JUSTICE, EQUITY, DIVERSITY, AND INCLUSION

At Big Brothers Big Sisters of NWA, Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) is an integral part of our values and mission. We recognize, affirm, and celebrate the diverse backgrounds, lives, and experiences of all our stakeholders, including youth, families, donors, volunteers, and staff. We ensure the opportunity for all voices and perspectives to be heard and honored. In the workplace, we foster an environment where all people can be their best selves. We affirm that every person [regardless of ability, age, cultural background, ethnicity, faith, gender, gender identity, gender expression, ideology, income, national origin, race or sexual orientation, marital or veteran status] has the opportunity to reach their full potential. We strive to realize the full potential that is within all of us by ensuring that all voices and perspectives are heard and honored.

 

 

FAQs: ALL THINGS LGBTQ

BIG FAQS

1.  How do I know BBBS is a safe space for members of the LGBTQ community?
We pride ourselves on making Big Brothers Big Sisters of NWA a safe place for everyone, including the LGBTQ community. Just as we welcome children and families from a beautifully diverse array of backgrounds, we welcome volunteers from every background as well. We believe that diversity and uniqueness are assets and by modeling this for youth, we help encourage them to be and believe in themselves. In August 2020, we partnered with Altria to specifically help us better serve LGBTQ youth and we continue this mission today. We recognize that the bias that exists in our culture puts LGBTQ youth (and adults) at a greater risk for negative health and safety outcomes, such as depression, bullying, homelessness, suicidality, and substance abuse. We also know that the best protective factor against these risks is for youth to have a positive, supportive, consistent adult in their life. Be part of the solution by being a Big!

2. Your organization is called “Big Brothers Big Sisters”, can I be a mentor if I identify as trans, non-binary, or gender fluid?
Absolutely! At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we are looking for a diverse group of volunteers, including age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, and ability. The youth and adults in our program represent a diverse array of all the above. Likely we have a young person waiting for a Big just like you!

3. Will you use my preferred pronouns?
You bet!

4. If I identify as LGBTQ, do I have to be matched with an LGBTQ Little?
Nope! When we match our Bigs and Littles, we take numerous factors into consideration including personalities, location, aspirations, likes/dislikes, personal preferences, and life experiences, to make sure our matches are successful from the start. Your Enrollment Specialist will talk to you about your preferences for being matched so we ensure it’s a great fit for everyone.

5. Do I need to identify as LGBTQ to be matched with an LGBTQ Little?
Not at all! We have many wonderful Bigs that are LGBTQ Allies.

6. How can I become an LGBTQ Ally within BBBS?
Thank you for asking! Allies make a huge difference in the community and in our program! If you are interested in becoming a Big and are excited to be matched with a LGBTQ Little, please let us know! In addition, if you know any fantastic role models in the LGBTQ community that you believe would be interested in becoming a Big themselves, we would love to talk with them about the program. Please help connect us!

7. If I identify as trans or non-binary, would I be matched with a Little Sister or a Little Brother?
Upon matching, we would first consider your preferences and comfort level that you discussed with your Enrollment Specialist during your interview. We then consider the needs and preferences of our waiting Littles to determine who may be the best fit for you. With every match, we first call and discuss the potential match with the mentor, and then (if mentor says “yes” to the match), we call and discuss the match with the family. It is important to us that everyone in a match will be loved and respected for being themselves.

8. I’ve been accepted into the program and am ready to be matched, but I’m wondering if the family will accept me?
This is where our highly trained Match Support Managers come in! They are experts at creating matches that are healthy and successful for all match parties from the start. Your safety and comfort is a priority and we would not make a match in which we did not feel that you would be accepted for who you are. Before beginning a match, we’ll discuss the potential Little with you, and then share info about you with the parent and youth. It is important that everyone feels they can be open and be themselves with each other and be welcomed and respected. We use this process with every match in our program for this reason. If there is something about the youth or family you think may not be a good fit, please share that with us during our matching process.


