As research on mentoring LGBTQ+ youth is still in its infancy, few studies offer clarity on the unique benefits of mentoring for LGBTQ+ youth or have quantified the impact of mentoring on the social, emotional, and physical well-being of LGBTQ+ youth. However, some of the benefits found by the limited studies, include:
- Helping youth to confront challenges such as lack of acceptance from peers and parents.
- Promoting positive educational outcomes among LGBTQ+ youth.
- Offering ongoing support that can attune to the needs of youth as they navigate through phases of exploring, accepting, and sharing their identity with others.
- Offering emotional, informational, and interpersonal support for LGBTQ+ youth in ways that provide protection from risks associated with stigma and victimization.
Some things to keep in mind when supporting LGBTQ+ mentees:
- It is important to get to know each mentee and their unique strengths, challenges, and areas for potential growth and not assume that their LGBTQ+ status is inherently determinative of any or specific behaviors or experiences.
- There are potentially added barriers to trust that LGBTQ+ youth may face when participating in mentoring relationships.
- Explore your own biases (conscious or unconscious), your attitudes, and your levels of comfort regarding serving LGBTQ individuals and how to recognize when these factors can lead to negative interactions, even unintentionally.
- Understand the coming out process for LGBTQ+ youth, including uniquely experienced developmental milestones for understanding, accepting, and sharing an LGBTQ+ identity, handling sudden disclosures, understanding youth choices and concerns related to being out and how to provide support over time during critical moments and changes in identity and expression. One resource can be found here.
- Avoiding countertransference of one’s own experiences as an LGBTQ+ youth or young adult onto the mentee.
- Respect any desires around confidentiality and disclosure of information. This can be especially critical for youth whose parents or guardians might not be receptive to changes in their status and for youth who may not be out in all parts of their lives.
- Builds skills for working effectively day-to-day with LGBTQ+ youth and adults, such as respectful use of personal pronouns.
- Build your awareness of how the intersecting identities of LGBTQ+ youth (e.g., race, ethnicity, religion) impact their individual experiences and the support they will, in turn, need from their mentors and the program as a whole.
- If it comes up, utilize your PM to support with circumstances where parents or guardians of LGBTQ+ youth express negative reactions to their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity/expression (or changes or disclosures that happen during their time in the program).