May 24, 2020
(updated May 24, 2020)
Published by Dennis Velco
LOS ANGELES, May 20, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — A new study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders finds that eating disorder patients who identify as LGBT have more severe eating disorder symptoms, higher rates of trauma history, and longer delays between diagnosis and treatment than heterosexual, cisgender patients.
“While we know there is a higher prevalence of eating disorders among LGBTQ folks, particularly trans and non-binary folks (with rates estimated to be anywhere from 40% to 70%), our field is in its infancy with researching this health disparity, so I believe research like ours is especially important,” said clinical psychologist Jennifer Henretty PhD, CEDS, one of the study’s co-authors who serves as the Executive Director of Clinical Outcomes for Discovery Behavioral Health, Center For Discovery.
Eating disorders are a serious mental health concern: At least 30 million people—of all ages, sexual orientations, and gender-identities—experience an eating disorder in the U.S. alone, and every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result of an eating disorder. In fact, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. (Source: National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Eating Disorders)
The most common eating disorders are binge eating disorder, where people regularly eat a large amount in a short period of time; bulimia nervosa, where people regularly eat a large amount in a short period of time and then try to offset the food using harmful behaviors (like vomiting); and anorexia nervosa, where people regularly eat too little due to a fear of gaining weight and thus are malnourished. The causes of eating disorders are not clear but both biological and environmental factors are thought to play a role. Eating disorders typically begin in adolescence but it appears that the rate of the disorder may be on the rise in middle-aged and even older adults.
The peer-reviewed academic study analyzed data from 2,818 individuals treated in residential (RTC), partial hospitalization (PHP), and/or intensive outpatient (IOP) levels-of-care at a large eating disorder treatment organization; 471 (17%) of the participants identified as LGBT. The facilities were operated by Center for Discovery, a U.S. healthcare provider specializing in the treatment of eating disorders.
Research shows that individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or other non-heterosexual/non-cisgender identities have significantly higher rates of mental and physical health conditions compared to their heterosexual, cisgender peers.
“LGBT individuals are more likely to experience housing and employment discrimination, and to struggle with multiple mental health challenges related to minority stress; this perfect storm of barriers means eating behaviors are often overlooked,” said Vaughn Darst, RD, who serves as Operations Advisor for Discovery Behavioral Health, Center For Discovery and who also discussed in a TedX talk the complex issue at the intersection of gender, body image, food and identity.
Center For Discovery, which opened in 1997, is a leading provider of eating disorder treatment in the U.S. Weekly residential programming includes two to three individual sessions; one to two family sessions; dietary, medical, and psychiatric sessions; and between 35 and 40 therapeutic groups. Modalities such as Exposure Response Prevention, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and a Family Systems Approach are utilized. Importantly, Center For Discovery is trans/gender-affirming and trauma informed.
The study found a full 12-month delay in treatment for LGBT patients compared to non-LGBT patients. “Delays in accessing treatment are especially widespread for transgender and nonbinary individuals with eating disorders. Some of the causes include delayed diagnosis by providers who fail to assess non-cisgender female patients for disordered eating, as well as limited access to trans-affirming treatment options, particularly at the residential level of care” said Darst. Center For Discovery hopes to reduce this delay by being a trans-affirming treatment center and by providing trainings for staff and community providers on best practices for addressing eating concerns within LGBT communities.
Discovery Behavioral Health is a leading, in-network, U.S. healthcare provider delivering accessible, evidence-based community care for substance use, eating disorders, and behavioral health. Discovery’s programs include residential, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient care for teens and adults. The company was established in 1997 and is headquartered in Orange County, California. More: https://discoverybehavioralhealth.com
HIV-AIDS taught us that silence = death, and information = power.
Picture this: It’s 1985. You’re a young gay man, living in Washington, DC.
AIDS has been all over the news since the actor Rock Hudson went public with his own diagnosis in July—and died in October. A new test to determine whether you have been exposed to HIV has just become available, although even the AIDS organizations are advising against taking it because no one yet knows what a positive result means.
Every morning you look up above the escalators going down into the Metro station at Dupont Circle and check the latest tally of AIDS deaths flashing across the ticker board—like a silent bell tolling across the gayest neighborhood in the city, reminding you that a deadly virus is on the loose, killing people, mostly other gay men, right there in your own neighborhood.
On the streets you see guys you knew from the gym, muscle boys now looking like shriveled old men, their faces polka-dotted with the purple lesions of Kaposi’s sarcoma.
You see more and more of their obituaries each week in the Washington Blade, the city’s LGBTQ newspaper and the most reliable source of information about the growing HIV pandemic.
The virus haunts your intimate moments, each coupling now an unwelcome and terrifying ménage á trois with one of the three not even visible and yet dominating the exchange, standing between the ecstasy of sex and the precipice of potential death.
Posters, flyers, and newspaper ads yell at you to protect yourself and your partners against the deadly microbe. Most heed the warnings; many do not.
And the Blade publishes yet more obituaries.
It’s a frightening experience to live through a deadly viral pandemic, especially one as lethal as HIV. But an important lesson from the HIV pandemic is that it is not only possible, but imperative, to get on with your life even as you practice the safety precautions that credible public health experts recommend.
In the case of the novel coronavirus now spreading across the world and throughout America, it’s particularly important to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations—including regular hand-washing, disinfecting frequently used surfaces, and ‘social distancing’ from people who are sick or crowds in which the virus can more easily be transmitted.
