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In recognition today, March 31, of International Transgender Day of Visibility, Guadalupe (Lupe) Garfias, one of the program directors at Pacific Clinics’ Summit Wellbeing Center, shares four tips about how both mental health providers and allies can better support the transgender/gender non-conforming community:

1. How should California mental health providers prepare before meeting with clients who are transgender, gender non-conforming or those who think they might be?

Lupe: California state boards set the standard of practice and the standards can be very broad at times. Looking at specific boards is useful. For example, if you’re a social worker, visit the National Association of Social Workers’ standards on LGBTQ practices. Additionally, psychology boards, California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) boards, and the Board of Psychiatry have important information. Also, looking at each profession’s code of ethics can be helpful.

2. What are some specific ways allies and others can better understand the journey, challenges and feelings of someone who is gender non-conforming?

Lupe: Joining ally groups such as the one through PFLAG, volunteering at trans centers/events, creating visibility by peacefully protesting unfair practices, using privilege to be an ally, using gender-neutral terms and advocating for gender inclusivity at places of service, etc, can make a difference.

3. In your experience leading LEADS, what type of approach, values or guidelines for ally groups lead to greater compassion and understanding for newcomers?

Lupe: Creating a safe, non-judgmental space. Being gentle. Encouraging open dialogue… [and] helping newcomers/others understand that LGBT+ matters are human matters.

4. What are some recommendations/tips for new partners or loved ones around “coming out” to friends and family?

Lupe: Ask your partner or loved one about how they want you to handle certain situations. Model acceptable behaviors around others. Check out “Our Trans Loved Ones,” by PFLAG or Resources for Significant Others, Friends, Family and Allies (SOFFA) and just give the matter time, love and patience.

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