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Study points out the major obstacles to professionals who work with LGBTI+ children and youngsters

30 june
Ana Cristina Santos
Ana Cristina Santos
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The lack of confidence in services and the lack of specific training are the main obstacles felt by most professionals working in the field of gender self-determination of children and young people in Portugal. These are the first results of a study conducted by a team of the Centre of Social Studies (CES) of the University of Coimbra (UC).

The study is part of the project “Diversity and Childhood (DaC) - Changing social attitudes towards gender diversity in children across Europe”, a consortium which brings together 30 scientists from 9 European countries. This project aims to diagnose and intervene to combat discrimination that affects LGBTI + children and young people (acronym which stands for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, intersex and other orientations) in five areas: school, health, media, public spaces and institutions to support child and families.

“The lack of resources is evident, especially training and information available to professionals involved in the implementation of the Self-Determination Law [Law nº 38/2018, of August 7, regulated in 2019]. This creates obstacles to equal treatment of this population in areas such as education, health, family intervention, media and public and community space”, says Ana Cristina Santos, coordinator of the Portuguese team.

According to the preliminary results of the study carried out through a survey - the first European survey focused on gender diversity in childhood - a fact “that should make us reflect is the total absence of LGBTI + subjects in the academic and curricular training of most of these professionals, with more than half admitting never having subsequently upgraded their knowledge or specific training for working with LGBTI + children and young people”, highlights the CES principal investigator.

From these results, she highlights that, “it becomes clear that there is the need for training in sexual and gender diversity aimed at professionals in all areas. In fact, among the factors that most hinder the intervention, the lack of training to work specifically with LGBTI + children and young people (81.2%), the lack of knowledge about affirmative practices / LGBTI + resources (78.3%), the lack of knowledge by technicians about the services available (69.8%) and LGBTI + issues in general (66.7%) and the lack of services for LGBTI + children (60.9%). And, in fact, 40% of the professionals who answered the survey are unaware of the existence of any local, regional or national service aimed at LGBTI + children and young people”.

Looking at the education sector, the study indicates that 73% of the surveyed professionals report never having received any training that would allow them to support an LGBTI + student in school. "Equally alarming is the fact that more than half of these professionals reveal that they do not have access to specific resources or policies for LGBTI + children in the institution where they work, in order to guarantee a comprehensive and adequate intervention", claims the researcher.

In the health area, the most worrying conclusion, according to Ana Cristina Santos, is related to the lack of confidence in the services: three quarters of the health professionals who participated in the study “consider that the greatest difficulty that LGBTI + children and young people face in accessing health care is the lack of confidence in services. Therefore, it is urgent to implement measures centred on the patient, which allow working with proximity and a relationship of trust, so that LGBTI + children and young people understand the doctor's office as a safe, inclusive and violence-free space”.

In view of the results obtained in this research, the CES expert warns that there is still a path to walk with regard to “the creation and promotion of safe spaces for LGBTI + children. Hence, the success of the Law on Gender Self-Determination depends on the implementation of LGBTI + action plans in institutions, in order to support an effective intervention with these children and young people”.

Started in 2019, the “Diversity and Childhood” project is funded by the European Commission until 2021. In Portugal, the research team members are Ana Cristina Santos (Coordinator), Mafalda Esteves (Co-coordinator) and Alexandra Santos, and has the support of the Ministry of Education and the LGBTI Youth Association and exaequo network supporters.


Original news article in Portuguese: Cristina Pinto

English version: Diana Taborda