Something we learned in the HIV-AIDS pandemic that is highly relevant to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus: Words matter. Facts matter. It matters how we talk about something like a virus, the illness it causes, and those affected by it.
We learned that silence (and ignorance) equals death—and information equals power. Armed with fact-based information, we are best prepared to address the challenges that will lie ahead for many of us.
As the World Health Organization makes clear in its recommendations, it’s not useful to talk about a “plague,” and COVID-19 is not a “Chinese” or “Asian” disease. People diagnosed with the virus are not “vectors” or “carriers”—they are people first and foremost. “Stigma can undermine social cohesion and prompt possible social isolation of groups, which might contribute to a situation where the virus is more, not less, likely to spread,” the WHO says.
The first people diagnosed with HIV-AIDS—openly, proudly gay men—understood that words and language can make all the difference between hope and despair, between fear-driven hatred and compassion. “We are people with AIDS,” they insisted, not ‘AIDS victims.’” HIV-AIDS was an illness they had; it was not who they are. Their humanity defined them, not their diagnosis.
We are susceptible to the novel coronavirus, and the multitudes of other microbes around us and within our bodies at any given moment, simply because we are fragile, physical humans living in a sometimes dangerous world—not because of our ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, skin tone, or any other immutable trait.
These five steps will help us get through our latest public health crisis:
Stay informed about the novel coronavirus—it’s the best defense against anxiety and to avoid ‘groupthink‘ and hysteria;
Practice the recommended safety precautions;
Seek testing and treatment if you’re ill;
Respect your own and others’ humanity if you or they become ill; and
Use words and language that don’t stigmatize anyone.
There is no need to panic or catastrophize (“the end of the world is here!”), and there is no room for hysteria borne of ignorance. Remember: Information equals power. Take it from a formerly young gay man who, beginning in 1985, lived through the “dark years” of AIDS in our hard-hit nation’s capital.
This article was originally posted on Physcology Today on March 12, 2020 and issued here OutBüro on by the author.
Being resilient means controlling how much we let our traumas define us.
We’re hearing a lot about what in the COVID-19 pandemic is becoming “the new normal,” including face masks, hand-washing, sheltering-in-place, and social distancing.
Unfortunately for tens of millions, even billions, the new normal also features tremendous anxiety, depression, grief, and financial hardship.
I can only offer empathy where it comes to financial hardship. I truly feel your pain as I know this hardship all too well. But I also know a few things about resilience that have helped me through some really tough times when I have experienced all of these emotional and mental health challenges.
For one thing, it’s unrealistic to expect yourself not to be changed by the trauma of losing a job, struggling to pay bills, worrying about a high-risk loved one’s health, or the new and widespread fear of simply going into a grocery store with unmasked shoppers. These experiences can rattle us to the core, make us question ourselves and our value, maybe even wonder whether life is worth all the effort it requires.
We’re also hearing a lot of talk about “getting back to normal.” But resilient people understand that there is no such thing as going back to “how things used to be.” We understand that there are only two options: Either stay stuck in the anxiety, depression, and fear by repeatedly rehashing the details of your trauma and the suffering it caused you. Or you move on.
By moving on, I am not suggesting you must forget what you’ve suffered, as if it’s even possible. No. I mean you deliberately choose—yes, it is a choice—not to allow the emotions and thoughts linked to the trauma control or define your present. You can’t undo what was done, but you get to decide how big a part it plays in defining you now.
The important starting point is in how you frame the story you tell yourself about what the traumatic experience—in this case, the COVID-19 pandemic—”means” in the bigger story of your life, your relationships, your place in the world.
Instead of thinking of yourself as a victim—singled out by fate for cruel and unusual punishment—it’s important to recognize the difference between events and forces beyond your control, and how you handle and respond to them. You can tell the story either as a victim—or as a survivor. The first reflects a sense of powerlessness, the second resilience.
I am here to say from experience that even resilient people continue to face challenging times—like COVID-19. But I can also say from experience that it’s possible to give the pandemic the attention and priority it requires without letting it become the dominant, defining event and force in your life.
First, you do that by staying informed and practicing recommended safety precautions, as well as actively taking steps to care for yourself—including getting exercise, eating properly and staying connected with others.
I learned how important these things are after my HIV diagnosis in 2005. After telling so many others’ stories as a reporter for so many years by that point, I had to learn how to tell my own story.
I had to decide what having HIV was going to mean to me. I had to choose how big or small a role I would allow my positive HIV status, and the things I had to do to care for my health, to play in my life and my sense of myself. I had to learn to understand that even with something as personal as a serious medical diagnosis, there had been events and forces beyond my control that brought me to that moment. That’s how I moved from wondering “why me?” to “why not me?” as I came to understand the traumas in my own past that had wounded me psychologically and put me at such high risk.
What things look like “on the other side” of COVID-19 for us as individuals, after we have a cure and/or preventive vaccine will depend largely on what they look like now, as we move through it. Either we take steps while it is happening to protect our mental and physical health and well-being, or we risk long-term harm.
Expecting to “go back” isn’t a smart personal reopening strategy. Try moving forward instead, but knowing you and everyone around you have been changed by the public health crisis. Live in the “new normal” even if it continues to mean masks and social distancing. It’s not a personal punishment. Focus on how you have pulled through this tough time and earlier tough times, on your resilience, rather than on all that has changed.
Just because COVID-19 has victimized all of us in one way or another doesn’t mean we have to live our lives as its victims.
