By Brian Rinker and Beza Beneberu
November 13, 2012
Mia Tu Mutch, 22, identifies as transgender and prefers female pronouns. She’s served as a member of the San Francisco Youth Commission for a year and a half. Advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights are more than just politics, it’s necessary for her own survival. Mutch was refused health care access, she said, after service providers discovered she is transgender. She is not alone.
“LGBT youth are more affected by homelessness, suicide, and hate crimes than non LGBTs,” said Mutch. “There are lots of negative statistics for LGBT youth because of there not being adequate care from families and service providers.”
For more than a decade the city has failed to make any progress implementing Administrative Code 12N, which requires LGBT sensitivity training for all city employees and city-funded nonprofits whose work impacts young people. The mandate would only affect the nonprofits that receive $50,000 or more per year from the city and include after-school programs, hospital workers, social service workers, shelter program employees and homeless prevention services.
“The city has not been in compliance in any way that we know of,” said Mutch, referring to 12N, which was passed by the Board of Supervisors in 1999. Mutch adds that the city ordinance is vague and doesn’t provide specific standards for city workers. “We want to hold the city accountable and make sure there is a system implemented.”
Originally, the biggest obstacle was that 12N was an unfunded mandate, said Nadia Babella of the Human Rights Commission.
That changed last year when the health department stepped in and paid Bayview Hunters Point Center for Arts and Technology, BAYCAT, $50,000 to make an educational training video about LGBT sensitivity issues.
The 40-minute video is comprised of many interviews with LGBT youths. They share their personal experiences and give pointers to viewers on how to speak respectfully and ask questions about sexual orientation and gender identity.
Ariel Dovas, media director at BAYCAT, was a producer and editor for the 12N video. Dovas said he hopes the video will become an LGBT-sensitivity training model for communities everywhere.
“All communities can benefit from this type of training,” said Dovas, adding that he learned a lot about LGBTs issues while working on the video. He said that the LGBT voice is missing in the media and was honored to have the opportunity to use his skills to a make a video that could positively impact LGBT youth. The city needs to take the reins and become a leader in educating the community about the sensitivity issues LGBTs face, said Dovas.
The video would be put online and function as a webinar for other agencies.
“Each agency could be sent the video, as well other training material, handouts, questionnaires,” said Babella. “This would keep training consistent.”
The next step, according to Babella, is to develop supplemental material to the video, which would then have to be approved by the human rights and youth commissions.
“Then there would likely be a pilot program, testing, and finally implementation,” added Babella.
Jodi Schwartz, executive director of LYRIC, a local nonprofit youth organization that serves 700 young people a year and another 1500 in outreach, said she is afraid that a video and questionnaire won’t be enough to properly train service providers about LGBTs.
“A onetime seminar or webinar aren’t going to be the transformational tools needed to accomplish the goals that 12N is required to provide,” said Schwartz, adding that 12N is only a piece of the solution.
What is needed to effectively address these issues is the collection of demographic population data for sexual orientation and gender identity, she added.
“Part of the issue is that city departments don’t understand how many LGBTs they are serving,” said Schwartz, adding that most service providers rely only on anecdotal evidence.
San Francisco Unified School District is one of the only organizations in the city that collects LGBT data.
Every few years the school district conducts the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The 2011 study found that students in middle and high school who identify as LGBT experience significantly higher rates of violence, bullying, suicidal thoughts and depression. With more than 3,000 students in the district identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning (not sure) and transgender, the data shows a need for trained service providers.
2011 Survey of San Francisco Middle School Students
Violence at School:
- 70% of transgender, and 58% of LBG youth have had property damaged at school compared with 33% of non-LGT youth
- 66% of transgender and 40% of LGB have been bullied at school compared with 21% of non LGB youth
- 70% of transgender and 43% of LGB have been in a physical fight, compared with 17% of non-LGB
- 58% of transgender and 27% of LGB youth have been threatened or injured with a weapon at school, compared with 5% of non-LGB
- 74.1% of transgender and 62% of LGB have drank alcohol compared with 21% of non-LGB
- 62% of transgender, and 38.2% of LGB have used marijuana compared with 8.4 of non LGB
- 69.8% of transgender youth and 32.2% of LGB have used cocaine, compared with 2.9% of non-LGB
- 64.6% of transgender and 41.1% of LGB have used inhalants, compared with 7.7% of non-LGB
- 57.1% of transgender and 49.2% of LGB have seriously considered suicide compared with 18% of non-LGB
- 54.6% of transgender and 41.1% of LGB have made a suicide plan, compared with 10.7% of non-LGB
49.8% of transgender and 33.5 of LGB have attempted suicide, compared with 6% of non-LGB
Source: 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, San Francisco Unified School District
“Good policies are driven by data,” said Schwartz adding that the data lets departments know who is succeeding and who is failing.
When LGBTs don’t feel safe, said Schwartz, it is proven that they more likely to engage in risky behavior— substance abuse, risky sexual behavior and suicide—than heterosexual youth.
While steps are being made to address these issues and implement 12N, nothing has been set in stone, said Mutch. She said she worries the video alone won’t be enough and doesn’t want the ordinance to become a “symbolic gesture”.
The Youth Commission is currently researching the effectiveness and costs of other training methods.
“In San Francisco we’ve come to expect that people and providers know what LGBT is, and that they will treat us all with respect,” said Mutch. “When that doesn’t happen, it’s a little disheartening.”