MOUNT VERNON — Knowing how to interact and be inclusive of those within the LGBTQIA community can often seem like a daunting task to those that are unfamiliar with the language and their own level of understanding. New Directions domestic abuse shelter took a step to bridge this knowledge gap with the final Know More Monday October free training session with a Safe Zone LGBTQIA+ 101 training at the Grand Hotel in Mount Vernon.
The training, led by Lauren Lochotzki, sexual assault advocate and Jordan Shremshock, outreach coordinator, sought to create a safe space for curious community members to learn how to be more inclusive of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA+) community.
The training worked to define essential terms within the LGBTQIA community, including terms like gender identity — a person’s sense of being feminine, masculine, or gendered in any way or not at all; and genderqueer — a gender variant/gender non-conforming person whose gender identity is neither woman or man, both woman and man, somewhere in between or is some combination of genders.
The session also included activities, including LGBTQIA-inclusive language do’s and don’ts, noting to avoid saying terms like “hermaphrodite” when intersex is a preferred term; creating a “genderbread” person, which explained gender identity, attraction, physical sex and gender expression as spectrums that are not necessarily black-and-white, blanket terms for every person; as well as the do’s and don’ts of responding to an LGBT community member who comes out to you.
Additionally, the training highlighted the four D’s of being an upstanding bystander in the face of harassment: direct confrontation, distracting the instigator, delegating to help or the police, or delaying to care for the victim afterwards. This also encouraged upstanding bystanders to document the incident in combination with the other intervention styles, in case a police report would need to be filed.
The bystander training included a video element, where clips from ABC’s “What Would You Do?” were utilized to outline situations where LGBT harassment was observed in public spaces. Participants of the training were asked to group themselves in which intervention style they would use to intervene in those scenarios, with most choosing the direct method.
“There’s definitely LGBT, a queer community in Knox County, but there’s no Gay-Straight alliance, there are no community supports specific to that community that I know of,” Shremshock said. “There’s First Congregational Church, but if you’re not religious, where does that leave you? So, we’re starting very basic with 90 minute trainings, trying to build up a base of people who care so we can get those resources in the community.”
Shremshock explained that these trainings can be scheduled through New Directions and utilized by any group, including area businesses, schools or churches to educate more community members on LGBT inclusivity.
“I think the bystander four D’s is so important,” Lochotzki said. “You could easily find yourself in a situation like that at any moment, anywhere.”
Shremshock explained that the training’s focus on identity encourages respect for everyone, which is the ultimate goal.
“Identity and getting past the binary, there are other experiences out there and respect costs you nothing,” Shremshock said. “Even if you don’t agree with it, respect costs you nothing.”
Lochotzki and Shremshock explained that this training ties into the overall goals of New Directions because it serves a minority group, which is a vulnerable population in terms of violence.
“Minority populations, especially those in the LGBT community, experience domestic and sexual violence at extremely high rates compared to cis-gender, heterosexual people, especially transgender youth.” Shremshock said.
Lochotzki added, “At New Directions we want to promote overall healthy relationships, we want to be that resource for people in all relationships.”