This article was originally posted on Physcology Today on May 7, 2020 and issued here OutBüro on by the author.
Over the years 2018-2020, a European partnership of 16 organizations (7 NGOs and 9 schools) worked together on an antibullying project which aimed to develop a method high schools can use to review their antibullying policy and to plan improvements. The project was called the “Anti-Bullying Certification” project (ABC, https://www.gale.info/en/projects/abc-project) because the original aim was to develop a certificate for good antibullying policy.
One of the aspects that we encountered was that a school antibullying policy is partly dependent on the national policy framework. The national legislation or guidelines may determine the possibilities or limits or school policy. In this article, we will reflect on how states/countries organize this and what could be improved – from a European international perspective. We based ourselves on a review of European anti-bullying policies and on a more specific analysis of the five participating countries: the Netherlands, the UK, Spain, Italy, and Greece. In addition, we based ourselves on a range of national strategic workshops that GALE facilitated in about 20 countries.
There are great differences in how education systems are organized. Some states are centralized and schools are owned and managed in detail by the government. For example, if students in France move from Paris to Marseille, there is no problem in shifting schools because every school offers the same lessons in the same school period. If a class of Greek students wants to go on an international trip for the Erasmus + program (the European international exchange program for schools), they are required to have written permission by the Ministry of Education. In centralized countries, any change should be requested from the Ministry of Education and it will be unclear if a decision will be based on a democratic process. If a change is adopted by the Ministry, it becomes mandatory for all schools at once. However, the implementation of new measures – like national antibullying policy – may not be adopted enthusiastically by all schools because the policy is implemented top-down, and little or no attempt is made to create commitment among the schools. It may be that schools abide by the rule by going through the motions but without much commitment.
For diversity, centralized education policy is a double-edged sword. On one hand, LGBTIQ NGOs can approach the Ministry of Education and convince the ministry to adopt the policy to include (LGBTIQ) diversity. For example, in Greece, the recent HOMBAT project (https://www.hombat.eu/) focused on developing teacher training on sexual diversity, but also organized national expert meetings and follow-up consultations with the ministries and with the education sector in Lithuania, Greece, and Cyprus. With this sustainability strategy, the partner NGOs stimulated a more inclusive national anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia strategy. In Greece, the government decided to organize an annual school week focused on gender issues. LGBTIQ issues would be integrated in the Gender Action Week. They considered a specific anti-homophobia campaign a bridge too far for the conservative population and feared backlash from the neo-fascist populist “Golden Dawn” party. So in a sense, the action of the NGOs was successful. At the same time, we saw that many schools engaged in the Gender Week only as a (heterosexual) #MeToo topic, despite the initiative coming from the LGBTIQ movement.
Other states are decentralized. This means that the state only sets a limited number of framing criteria and obligations, and schools are free to implement their own policy within those frames. This policy is often heavily influenced by a more general neoliberal “laissez-faire” policy.
Decentralized states differ to what extent they allow the school’s freedom. In extremely neoliberal states, the state considers the schools as private “companies” who set their own standards and compete with each other in a free market. The free market and competition for students are supposed to create a high quality of education. In practice, this is rarely the reality because the available funding and fees are of crucial importance for the actual quality. Some schools attract rich students and have high fees, and can offer high-quality education. Other schools cater to a poor community, get fewer fees or funding and the coagulation of factors leads to a lower quality of education, often despite the hard work of some persistent teachers and students.
In the case of anti-bullying policy there is a wide difference to what extent states set criteria for schools. In the ABC-project, most states (Italy, Spain, UK, the Netherlands) have a decentralized education system.
In Italy, there is national anti-bullying legislation for schools, and there is additional strong legislation on – for example, cyberbullying and sexual intimidation – and this specific legislation is also covering the education sector. The Italian legislation gives elaborate guidelines and the proper implementation of the guidelines is supported by a national “Adolescent Observatory” and local observatory offices. The observatory monitors youth trends, youth language, and behavior, and offers training and support to teachers and school
to implement various policies. In this way, the anti-bullying policy is always up-to-date and connected to young people’s needs and cultures, and it is also integrated in a wider perspective of pedagogy and community action.
In contrast, in the Netherlands, there is an anti-bullying law that only makes it mandatory for schools to do research, to have a coordinator, and to have a plan. There are no qualifying criteria for the research, the coordinator, or the plan. The national school inspectorate is supposed to check the implementation of this legislation but the lack of criteria limits this to a bureaucratic check of whether the research, coordinator and plan are there at all.
The decentralized nature of the policy implies that external NGOs aiming to raise the quality of anti-bullying policy in schools have to go to all the schools individually if they want to stimulate and support change. The national LGB grassroots organization COC does this by promoting Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) and offering peer education by LGB volunteers. Regrettably, these interventions do not have much impact on school policies. On the contrary, many schools use the existence of a GSA or inviting COC-peer educators as an excuse to not work on structural school safety for LGBTIQ students. The Dutch NGO Edu-Diverse offered schools consultancy to improve the quality of LGBTIQ sensitivity in school policy in a more structural way. Edu-Diverse will redevelop the ABC-self-assessment procedure into a “Gaynergy” label that LGBTIQ NGOs can use to stimulate and support schools to deliver LGBTIQ specific anti-bullying quality. Still, because the Netherlands is utterly neoliberal, the “Gaynergy” label will have to be marketed as a cost-covering product. Moreover, it will have to “compete” with GSAs and LGB peer education. Even the COC views LGBTIQ-emancipation as a free market in which other interventions and strategies are a threat to their own products and marketing.