9. Why does BBBS ask about my orientation and gender?
As a part of our enrollment and interview process, we ask all of our volunteer applicants about their gender and orientation, in addition to asking about loads of other things too. The reason we ask is so we are able to discuss matching preferences with both the Little, their family, and you as the Big. We also ask our family’s several questions about their preferences for a Big for their child, to ensure a successful, healthy, happy, comfortable match for everyone involved. It is important to us that everyone can be their authentic self and be accepted as they are.

10. If I, as a Big, disclose my gender identity or orientation to the agency, who will this information be shared with? Will the family of a Little know? What if I identify as LGBTQ, but I am not “out” in my own personal circle?
Any information that you share about your gender identity or orientation is protected under our confidentiality policy. We will not share this information with anyone outside of the agency without your explicit, written consent. With that in mind, the Little that you would be matched with and the family of this Little are considered part of the agency. We share information with the Big and Little about each other prior to matching to ensure everyone feels comfortable with the match and can be themselves without fear of judgment from one another. If you have concerns about sharing your sexual orientation or gender identity with the family, please talk with us about this so we can discuss the best path forward.

11. What if I identify as LGBTQ, but I am not comfortable disclosing this to the agency during an interview to be a Big?
We do encourage you to be as open and honest about yourself as possible during the interview with your Enrollment Specialist, as this is how we have such wonderful success in making positive and long-lasting match relationships. Knowing that you identify as LGBTQ would help us make the best match for both you and a child, as we can ensure that you are matched with a family that appreciates and respects you, for you. However, if you are not comfortable disclosing this during an interview, that is absolutely your right.

12. What confidentiality policies do you have in place regarding LGBTQ Bigs, Littles, families, and matches?
All Bigs, Littles, families, and matches are covered under our confidentiality policies. These state that any information learned about you in the interview process, matching process, or during a match, is held confidential within the agency and not shared outside of the agency. 


​13. Will there be a consistent staff person that I can rely on for any issues that arise during my match?
Yes! This is one of our areas of expertise. Each and every match is assigned a Match Support Specialist, who will introduce you to your match, check-in with you by phone at least once per month, and will provide ongoing insight, training, coaching, and encouragement specific to your match experience. We highly encourage you to use their expertise to help navigate any and all questions that you may have.

14. What are appropriate boundaries for conversations regarding gender identity and orientation with my Little (either mine, theirs, or my opinion of others’)?
It varies. When in doubt, our recommendation is to let the youth lead and for the Big to follow. We would rather youth share their ideas and opinions with their Big, and avoid situations where a Big might push their own ideologies on the child. We are here to help youth find and use their voice, and to walk along side them as they develop their own unique opinions, views, and identity. When any potentially sensitive topic arises within a match (sexual orientation, religion, politics, etc.), we typically ask that you have a discussion with the Little’s guardians about it, just to make sure that everyone is on the same page and comfort level with the topics being discussed. At the same time, we want to ensure a safe space for youth to talk about what may be on their mind, particularly if they worry about how their parent may respond. We take each situation case by case; this is an example of when you should reach out to your Match Support Specialist to discuss what is going on and explore options for the best way to proceed, putting the youth’s safety and needs first.

15. Can I share my own experiences of “coming out” with my Little?
Likely! If you feel that sharing this experience would be beneficial to your Little, please reach out to your Match Support Specialist first to discuss boundaries, possible questions that may arise, how to best handle this conversation, and general appropriateness in light of the child’s age, maturity, attention span, etc. Every match is unique and your Match Support Specialist is an expert on your match.

