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The three-part training series provides Jewish educators and youth professionals a deeper understanding about LGBTQ+ teens.

Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, Stand with Trans, JFamily and the Youth Professionals Network are partnering together to present an LGBTQ+ Ally and Advocacy training series for Jewish educators and youth professionals.

The trainings, which begin March 11 at the Jewish Community Center (JCC), start with a basic course on LGBTQ+ 101. There, participants will learn the basics of gender identity and sexual orientation, including terminology, while also gaining an understanding of the importance of paying attention to the mental health needs of these teens.

“We are finding that more and more Jewish teens are struggling with gender and sexual identity,” Katie Vieder, director of teen engagement at the JCC, told the JN. “But our professionals are also struggling because a lot of them don’t yet have the tools to support these teens.”

While there have been other trainings in the community with an LGBTQ+ focus, this is the first event that allows participants to take a deeper dive into this topic, Vieder said.

The Youth Professionals Network and the Michigan Board of Jewish Educators helped by connecting young professionals and Jewish educators who work with grades 6-12 to this free training.

“When we were brainstorming topics to cover, we did receive a lot of input from the community,” Vieder said. “We asked our youth professionals what they were struggling with, the difficulties they were facing and how we could provide support.”

Roz Keith, president of Stand with Trans, was consulted to provide input on the content for the three sessions. Based in Farmington, Stand with Trans was founded in 2015 by Keith and is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides tools and support to transgender youth.

“We wanted the training to be very comprehensive. In order to cover the subject matter, we knew it couldn’t be done in 90 minutes or one two-hour session,” Keith said. “We worked together to identify the topics and areas that would be the most appropriate and have the most impact for this particular audience.”

The second and third portions of the series will be held on March 18 and March 25 at the JCC. The second session is a deeper dive into gender diversity, featuring a panel of young adults who don’t identify with a gender or sexuality norm.

The final session will focus on navigating physical spaces. This can include a scenario like sending a child off to camp and ensuring that showers and bathrooms are available for youths who don’t identify as male or female. It is also geared toward support for parents and educating professionals on how to be an ally for teens, parents and peers.

“I firmly believe that education is really the key to acceptance and support — the more we can learn and the more we can grow, the better equipped we are to support our teens who identify as LGBTQ+,” Keith said.

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