The ABC-partnership made reviews of the national anti-bullying policies in the participating countries. Based on the specific situations, – if possible – recommendations were formulated to improve the national legislations. The best recommendations for national policies were based on a thorough analysis of how changes in the education system come about, which type of changes are feasible within the timeframe and which actors have to be influenced to stimulate such improvements.
For example, in the Netherlands, the limited anti-bullying legislation we mentioned was adopted in 2015 after an intensive discussion in the parliament. The School Boards Association strongly resisted the original quality criteria in the law (“to use proven effective methods”). Because the Dutch system is so decentralized, the strong resistance of the schools themselves made it difficult for politicians to push quality criteria and it resulted in the three “empty” requirements. In return, the School Boards Association promised to implement a national Anti-bullying Action Plan. The implementation of the Action Plan stalled when the Ministry of Education and the School Boards Association could not agree on who would pay for it. In 2020, there is little political openness to reopen the discussion; politicians cannot “score” on this topic.
Although the anti-bullying legislation was prompted by a series of high school student suicides after they were bullied – and it was clear homophobia played a major role in some of the suicides – the Ministry resisted any mention of diversity in the legislation, let be specific mention of LGBTIQ issues. When asked about this, the responsible State Secretary said that schools had to be sensitive to all diversity issues, but that LGBTIQ issues were already covered by the budget of the department of education (which finances the GSA-campaign and LGB peer education).
In this situation, GALE and Edu-Divers developed five recommendations, which carefully suggested that the original aim of the anti-bullying legislation has not been met. Next to advocating for a new political discussion – which is probably unfeasible, the recommendations also point to more basic practical solutions that could be implemented by the School Boards Association itself. The Association maintains a website where schools can report on their quality. All members of the Association are required to do this, which makes this website a non-formal tool that sets quality standards, simply by the way it requires the school to report. GALE and Edu-Diverse recommended that the School Boards Association improves its own online framework by being more specific on how schools can prove the quality of their anti-bullying policy. It offers the ABC-self-assessment tool as an example. In addition, GALE and Edu-Diverse asked to resume the discussion on the stalled Anti-bullying Action Plan.
The analysis and recommendations in the Netherlands show how challenging it is for the LGBTIQ movement to improve anti-bullying policies in schools. The struggle in a decentralized and neoliberal context takes place in an often untransparent maze of institutions and procedures and a range of stakeholders with competing interests are pushing their own agendas. Neoliberal governments don’t feel the need to coordinate or guide this. And to some extent, this makes clear that the LGBTIQ movement not only has to fight for specific LGBTIQ visibility or safety that is should also be critical of these larger political strategies and decisions. Semi-dictatorial centralized government policies can be a risk, but hardline neoliberal policies can be detrimental as well.
Over the years 2018-2020, a European partnership of 16 organizations (7 NGOs and 9 schools) worked together on an antibullying project which aimed to develop a method high schools can use to review their antibullying policy and to plan improvements. The project was called the “Anti-Bullying Certification” project (ABC, https://www.gale.info/en/projects/abc-project) because the original aim was to develop a certificate for good antibullying policy.
One of the most interesting dilemmas we encountered was if we should “score” schools for the quality of the antibullying policy, and if so, how.
When we started the project and presented to the idea on several international conferences, it became appeared teachers and principals in our panel sessions were not enthusiastic about external organizations coming in to score them. Schools score students all the time, but they are not eager to be scored themselves! On the other hand, some NGOs, like LGBTIQ organizations, were enthusiastic about the idea to make more transparent how schools deal with violence and discrimination. Politicians were also interested in this.
When we were in the finishing phase of the ABC-project in early 2020, we did a survey among all the participants in the nine participating schools and among other stakeholders on the nationals of 5 countries and on the international level. Contrary to our impressions from the conferences, the participating teachers and students were generally enthusiastic about scoring their schools and even were quite positive about mandatory publishing the results. Their opinions were in contrast with the external stakeholders (which were mainly NGOs focusing on school safety and on diversity) who were hesitant to score schools and who emphasized that every school is different, which would make it difficult to score with a single framework. Some were also afraid that schools in deprived areas would score low, which might increase social inequality.
That teachers and students in the project valued scoring higher may be due to the fact that the partnership discussed the possibility and different methods to score several times in international exchange meetings. In these discussions, the teachers and students also had the opportunity to give suggestions on how to do this, or what not to do. This may have increased their insight in the positive aspects of a diagnostic test of the quality of the antibullying policy, and in the advantages of being transparent as a school and willing to enter in the open discussion with stakeholders like students and parents.
Even though at the end of the project a majority of students and teachers indicated they were willing to have their test results published, during the project we decided to work with a draft scoring system in which the scores were determined in dialogue with the school and in which the school had the final say whether they want to publish them or not.
An Anti-Bullying Energy Label
Another question that came up was whether we should offer schools an assessment in the form of a A-D label (levels), or one like an ISO-certification (adequate or not).
In Europe, a lot of products are regulated by the European Union and are awarded an “energy label” levels A through D, with “D” being an insufficient level of energy-saving. Since most products are nowadays “A” level and still getting better, products can also be awarded A+ or A+++ levels. We wondered if we could develop an “antibullying energy label” for schools.
