Affirmations To Educate Social Workers On LGBT Issues

By Crystal A. Proxmire

FERNDALE - Social worker and licensed counselors with any level of experience with the LGBT community can benefit from a new series of workshops being hosted at Affirmations. With trainings by experts like Antonia Caretto, Amorie Robinson, Michelle Anderson, Fran Brown and Robert Martin attendees will grow in their knowledge of how to serve this growing, and important, client base.

Dr. Antonia Caretto will be teaching the first workshop Aug. 8, called "Working with Transgender Youth & Their Families." Caretto has been a clinical psychologist in her own Farmington Hills practice since 1994, where she sees both youth and adult clients. She's well-known for her work with transgender individuals and their families.

"I have seen an increase in transgender youth in my practice, as have clinicians worldwide," Caretto said. "There are several factors which may account for the increase in these numbers. One possibility is that there are more transgender youth than there ever were before. Perhaps this is the result of the sexual revolution two generations ago which challenged rigid beliefs about men and women. If so, it is likely that the freedoms did not create more transgender children, but rather just allowed transgender children to identify themselves rather than repressing their gender non-conforming sense of self.

"Let's be honest, there have always been transgender children and in the past many did not come out until their adult years, sometimes not until age 50 or 60. Access to information has allowed transgender children to self-identify earlier."

Her workshop will focus on transgender youth and their relationship to their families. Parents of transgender children have a few issues they will likely need to look at. Having care providers familiar with these issues is essential in healthy development.

Caretto explained, "The first struggle that parents and families have is denial and the subsequent stages of the grieving process such as anger, guilt and bargaining. They must mourn the loss of the identity and future they thought their child would have - and that takes time.

"Parents of transgender children struggle with their own coming out process. They feel the shame and the stigma from the binary hetero-normative majority culture which demands everyone meet expectations assigned to us because of our biology. Parents struggle with not knowing how to guide and help their child, nor how to advocate for them.

"Parents of very young transgender children really struggle a lot with not being able to know how their child will experience and express their gender as they reach adolescence and adulthood."

Research shows youth who do not have supportive parents have poorer health outcomes; they have an increased incidence of depression, suicidality, substance use and unsafe sex. Helping parents learn to be more supportive can greatly increase any youth's potential, particularly LGBT youth.

In addition to focusing on emotional and behavioral needs of transgender clients, Caretto will make care providers aware of the medical aspects of transitioning, including the availability of hormones to prevent the body changes that happen during puberty.

The three-hour trainings count for continuing education credit, and cost $45. Future training topics include: The Role of Christianity in Sexual Identity Development, Culturally Competent Practice with African American LGB Youth, and Counseling LGBT Parents & Their Children. For more information visit the Affirmations website at http://www.goaffirmations.org or contact organizer Lydia Ahlum Hanson at (248)677-7230.

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