Contributing Author: Anthony Crisci, TCC
Published: August 25, 2016
In November 2015, shortly after hiring TCC’s Service Coordinator JD Melendez, a new program was born. It was that month that Triangle Community Center (TCC) formalized and launched its LGBTQ Cultural Competency Training. This training was a new initiative, a 90-minute training meant to familiarize attendees with the spectrums of sexual orientation and gender, lesser known identities, language and terms specific to the LGBTQ community. The training also covers best practices for affirming LGBTQ clients, customers, employees and group participants. It was our goal to ensure that care providers, institutions like schools and law enforcement and businesses provide the best possible experience for their LGBTQ constituents.
While it is common to encounter or know someone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, there remains a widespread lack of education as to what exactly those identities refer to both within the LGBTQ community and throughout the general population. While businesses more often than not have the best intentions for working with and accommodating transgender and gender non-conforming clients, they are sometimes neither prepared nor equipped with the language or practices necessary to make that client feel safe, comfortable and affirmed in their environment. This leads to lost business opportunities, and individuals foregoing services they so desperately need. It could mean someone misses an opportunity to report to the police when a crime takes place because they are worried about how they will be received by law enforcement officials. A bad experience with a business may result in someone refusing to do business with a firm because of the way they were addressed by the staff of that business. Our goal is to give businesses, institutions, and agencies the tools they require to educate their staff to ensure understanding of the LGBTQ experience. It encourages empathy and supplies them with the language they need to serve the LGBTQ population effectively.
A major function of TCC’s Case Management program is helping our clients to navigate the services and resources available throughout Fairfield County. Clients come to TCC for referrals because they want to know which doctors, therapists, psychiatrists, housing programs, food pantries, crisis centers, etc. will receive them in a welcoming and culturally competent way. Identifying services that can best serve the LGBTQ community is most critical for the transgender and gender-non-conforming community. Their needs, in order to be met, require affirmation of their gender identity. They face dramatic obstacles in their everyday lives, from discrimination by those that would not affirm or accept their identity, to greater rates of homelessness and unemployment, to inadequate facilities in public accommodations.
While we work to connect our clients with vital services in Fairfield County that we know are already experienced in working with the LGBTQ community, we are also now working to train as many agencies, institutions, and businesses as we can to increase the number of LGBTQ competent, affirming and safe spaces available to our community. Since starting the training program, our Service Coordinator JD has facilitated 28 training sessions through this new program which has educated 1142 individuals. Those numbers do not include the trainings JD has helped to facilitate outside of TCC’s program. I, as a secondary trainer for the program, have facilitated an additional 14 training sessions since the program’s inception reaching an additional 300 individuals.
We look forward to continuing and expanding this important program into 2017 to bring this important education to everyone corner of Fairfield County. If you know of a business, non-profit, or government agency that might be interested in scheduling a session please direct them to our website at http://www.ctpridecenter.org/trainings for more information.