The problem is and of course how to define which level would count as “D” or “A”, or even as “A+”. In one international exchange with teachers and students, we discussed this. We explained different scientific criteria that might be used as distinguishing between levels. One spectrum could be the number of interventions, another one could be a combination of the number and the quality of the interventions. A different way could be to score the school on a sliding scale from a fully punitive approach to a fully restorative/no-blame approach, which would indicate to what extent the school has a positive and supportive school culture. A third way would be to take the perspective of organizational change and adopt a scale measuring commitment to the policy and cooperation on its implementation.
Based on the commands of teachers and students, and also on our own impressions of scientific research, we decided to use a scale of commitment. Such a scale would distinguish between a paper policy that may not have a commitment and may not be fully implemented and a policy that is a heartfelt part of the school culture. We also incorporated the notion that organizational change happens in phases. The final scale we developed has four levels: (1) only individuals are supportive of a coherent antibullying policy, (2) the management agrees on an antibullying policy, (3) the majority of the staff agrees and implements the antibullying policy, and (4) the majority of the students agree with the antibullying policy and try to implement it. It was suggested to add a phase where also the majority of the parents agree and cooperate with the antibullying policy, but at this time we did not include that. We considered that this project is about high schools; in many countries, the link between the parents and the high school of their kids is not very strong. This weak link, and the focus of many schools on academic performance rather than on life skills, non-violent communication, and democratic values, make it unlikely that the school can build a meaningful joint pedagogic community with the parents.
In the final ABC-checklist, 10 checkpoints that are related to antibullying policy and scientific effective elements of the anti-bullying policy are not scored to whether they are present in procedures, but as to how broad commitment to have in the school population.
Another method of scoring that was suggested was to offer a school of formal ISO-certification. The ISO-system (ISO=International Standards Organization) offers a framework to describe how organizations can frame their quality policy. The key aspect of an ISO-certification is that the organization has watertight procedures to secure that their processes securely lead to high quality. For an ISO-certification, the organization describes in detail how they organize their quality processes. Although there is an ISO-standard for educational organizations (21001:2018), this only describes the need for safety in the school in a very general way. It requires schools to care for the well-being of “relevant interested parties” and it notes “offensive behavior (like bullying)” can be part if this, but it does not give indications on how to do this. In the case of and additional standard for the anti-bullying policy of (high) schools, this would require schools to make a detailed description of the ways they create a safe school culture and how they deal with incidents.
Diversity may be another challenge in ISO-certification. The description of procedures is usually generic unless specific deviations from the general procedure are described for specific groups and for specific circumstances. For example, in the current ISO-standard for educational organizations, there are specific clauses for special needs education (dealing with disability) and for early childhood education. It may be difficult to include needs or standards on how to determine and take into account the needs of specific minorities in a generic antibullying standard.
For example, a typical antibullying procedure would not describe the registration of students in the school, because it is not part of the antibullying procedure. But when a trans student changes gender during the year and wants to change their gender in the school administration, and this is not possible because the registration procedure limits the choice to male and female, this may lead to discriminatory treatment. A solution may be to adapt the registration option (male, female, other) and procedure (being able to change the register during the year instead of only when entering). But the question remains whether the antibullying procedures allow for such changes in the structural makeup of the school.
Certification typically leads to a certificate which states that the organization is organized conforming to the standard. This requires, of course, an international consensus on the standard. In the case of a good antibullying policy, the school would get a certificate that the antibullying policy is conforming to the standard, or it would not get a certificate. Experiments in the Netherlands with certification of LGBTIQ quality of elderly care homes and LGBTIQ quality of schools have shown that this leads to some controversy about whether the said organizations are really offering the quality they promise, or which is stated in the certificate. They may get a certificate by an ISO-organization, but the certificate could be mainly based on the policy framework or procedures rather than on their working practice or organizational culture. In a Dutch experiment with certification of LGBTIQ quality of a high school, the intentions and procedures of the management were considered adequate, but the certification survey among teachers and students showed only a very average level of tolerance, leaving much to be improved. To the frustration of the local LGBTIQ organization, the school still got a certificate and decided further improvement was not necessary since they were now “certified”.
In the case of the ABC-project, our partner EAN (the European Antibullying Network) has decided to follow up on the project with the development of a formal ISO-certification standard of anti-bullying policy in high schools. It remains to be seen whether this will adequately monitor the quality of antibullying policy, and whether it includes diversity in an adequate way.
One of the most important aspects of the ABC-project was the organization of international exchanges between the partners, teachers, and students of five countries (Greece, Italy, Spain, UK, and the Netherlands)n and to discuss how to develop the self-evaluation procedure and how to improve policy. The self-evaluation procedure itself also included participation in a structural way. The procedure started with a review of current documentation of anti-bullying policy, with surveys among students and teachers and then there were interactive review workshops for students and teachers. This structure allowed students and teachers in their own workshops to review the existing policy and the experiences and opinions of the entire school population and to formulate their own recommendations.
The survey results and the reviews showed that students, teachers, and school management often have very different views of their anti-bullying policy. In the first place, students usually experience the school culture as less safe than teachers and school managers, with the school managers commonly having a very positive view of the school, the teachers a somewhat less positive view, and students sometimes much less positive view. Students are not always happy with the school to cater to their needs and they regularly criticize the way teachers and other staff treat students. In many schools it is quite common that teachers perform a kind of “discipline” and “motivation techniques” which include making jokes at the expense of students and “putting them in their place” by making more or less derogatory comments. Such treatment is hated by students. Teachers often don’t see this in the same way and consider their behavior as a professional way of getting the class attention and disciplining unruly students. When students formulate this type of criticism and review, it may be difficult for teachers to deal with it; they are not used to criticism.
