has identified risk and protective factors for mental health, which point to promising directions for 
prevention, intervention and treatment. Legal and policy successes set the stage for advances in programs and practices that may foster LGBTQ youth mental health as well as school success and safety.  

Invite Lisa Athan to speak at your school on Creating Safe and Inclusive Schools for LGBTQ Students. I address teachers and staff in a professional development workshop on best practices for supporting LGBTQ students, ways to create safe spaces in school, important resources on a local and national level, ways in create inclusive curriculum, and providing education around issues such as gender identity,
gender expression and sexual orientation etc.
I provide parent programs to support and educate parents on issues around gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation as well as ways to best support and affirm their child or children. In addition we touch on how to encourage their children to be supportive Allys to other children in school and what is helpful and what is hurtful.  We also discuss supporting the mental health challenges that some of these children are navigating often due to rejection, or the challenges of coming out, as well as coping with harassment and bullying issues that their child may be facing. . 
I also provide assemblies for students as well as serve as a guest speaker in GSA's.  

Books that I recommend for Schools, Therapists and Parents:

The Gender Creative Child: Pathways for Nurturing and Supporting Children Who Live Outside Gender Boxes by Diane Ehrensaft, PhD (2016)  Should be required reading by all therapists, educator K-12 and pediatrician and parents whose children express their gender differently. 

The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals by Stephanie Brill and Rachel Pepper (2008) 

Safe is Not Enough: Better Schools for LGBTQ Students by Michael Sadowski, Forward by Kevin Jennings (2016)

The Gender Quest Workbook: a guide for teens and young adults exploring gender identity by Rylan Jay Testa, PhD, Deborah Coolhart, PhD and Jayme Peta, MA (2015)

LGBTQ + Youth : A Guided Workbook to Support Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity by Lee-Anne Gray, PhD. (2018)

The Right to Be Out: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in America's Public Schools by Stuart Beigel (2010)

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin, (2014)

GLBTQ : The Survival Guide for Queer & Questioning Teens by Kelly Heugel (2003)

Queer: The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens by Kathy Belge and Marke Bieschke (2011)

Gender Born, Gender Made: Raising Healthy Gender Non-Conforming Children by Diane  Ehrensaft, PhD (2011)

Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt, winner of the Pulitzer Prize (2015)

Partnered Grief: A Centering Corporation Resource by Harold Ivan Smith and Joy Johnson: Invaluable resource for lesbian and gay people and their families. Profoundly spiritually insightful, wise, compassionate ground-breaking book that will change lives. 


For Parents and Teachers of Young Children:

The Lopez Family Science Fair Day: by Monica Bey-Clarke and Cheril N. Clarke (2011) book about Felix Lopez who has two dads. Teaches children life lessons by his examples. 

Annie's Plaid Shirt by Stacy B Davids  (2015)  A story about Annie who loves wearing a plaid shirt and one day her mom tells her she must wear a dress and Annie protests. Why can't her mother understand that wearing a dress is miserable for Annie. 

I Am Jazz by Jessical Herthel and Jazz Jennings  (2014)

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson  (2005)  Children's book about a story of two male penguins who create a family together. 




The Trevor Project: Great website including the Trevor NATIONAL Lifeline: 1-866-4U-Trevor   www.thetrevorproject.org

GLSEN:  Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network: Strives to assure that each member of every school community is values and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.  www.glsen.org  

HiTOPS: An educational and social support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning youth and their allies.  Founded in 1987 HiTOPS helps adolescents clarify their values and make responsible decisions regarding their health, and gives parents, teachers and caregivers of adolescents the tools they need to best support and guide the young people they nurture.  www.hitops.org    


First and Third: welcomes all youth to the meetings: When: The first and third Saturday of every month from 2:30-4:30pm, Where: HiTOPS, Inc.  21 Wiggins Street, Princeton, NJ 08540  Bring a friend or come and meet new ones. 


NJ GSA Forum: Breaking Barriers, Celebrating Diversity: The 7th Annual Conference for Gay Straight Alliances  * Students   * Advisors   *Supporters    When:   November 20, 2010 9:00 AM -4 PM  Rutgers University, Hickman Hall, Douglass Campus, 89 George Street, New Brunswick 

 Addiction and Mental Health in the Transgender Community   (click on the link to a great resource) 



Glossary of Terms:

Bi-sexual: a person who is emotionally, romantically and  sexually attracted to people of either sex.

Biological sex:  The sex someone is born as. Also referred to as birth sex, anatomical sex, physical sex.

Coming out: Disclosing one's sexual orientation or gender identity to others. Some people never come out, some come out to a few individuals, others come out to many people all at once, and for others the coming out process takes place slowly.

