Lack of confidence in the 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, indicate the first results of a study conducted by a team from the Centro de Social Studies (CES) of the University of Coimbra (UC).
The study is part of the project “Diversity and Childhood (DaC): transforming attitudes towards gender diversity in childhood in the European context”, which brings together in consortium 30 scientists from 9 European countries. This project aims to diagnose and intervene to combat discrimination that affects LGBTI+ children and young people (acronym that represents lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, intersex and other orientations) in five areas: school, health, media, public spaces and institutions to support child and families.
«It is evident the lack of resources, especially training and information, on the part of professionals involved in the implementation of the Self-Determination Law, which 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, a fact «that should make us reflect is the total absence of LGBTI+ issues in the academic and curricular training of most of these professionals, with more than half admitting to never having done an updating knowledge or specific training for working with LGBTI+ children and young people», highlights the CES principal investigator.
«In fact, among the factors that most hinder 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 the 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 professionals who responded to 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 a school environment. «Equally alarming will be 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», underlines 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 centered 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 investigation, the CES expert warns that there is still a way to go 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 the 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 is composed of Ana Cristina Santos (Coordinator), Mafalda Esteves (Cocoordenadora) and Alexandra Santos, and has the support of Ministry of Education and the LGBTI Youth Association and Exhaustive Network supporters.