For students, diversity is one of the topics that they feel is natural to have attention. For teachers and for managers this is not so obvious. The school is organized in a way that forces teachers and managers to focus on class (group) units, which leaves little space to tailor lessons or strategies to individuals or to diversity. If teachers want to give attention to diversity they are immediately confronted with a “competition” of diversities for the limited lesson time and attention in groups of 30 students. Schools are simply not prepared and teachers, not enough trained to combine a generic wide perspective of openness and tolerance with more specific attention for certain minorities. While specific attention for disabled students, cultural groups of students, and sexually diverse students is already a challenge, sensitivity for students with an intersectional background becomes nearly impossible within traditional school systems.
The same goes for the school managers, who – at the end of the self-evaluation procedure – get all the results and recommendations, and then have to decide about how to improve the policy. Since most school managers have the impression that their school performance is already almost excellent, and because they are not used to democratically manage the school, comments, and recommendations of students and teachers that are different from their own expectations may also be difficult for them.
The antibullying certification project developed a checklist to score the level of anti-bullying policy in a school. It was decided to make a kind of “energy” label with levels rather than just offering a certificate because the partnership thought antibullying policy will always be in development and the success of the policy is probably mainly dependent on the commitment of all stakeholders to it – which changes over the years.
However, the partnership realizes that the checklist that we developed can be improved.
Although the partnership could have developed a completely external system of assessment, we have opted to offer a participatory procedure of self-assessment. This is in line with the idea that the success of antibullying policy is dependent on the commitment of all stakeholders, and which requires to build in democracy and participation in the development of school policy. To make diversity an integral aspect of this participation, it is necessary to involve and support minority students to raise their voice during the self-evaluation, and to take the recommendations seriously.
In a discussion with the students, we discussed how diversity could be integrated in a structural way. We did a statement game where they had to position themselves on a continuum from “it needs to be a specific item in the checklist” to “it needs to be part of all the checkpoints”. After a thorough discussion, the students preferred the second option but with the caption that specific forms of diversities should be made explicit. In the final checklist, we decided to make the 10th checkpoint on diversity and to ask the management to revise all the previous checkpoints to assess to what extent sex/gender, disability, race, culture, religion, immigration, poverty, Roma, and LGBTIQ were adequately covered. In this way, it seems to cover both position discussed with the students. However, the willingness of students, staff and management to sincerely engage in this exercise remains a key requirement to make the diversity part of the assessment successful.
Just as we gay and bisexual men measured our personal histories in relation to AIDS — starting in 1981 — everyone now speaks of the world, and our lives, “before” and “after” COVID-19.
Organizations created in the 1980s to serve very ill, homebound people with HIV/AIDS are demonstrating in this “after” that there is a greater-than-ever need for what they know about feeding and caring for people with life-challenging illness.
To get a picture of COVID-19 from the point of view of people whose work in local communities is rooted in caring for ill people in a pandemic, I checked in with some of the country’s leading service organizations created in the 1980s to serve people with AIDS.
What I found are organizations that pioneered volunteer-driven food programs and buddy services that today, in the midst of another public health crisis, are brilliantly demonstrating how to provide the strongest kind of social safety net — friends and neighbors, communities, caring for one another.
A Legacy of Love in Action
The word “legacy” came up a lot in these interviews. Each organization was founded across genders, often by one individual who brought friends along, and grew out of a simple sense of neighborly kindness.
Carrie Stoltzfus, executive director of Washington, D.C.’s Food & Friends, spoke about “the legacy of the amazing outpouring of love and generosity” that led a small group of volunteers in 1988 to begin preparing food in the kitchen of Westminster Presbyterian Church and deliver one meal a day, five days a week, to homebound people with AIDS.
“The moral and ethical leadership of those people in those early days…that’s what we stand on now,” Stoltzfus says, referring again to the legacy of the AIDS epidemic.
In 2020, Monday through Saturday, more than 8,000 volunteers help Food & Friends deliver free meals from its 11 specialized meal plans, medically tailored to meet clients’ specific nutritional needs. That includes the option of pureed or chopped foods and accommodations for special diets.
Sheltering-in-place during the COVID-19 pandemic has increased many people’s need for support who aren’t ordinarily homebound.
Only one in five clients today is living with HIV, thanks to reduced new infections and effective medical treatment that allows many HIV-positive people to live normal lifespans. Nearly half of Food & Friends’ clients are living with cancer; another third have other life-challenging illnesses such as heart or kidney failure.
With COVID-19 in the mix, even family caregivers are turning to Food & Friends’ services.
In the pre-COVID past, said Stoltzfus, a caregiver might be able to directly help their loved one with food and may not have been referred to Food & Friends based on the circumstances in the home. But now, caregivers may be self-isolating so as not to put the one they care for at risk.
Sheltering-in-place during the COVID-19 pandemic has increased many people’s need for support who aren’t ordinarily homebound. While many of us have had a hard time getting used to spending so much time at home, community-based nutrition and buddy programs have been working hard to care for their clients who were already, or are newly, homebound.
