Compass is getting a boost from Palm Beach County for one of its most important programs with a $60,000 grant.
The LGBT community center in Lake Worth will now be able to increase its transgender support group from once a month to every other week because of the Palm Beach County Youth Services Department.
According to Transgender youth program coordinator Sabrine Pearson, it’s the first time the group has ever had outside funding. With an average of 20 new kids a month, the group has become even more important in giving participants a caring environment.
“For some of them, this is literally their only resource for support,” Pearson said. “Our program is a safe space, it’s a youth drop-in center, so they actually do not need their parent’s permission to come.”
Pearson said that giving the children more time to talk has addressed some of the problems the group has faced.
“Sometimes when we were having it twice a month before, three weeks would go in between times I would meet with them,” she said. “ So that’s a big gap for them if they’re having serious stressors in their life or everything while coming to terms with their identity as a trans youth.”
Now, Pearson has noticed a change in the dynamic of the group.
“Now that we're meeting weekly, there isn’t this kind of re-warming up time to get them to share, now we just jump in and we share much more freely,” she said. “The group has become so much more organic than I even expected.”
But it’s not just the youth group that’s getting more financial backing. As part of the grant, Pearson also said that they can now provide more help and support to the families of trans people as well as give trainings in the community.
“When we wrote the grant, we took a hard look at what was really needed in addition to supporting these kids, we also found that we needed to support their parents and families as well,” she said. “ So in addition to meeting with the kids, we will be meeting with the parents and actually do some educational workshops with them to empower them with knowledge and empower them with emotional support as well.”
That support is very important for parents as well, according to Psychology Today. Doctor Joel Young said that families are also dealing with adjustments while their child transitions, meaning they also need support while supporting their child.
“The single best predictor of outcomes in transgender populations is support from families,” Young said. “Offer your child this unconditional support, and watch them flourish into a happy, healthy adult.”
Pearson said that she has reached out to several professors at FAU and has previously talked at Nova Southeastern University. This has resulted in Standards of Care training for Social Work students as well as medical sensitivity training for doctoral students.
“When therapists and mental health practitioners go to school for counseling, they get the broad strokes of these minorities,” Pearson said. “So a lot of them are just not culturally competent to treat the LGBTQ comunity, with an emphasis on the trans community. So in teaching them what it means to be trans and that transgender is this umbrella term that enompasses anything that is gender variant and non binary.”
One of the biggest factors that helped them to get the grant is a new initiative to track the number of transgender students in Palm Beach County. Pearson said this would be the first time this has ever been done in the county.
There is a lack of solid numbers when it comes to tracking transgender people in the United States. According to Williams Institute, an LGBT think tank, Florida has about 100,000 of the nation's 1.4 million estimated transgender people.
“It’s incredibly empowering. It lets us feel like we’re actually doing what we’ve been trying to do for all these years, which is to be an advocate for these youth,” Pearson said. “In the past, It’s been easy to be an advocate for LGB youth, but we weren’t able to be comprehensive advocates for the T. To now be able to be a voice for our transgender youth is incredibly powerful.”