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Tackle Problems, Not People: Takeaways from Growing a Rainbow

On May 10, the Hawaiʻi Public Health Training Hui had the privilege of hosting Amanda Martinez of Mental Health America of Hawaiʻi for her webinar entitled “Growing a Rainbow: Sexual & Gender Minority 101.” Over one hundred attendees across the islands took part to learn how we can better understand and support sexual and gender minorities.

Martinez guided us in exploring the concepts of sex, gender, and orientation. She engaged the audience in a poll to encourage reflection on how we experience the sensation of having a crush. We then concluded that it was an automatic response beyond our control. This reflection enabled us to connect this familiar sensation to understand orientation better.

Next, Martinez presented the following statistics: 5,960 youth and 35,800 adults in Hawaiʻi self-identified as LGBT+. Furthermore, LGBT+ youth and adults were more likely to present with depression and engage in self-harm than their heteronormative counterparts. That is why it is more important than ever to improve our allyship through the implementation of Martinez’s “Growing a Rainbow” framework:

Research training opportunities for your youth, staff, board, and community. By actively listening to LGBT+ experiences and perspectives, we can broaden our knowledge and avoid making unfounded assumptions.

Address exclusion, discrimination, and isolation immediately. We should never ignore harmful language and behavior. Instead, we should identify the behavior as problematic, educate on why it is unacceptable, and support the targeted individual of any hate. Tackle problems, not people.

Implement inclusive language & pronouns. Small actions make a difference. Introducing ourselves with our pronouns helps normalize the behavior and makes everyone feel welcome in the space.

Name and normalize identities, feelings, and experiences. We should welcome every identity and experience. We shouldn’t make LGBT+ experiences a taboo, nor should we make anyone from these communities feel like an “other.”

Build partnerships based on peer leadership. This approach emphasizes mutual respect, transparency, and shared goals, ensuring that each member feels valued and empowered to contribute. Through such partnerships, we can freely share ideas and develop innovative solutions through collective wisdom.

Out yourself as an ally. We should refrain from pushing LGBT+ individuals to come out if they do not wish to. Instead, we should practice inclusivity and acceptance to make it easier for people to show their true selves without judgment.

Write policies, mission statements, goals, and objectives. While the previous steps help on a small scale, we can also work together on more withstanding changes. For example, we can support LGBT+ people with our support of anti-discrimination policies.

On behalf of the Hui, we want to thank Amanda Martinez for her knowledge and expertise. Join us for our next webinars with Amanda “Healing & Grief” on June 14 and “Keiki Self-Care” on August 23. Those who cannot make a webinar or wish to revisit its insights can find the recording on the Hawaiʻi Public Health Training Hui’s YouTube channel.

Melia Schneck

Melia Schneck

Workforce Development Program Assistant
Makamae Namahoe, MPA

Makamae Namahoe, MPA

Training and Workforce Development Initiatives Program Manager
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