Gay: This term is used often to describe both homosexual men and homosexual women, thought it more often refers to men. Gay describes men who are emotionally, romantically and sexually attracted to other men. The word 'gay' didn't come into wide use to describe homosexual people until the 1950s. Before that it was used as a code word for same sex sexuality. 

Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA); A student club for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning students as well as their straight allies. GSA's can provide a social haven and support for queer students. They can also work for positive change on GLBTQ issues within a school or school system. GSA's are legally entitled to exist according to a federal court ruling.

Gender:  While this word may be used to describe anatomy, it's really about a person's identity as feminine or masculine, rather than the physical characteristics that make someone female or male. Gender is made up of many things including, behaviors, cultural traits, and psychological traits that are associated with a specific sex. 

 Gender dysphoria:  A term for the pain, anxiety and confusion that can result when there is a disparity between a person's gender identity and biological sex. Pressure to conform to accepted gender roles and expression, and a general lack of acceptance from society also contribute to it. 

Gender expression:  How you express your gender identity. It includes your clothes, your hairstyle, your body language (how you walk, your posture, your gestures, your mannerisms) and even your speech patterns. In society, people often take their cues from someone's gender expression to decide that person's anatomical sex.

Gender identity:  Your internal sense of being male or female- it's whether you consider or feel yourself to be male or female. A person's gender identity doesn't necessarily reflect his or her biological sex. There are gender activitist, like Kate Bornstein, who believe it's possible to have a gender identity that's male, female or something else entirely. 

Gender Identity Disorder: GID: Mental health professionals often diagnose transgender people with GID. A diagnosis of GID lets transgendered people get mental and physical treatment, which can be especially helpful for people trying to physically transition their gender, but a diagnosis of GID can also carry the stigma of mental illness.

Gender Transitioning: a complex, multi step process of starting to live in a way that accurately reflects a transgendered person's true gender identity. Transitioning primarily involves social issues such as changing your name, dressing differently, altering other aspects of your appearance, like  hair or makeup, and changing your mannerisms, voice and how you move. Transitioning doesn't by definition include surgery or other physical changes though it may depend on the person. A physical transition may include a medical professional. For some transitioning may include surgery.

GLBTQ: An acronym that stands for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning

Intersex: People who are born with a mixture of both male and female genitals or with ambiguous genitalia. In many cases, the doctor or the person's parents "choose" their child's anatomy and the child has a series of surgeries throughout infancy and childhood to definitely assign one anatomical sex.  The surgery doesn't always result in a physical sex assignment that matches the person's gender.  As a result, some intersex people grow up having gender identity issues that mirror those experienced by transgender people. 

 Queer:  Refers to GLBTQ people. Sometimes used as a slur, the term has been reclaimed by many GLBTQ people who use it as an expression of pride. Some prefer to identify as queer rather than gay, lesbian, bisexual, or trangender, because they feel it encompasses more of who they are or gives a greater sense of unity with the entire community. 

Questioning: Being uncertain of one's sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Sexual Behavior: Only describes sexual activity, not sexual identity.  A man may identify as gay but still engage in sexual behavior with women. That's still considered heterosexual behavior. Or a woman may not identify as a lesbian but may take part in sexual activity with a woman. That is homosexual behavior. 

Sexual Identity: How a person views and identifies himself or herself in terms of his or her sexual orientation or behavior. Some people may identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or straight; other people may refuse to identify with a particular label. Some GLBTQ people choose to identify as queer for this reason. A person's identity is decided by the person, so a person who participates in straight sexual behavior may still identify as a gay, lesbian or bisexual and vica versa. A person' sexual identity can change over the course of his/her life. 

Sexual Orientation: a term used to describe who someone is emotionally, romantically, and sexually attracted to. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and straight all describe different forms of sexual orientation. Sexual orientation isn't just about how someone has sex with. A more accurate phrase may be "emotional orientation" or "affectional orientation." But for now it is the common phrase. 

Transgender: a person who has a gender identity or gender expression different than their biological sex. It can include transsexuals, crossdressers, drag queens and kings, and people who are intersex, among many others.

Transsexual: Often used interchangeably with "transgender", thought there has been some controversy over this. This typically refers to someone who was born with a sex that they don't identify with and through hormones and possibly surgery they reconcile their gender identity and physical sex.  All transsexuals are transgender but not all transgender are transsexuals. 

Two Spirit:  Certain Native American cultures described trangender people as having "two spirits". Generally Two Spirited people were born into one sex but took on the gender roles of both sexes. Today some transgender people identify as "Two Spirit." 

(GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Queer and Questioning Teens by Kelly Huegel (Free Spirit Publishing, 2003) Includes tips from people in national GLBTQ organizations, strategies and advice you can try or share about coming out, responding to homophobia, dating, staying healthy and more). 




DVD: Straightlaced: How Gender's Got Us All Tied Up:   by Ground Spark   www.groundspark.org/straightlaced (2009)  (67 min)

DVD: Let's Get Real: on bullying      by Ground Spark   excellent dvd to show youth  (35 minutes)

DVD: It's Elementary  It’s Elementary is the first film of its kind to address anti-gay prejudice by providing adults with practical lessons on how to talk with kids about gay people. Hailed as "a model of intelligent directing," It’s Elementary shows that children are eager and able to wrestle with stereotypes and absorb new facts about what it means to be gay or lesbian.  (also by GroundSpark)   45 minutes


"When a young person first comes out as GLBT his or her experience can be anywhere from traumatic to supportive. Most of the time it can be a very difficult time for the youth, the family, friends, educators and others as well. Often, after coming out,  young people feel alienated or marginalized. One of the greatest dangers is that GLBT kids will become isolated and experience themselves as separate from (mainstream) society".  

"We must create a home for our GLBT youth. This home is an inner and outer dwelling where life is understood and respected in a safe place within mainstream culture."

The above words taken from Linda Goldman's wonderful book:  Coming Out, Coming In: Nurturing the Well Being and Inclusion of Gay Youth in Mainstream Society.  Linda Goldman is an author of many books on grief, loss, suicide and bullying. Linda is a teacher, school counselor, private therapist, educator and parent of a gay young person so her perspective on youth today is a broad one. I highly recommend this book.


Books for Teens and Young People:

ON GLBT Issues:


Man in the Middle: by J. Amaechi (2007). This is the story of the first openly gay professional basketball player.


Free Your Mind: The book for gay, lesbian and bisexual youth and their allies. (1996) by E.Bass and K. Kaufman


Outstanding Lives by C. Brelin and M.Tyrkus 91997)  This is a profile of lesbian and gay men and their contributions to society

Two Teenagers in Twenty: Writings by Gay and Lesbian Youth. by A. Heron (1994)  Teens tell their GLBT recognition and disclosure with friends and family.


GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Queer and Questioning Teens (2003)  by K. Huegel   Book represents GLBTQ questions, resources and tips


Stitches by G. Huser (2003)   Travis is a sensitive teenage boy teased and bullied by many at school. There is no undercurrent throughout the story that he is attracted to other boys.


Here's What We'll Say: by R. Lehmkuhl   Book shares a story of growing up, coming out and being gay in the US Air Force Academy


Does your mama know? An anthology of black lesbian coming out stories. by L Moore.  (1998)  A series of stories, poems, interviews and essays for high school students depicting the coming out of African American youth.


Parenting LGBT Children


Bernstein, R  Straight parents, gay children: Keeping families together.  (2003) Excellent resource for parents of LGBT children.

DeGeneres, B (1999) Love, Ellen  A mother's story of loving her child and sharing her lesbian daughter's journey after disclosure

Dew,R (1994) The Family Heart: A memoir of when our son came out   This is a compelling story of a parent's journey of learning of their child's homosexuality and depression. Their journey evolved with support and love.

Jennings, K (2003) Always My Child.  Excellent book and honestly informative guide for parents in understanding their gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning son or daughter. Keven explains the world children encounter and the sexual identity issues many deal with. 

Since today, April 16th is the National Day of Silence  (On the National Day of Silence hundreds of thousands of students nationwide take a vow of silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in their schools.) I thought it would be a good day to provide some information about Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Issues.


: www.pflag.org (Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gays)


www.http://familyproject.sfsu.edu   (Family Acceptance Project)

GLSEN: Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network: www.glsen.org

COLAGE: Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere www.colage.org

Gay Straight Alliance Network: www.gsanetwork.org

Teaching Tolerance: www.tolerance.org

Family Pride Coalition: www.familypride.org

FOR Bisexual Youth:

BiNetUSA: www.binetusa.org

Bisexual Resource Center: www.biresource.org

FOR Transgender Youth:

Gender Education and Advocacy: GEA: www.gender.org

The International Foundation for Gender Education: IFGE: www.ifge.org


Gay and Lesbian National Hotline: www.glnh.org 1-888-643-GLNH

National AIDS Hotline: 1-800-342-AIDS

National Gay and Lesbian Youth Hotline: 1-800-347-TEEN

National Mental Health Association Crisis Line:

Sexually Transmitted Diseases:

SUICIDE Hotline:
1-800-SUICIDE 24/7

Crisis Intervention for Lesbian, Gay , Bisexual and Transgender Youth:

(973) 985-4503