by Anne Lodge
Last week, the Medfield High School staff had the opportunity to hear an excellent presentation by Colby Swettberg, Ed.M., LCSW focused on working effectively with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. Colby has an impressive resume including a Masters degree in Education with a focus on Anti-homophobia Education from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and a second Masters degree in Clinical Social Work at the Simmons School of Social Work. She has worked to support LGBTQ individuals through her work in many capacities, providing consulting and trainings as one piece of that. Colby’s resume is impressive, but her presentation was even more impressive.
During Colby’s work with the Medfield High staff, she shared first hand accounts of LGBT youths’ experiences in school and family settings, statistics and best practices, personal anecdotes, and solid action steps schools can take to increase the safety and support for all LGBTQ youth. Additionally, she shared information on the differences between gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. Here are the highlights from that portion of Colby’s talk:
- Gender identity - how a person feels inside and how a person identifies; a person’s internal experience of their own gender
- Gender expression - the external characteristics or behaviors a person presents (i.e.: clothing, hairstyle, habits, etc.)
- Sexual orientation - who a person is attracted to; it is about who they are, not who you are
Colby shared that gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation exist along a continuum and that a person could be at different points along the continuum. For example, an individual might identify as a female, yet their gender expression might be more traditionally masculine. This is completely separate from their sexual orientation.
Colby’s presentation was incredibly informative and well-received by the faculty. It is my hope that with a greater awareness and understanding of different backgrounds and identities that all Medfield High School students feel safe and supported.