16. What if my Little discloses to me that they are questioning or identify as LGBTQ/non-binary? Do I tell their family and/or the agency? What if I know their parents are not supportive and/or they are not safe at home if they were to disclose to their family?
First, this says a lot about the trust you have built with this young person. Great job creating a safe and supportive space for them to open up to you! Approach this conversation with compassion, confidence, trust, and acceptance. Be an active and engaged listener and avoid premature problem-solving. Ask questions to learn more about who they have told or plan to tell, and ask what you can do to be supportive. In our program, we ask matches to share all information with your Match Support Specialist, but this information should not necessarily be shared with the parent. Be open with your Match Support Specialist and together with the youth we will discuss options for moving forward that put the youth front and center. Our confidentiality policy protects youth coming out and when signing it, parents acknowledge that this information may not be shared with them. Your Match Support Specialist is trained in these areas and is the best tool for your match to help you navigate these questions, even if speaking in the hypothetical.

YOUTH/ FAMILY FAQS

1. My child has disclosed to me that they identify as LGBTQ, but they are not comfortable sharing this with anyone else yet. How do I approach this in regards to the program?
We absolutely respect your child’s privacy and their trust in you. You can let them know that BBBS of Northwest Arkansas is a safe place for them, but you do not need to break their confidence and disclose their identity/orientation to us if it is against their wishes. At no point would we want you to “out” them to us if they are not ready. Rather, when discussing preferences, you may let us know that you are very open to (or interested in) an LGBTQ Big, if this is your child’s preference.

2. I think my child might be questioning, but I am not certain. Am I able to request an LGBTQ Big for them?
Of course! During the enrollment process, we will ask your family and your child about preferences for a potential Big. One of the questions we ask is if you would be comfortable being matched with an LGBTQ Big. During this process, please keep in mind that we also ask your child their preferences, so if they indicate they would not be comfortable with an LGBTQ Big, then we would not make this particular match. However, we would make sure to match your child with a Big that was accepting and supportive of LGBTQ families.

3. Will the waiting period for my child to be matched be longer if my child discloses they identify LGBTQ?
Absolutely not. The waiting period is based on how many Bigs we have that have completed their enrollment process and if that Big’s preferences align with a Little’s. This process remains the same for all active waiting Littles who have completed their enrollment process.

4. I am the parent and I identify LGBTQ. Do I need to disclose this information?
We respect your choice to choose what information you want to share. We ask you to share information that will help us make the best match possible for your Little, but also for a Big that we think would work well and respect you, as the parent. Our parents are an extremely vital part of the match and the overall success of the match.


5. My child has been matched for awhile now, and just recently indicated that they have changed their preferred pronouns, will their Big and the agency respect this?
Yes! Absolutely. If a Little has changed their preferred pronouns, all you need to do is inform your Big and your Match Support Specialist. Your Match Support Specialist will be sure this is noted in their file and their preferences will be respected.

6. My child is matched, but has recently disclosed that they are trans and would like to go by a different name. Will the agency respect this?
Yes! If your child is more comfortable with themselves and their identity when being referred to by another name than we previously knew, let us know! Your Match Support Specialist will make a note in their file and their preferences will be respected throughout the agency. All staff members will refer to your child by their preferred name. The only exception to this may be on legal/confidentiality documents where their full legal name will be listed, but can include their preferred name as well.

7. I am a Little in a match and want to come out to my Big, will they support me?
We know that coming out can be a very scary and intimidating process. However, you know your relationship with your Big better than anyone and you are wanting to come out to them for a reason. Trust your instincts and know that your Big is there to support you. However, if you are uncertain of how to approach this conversation with your Big, your Match Support Specialist is always available to help guide you through this conversation, if you feel comfortable talking to them first. Your Match Support Specialist can help you determine how you want to approach the conversation, what you want to say, what you think your Bigs reaction might be, and how you may respond to their reaction. BBBS of Northwest Arkansas is a safe place for you and is here to support you.


8. I believe my child is being picked on or bullied at school due to their gender/orientation. What can I do?
If you believe that they are in imminent danger, please contact 911.
If they are not in urgent danger, but you believe their mental and physical health is being affected by incidents at school, please reach out to your Match Support Specialist and start this conversation with them. Your Match Support Specialist will be able to connect you to various resources in the area for you and your child, can connect you with individuals at the school that may be able to help, and will be able to help you create a plan of action to have this concern alleviated. Although bullying is a complex issue, your Match Support Specialist has the expertise and available resources to be your ally in navigating this situation.