Food & Friends and other nutrition agencies around the country have taken strenuous precautions to protect staff, volunteers, clients and, of course, the food through sanitation and disinfection. This includes changing staff schedules to reduce building traffic, control the number of volunteers present at one time, moving operations outside, workspaces with six-foot markers, screening visitors, and “dropping and knocking” rather than hand-delivering meals.
Food Is Medicine
“Serving people in a pandemic is in our DNA,” said Leah Hébert Welles, executive director of Open Arms of Minnesota, in Minneapolis. “The need has never gone away for us.”
Founded in 1986, Open Arms’ staff dietitians, chefs and over 7,300 volunteers prepare and deliver more than 600,000 nutritious and free meals a year to people in the Twin Cities. Open Arms offers nine menus medically tailored to clients’ particular needs.
Welles told me in a telephone interview that HIV clients “have always gone off and on our services” as their health has waxed and waned. People living with HIV/AIDS today are referred to as “legacy clients” as the agency, like Food & Friends, serves clients with other life-limiting illnesses.
“In the early years,” said David Waters, CEO of Community Servings in Boston, “the establishment — whether it was the government, Reagan or public health — weren’t really stepping up. A lot of gay men invented the programs themselves.”
Community Servings was created in 1990 after a group of HIV-positive gay Jewish men went to the American Jewish Congress and said Boston’s Jewish community wasn’t doing enough to address HIV/AIDS. Seventy different groups — including AIDS activists, faith groups and community organizations — joined forces to create the agency.
The lines blur as to whether one’s need is defined by chronological age, HIV status or another of the chronic health conditions that frequently affect older people.
From delivering hot meals to 30 clients in the Roxbury and Dorchester sections of Boston, Community Servings today serves thousands of people in Massachusetts who are unable to shop or cook for themselves because of illness. It offers 15 menus tailored to clients’ medical needs. All of the food is locally sourced and made from scratch. Depending on a client’s illness, Waters said, menus can be “cross-prescribed” —different diets for multiple health conditions addressed in the same meal in a way that mimics a prescription.
Like so many who stepped up in the early AIDS years before effective treatment, Waters, a former restaurateur and caterer, went to work for the agency because he could help with fundraising “and it was a way for me personally to cope with my own fear of the virus.”
Demand for the agency’s services is increasing in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re getting a lot of calls,” said Waters, “and I think we’ll get even more in the near-term. We’re certainly ramping up with the expectation that there’ll be more people to be fed — both those who may be positive for the virus, but also those who have lost their jobs and are very isolated and don’t have the money.”
That the work is no longer about serving only gay men or HIV-positive people is beside the point; it’s all about applying what was learned in the AIDS pandemic to meet the bigger needs of the larger community. Besides, as effective treatment lets people age with HIV, the lines blur as to whether someone’s need is defined by chronological age, HIV status or another of the chronic health conditions that frequently affect older people.
“I sometimes say I came to this to care for my own,” said Waters. “And then I just kept realizing that what I called ‘my own’ was bigger and bigger, from feeding gay men to feeding people of color, to feeding people with other illnesses and feeding mothers with children. You just realize that they’re all very artificial distinctions.”
Making Room at the Table
I reported for The Washington Post in 2000 about Food & Friends’ expanded mission to serve more people than only those living with HIV. The organization’s decision to assist people with life-threatening illnesses in the Washington, D.C. area was a controversial step at the time. The gay community that had given rise to, and raised lots of money for, the agency was concerned that those “legacy” HIV/AIDS clients would be shortchanged.
Back then, it was only possible to think about serving others because, beginning with the 1996 advent of combination therapy, people were starting to live with HIV rather than almost inevitably die from AIDS. It was certainly good news for people with HIV, but it meant the organizations created to serve them had the capacity to serve more people than those with HIV who no longer needed their support.
As Food & Friends’ former executive director Craig Shniderman said at the time, “If our mission is to serve people who are profoundly ill, and we are adequately serving those we have as clients and have excess capacity, isn’t there a duty to serve others?”
Food is far more than something to satisfy hunger pangs.
Open Hand Atlanta — founded in 1988 when Michael Edwards-Pruitt rounded up his neighbors to help cook and deliver meals to 14 friends dying from AIDS who were too sick to cook for themselves — also expanded its mission in 2000 to serve people with other critical illnesses, plus those living with disabilities and homebound elders. Its $500-per-month grocery bill in 1989 is now over $85,000 a week. Each day, the agency prepares, packs and delivers nearly 5,000 meals for people with HIV and people battling cancer, heart disease, renal failure, diabetes or other “nutrition-sensitive” diseases.
The expanded mission has likewise expanded the range of funders who support Open Hand Atlanta and other nutrition agencies like it in other cities. This is important for groups that have to raise all their money — and already faced a growing caseload even before COVID-19.
Working through the Food Is Medicine Coalition, these nutrition agencies advocate in Washington, D.C. to persuade federal funders to cover the relatively modest cost — relative to the cost of acute medical care, that is — of medically tailored nutrition for people whose condition warrants a specific diet.
Matthew Pieper, Open Hand Atlanta’s executive director, says the Food Is Medicine organizations are uniquely positioned to work with health plans and managed care plans willing to reimburse them for their services.
Food is far more than something to satisfy hunger pangs.
“It’s actually a tool all of us can use to better prevent or manage chronic disease,” said Pieper. “Food is medicine, but food is also love, and I think right now in this COVID-19 pandemic, that packaging up and delivering a meal for someone is still a profound way to say you’re cared about, your community has not forgotten about you. It’s a way we can show love.”
