Youth homelessness is a challenge for a lot of people resulting in high levels of vulnerability. For transgender and gender diverse young people, the experience of homelessness itself and accessing services has the potential to threaten their safety and wellbeing. Many transgender and gender-diverse young people experience stigma and discrimination across the broader community; in school, the workplace, social groups, and within family. This experience is often compounded when young people attempt to access support services such as housing.
Young people face many barriers which often result in unstable housing and studies have shown that transgender and gender-diverse young people are at much higher risk. These factors often overlap resulting in this community facing multiple barriers that may include:
- mental illness
- suicidal ideation
- alcohol and other drug use
- family breakdown
- social isolation
- disengaging with education
- physical and emotional abuse and trauma.
There are multiple issues at play. The forms all clients must fill in, in order to access services, may ask them to state their gender and only provide an option for male and female. Services will also generally request a form of identification, such as a drivers license or other form of identification. Identification documentation may not reflect preferred gender identity or preferred names.
Cultural assumptions create further barriers. Co-workers often assume gender identity based on clothes and appearance. The inappropriate use of pronouns can also create issues. Not all individuals 'fit' into the social norm of male and female, masculine and feminine and it is extremely important to respect people's preferred forms of address (such as he, she, or they).
When working with an already vulnerable cohort of young people, there is even greater need for the consideration of inclusive environments within services. This includes promoting a safe, secure and welcoming environment for all service users and staff (such as non-gendered toilets and bathrooms) as well as educated, trained and aware staff. Services should consider their policies and procedures including intake forms and referrals, to reflect the appropriate and inclusive use of language.
Housing is not just about finding a roof over a head. It is about ensuring individuals are well supported to find secure and sustainable housing. Trained and aware sector staff, provide a key resource in working with transgender and gender-diverse young people and enable positive engagement and interactions with housing services.