9. I am a Little and I don’t feel safe at home or at school due to my gender/orientation, what do I do?
If you feel that you are in imminent danger, contact 911 immediately.
However, if you don’t feel that you are in immediate danger, but have concerns for your safety and/or wellbeing or any reason, please reach out to a trusted adult as soon as possible and let them know your concerns. This adult could include your Big, your Match Support Specialist, your Enrollment Specialist, or any staff at BBBS of Northwest Arkansas. If, for any reason, the first adult you talk to does not take you seriously or does not follow up on your concerns, please reach out to another adult.

Youth and Family Resources

LOCAL

NWA Equality Northwest

https://nwaequality.org/

Arkansas Equality is a nonprofit organization providing programming, education, and advocacy to serve, connect and empower the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community. We provide support groups, resources, and social and community outreach events. Each summer ,we produce Arkansas’ largest LGBTQ Pride celebration, Northwest Arkansas Pride

PFLAG of Northwest Arkansas-

https://pflag.org/chapter/pflag-fayettevillenorthwest-arkansas

PFLAG provides support, advocacy & education to members of the LGBTQ+ spectrum, their families, allies & community. Since 2014 “PFLAG” is no longer an acronym, just the name of our organization.

Transgender Equality Network-

https://transequalitynetwork.org/

TEN foresees a world where transgender people are able to live and thrive as fully accepted members of society. To live in a world free of discrimination and violence.

 

STATE

ACLU-Arkansas

https://www.acluarkansas.org/en/lgbt-rights

The LGBT Project fights discrimination and moves public opinion through the courts, legislatures and public education across five issue areas: Relationships, Youth & Schools, Parenting, Gender Identity and Expression and Discrimination in Employment, Housing and other areas.

Human Rights Campaign-Arkansas

https://www.hrc.org/in-your-area/arkansas

We’ve spent 40 years creating the most powerful movement for equality our country has ever seen. But despite this progress, our most marginalized are still suffering from violence, discrimination, and fear. Our goal is to ensure that all LGBTQ people, and particularly those of us who are trans, people of color and HIV+, are treated as full and equal citizens within our movement, across our country and around the world.

Lucie’s Place-

https://www.luciesplace.org/

Lucie’s Place provides LGBTQ Young Adults experiencing homelessness in Central Arkansas with safe living environments, job training and counseling services in order to ensure lifelong stability and success, and works to promote equality and acceptance for LGBTQ young adults.

 

NATIONAL

The Trevor Project

https://www.facebook.com/TheTrevorProject      
http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

The Trevor Project provides lifesaving and life-affirming services to LGBTQ youth. If you need support, call the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386.

 

GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders – GLAD

www.glad.org    https://www.facebook.com/GLADFans

Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation.

 

Transgender Student Rights-

https://www.facebook.com/trans.student.rights

Transgender Student Rights works to create safe schools for all, regardless of gender identity and expression.

GLSEN-

https://www.glsen.org/

GLSEN works to ensure that LGBTQ students are able to learn and grow in a school environment free from bullying and harassment. Together we can transform our nation’s schools into the safe and affirming environment all youth deserve.

Transgender Law Center-National organization-

https://transgenderlawcenter.org/about

Transgender Law Center (TLC) is the largest national trans-led organization advocating for a world in which all people are free to define themselves and their futures. Grounded in legal expertise and committed to racial justice, TLC employs a variety of community-driven strategies to keep transgender and gender nonconforming people alive, thriving, and fighting for liberation.

inTRANSitive-

https://www.intransitive.org/

inTRANSitive is a Trans migrant led organization working on providing education and celebrating Trans resilience. Mission:

To improve the lives of Trans Arkansans through education, organizing and celebration of our resilience.