A Brave New World for Buddies
When New York City’s HIV/AIDS service organization GMHC (formerly known as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis) revived its buddy program in 2015, no one had any idea how vitally important it would become five years later as clients were forced to stay in because of COVID-19.
GMHC created the buddy program in 1982, one of the world’s first AIDS service organization’s first services. Back then, volunteer buddies visited and called their client, provided practical assistance and really helped people with AIDS know they were not alone. The program had stopped in 2005 when effective treatment meant there were far fewer seriously ill clients and a far greater need to help HIV-positive clients prepare to return to the workforce. But over the years it had become clear that too many long-term HIV survivors — those diagnosed before 1996 — were becoming depressed and isolated, some to the point they stopped taking their medications.
Susan Rowley, a former lawyer and licensed social worker, runs GMHC’s buddy program after managing the agency’s hotline since 1995. She says most of GMHC’s buddy program clients were mobile before COVID-19 forced them to become homebound.
Required isolation presents a challenge for a program whose purpose is to foster connection, but GMHC’s buddies are staying connected with their clients via phone calls and texts.
Rowley said that while buddies are expected to reach out at least weekly to their clients, “people are staying in touch daily just to let them know someone is there.”
Buddies are now also beginning to meet for the first time in Zoom video meetings.
“I don’t think it works for everyone, and I don’t think it’s necessarily what people need,” says Rowley. “It may be the only way to work with a client, and we’ll work with it. But we know that getting out of the house is critical. Even if it’s for a cup of coffee — that one-on-one interaction helps people.”
“One of our volunteers just a week before had helped his client get an iPad, and so the two of them have been having daily Skype sessions.”
Much like GMHC’s buddy program, the Friendly Visitor program at New York City-based LGBTQ elder advocacy nonprofit SAGE provides social support to elders who may be homebound and are often living with HIV or other health challenges. Friendly Visitor volunteers traditionally have visited clients once a week for an hour or two and made calls between visits. Sometimes, that has involved picking up groceries or prescriptions; other times it may be helping with such tasks as sorting mail or navigating the internet.
Although SAGE on March 15 put in-person visits on hold, volunteers have kept in touch with their Friends at Home, as clients are known. “One of our volunteers just a week before had helped his client get an iPad, and so the two of them have been having daily Skype sessions,” said Friendly Visitor program manager Bill Gross, who also ran GMHC’s buddy program 20 years ago.
Gross predicted that even after COVID-19, more Friendly Visitor check-ins will be conducted by Skype or Zoom. Friendly Visitors also are using phone calls and email to stay in touch, and middle-school students are creating postcards the program will use to connect with its Friends at Home.
In response to the coronavirus, SAGE has also launched SAGEConnect — a phone service where LGBTQ elders are matched with volunteers for weekly phone calls for six weeks. (Next Avenue Influencer in Aging Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE, wrote about SAGEConnect in his recent article, “Individual Heroism Propels LGBTQ Elders in COVID-19.”)
Stepping Into the Health Care Void
Forced to fend for ourselves as HIV/AIDS struck down tens of thousands, our community had to create our own service organizations.
We learned how to channel our love, power and resilience through organizations like Food & Friends, Open Arms, Community Servings, Open Hand Atlanta, GMHC and SAGE.
Today those organizations, created in the depths of a deadly pandemic that has continued for nearly 40 years, are not only rising to the new challenges of another pandemic but are demonstrating how to provide excellent, cost-effective care and support for people who are homebound — whether due to age-related debilitation, illness or shelter-in-place orders.
Informal caregivers are who mainly tend to the long-term needs that are “mostly ignored by the health care system.”
Amy Knowlton, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, researches how people are connected in communities and how diseases happen within networks. Her work focuses on how people take care of one another, particularly those with limited resources.
“Unless we really take seriously how people are connected, the important relationships they have, how infections are transmitted as well as how support and care operates, we’re just not going to be able to have a meaningful impact on pandemics,” Knowlton said.
“Informal caregivers” — family members, friends, neighbors, community-based organizations — are “the only safety net we have,” she noted.
Informal caregivers are ones who mainly tend to the long-term needs that are “mostly ignored by the health care system.”
While AIDS brought about what Knowlton described as “a phenomenal galvanizing of communities and demonstrating what communities have to do for themselves,” volunteer-focused agencies that must raise the volunteer corps (as well as every dollar it costs to provide free services) can’t do the job without bigger support.
Knowlton said public resources must be invested in helping “to facilitate communities’ capacity for helping themselves and each other.”
As the live-in caregiver for my late mom until her passing last fall at 84, as the recipient of support from my own HIV case manager and others and as a longtime chronicler of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, I can attest to the essential role of informal caregivers and nonprofit organizations in plugging the gaping holes in our health care system.
I’ve spent a career documenting the extraordinary outpouring of caring, community and connectedness generated by HIV/AIDS because I believe it provides the absolute best homegrown solutions for serving America’s booming population of elders and those with health conditions that prevent them from being able to care for themselves.
“We need a public health care system that recognizes and strengthens supportive relationships across the lifespan and ensures their resources for meaningful assistance in everyday coping as well as in managing health problems,” Knowlton said. “Such a holistic approach recognizes that mind, body and relationships are integrally linked and important to tend to for truly promoting health and well-being.”
In other words: a health care system that the pioneering organizations profiled here have envisioned for decades and worked to bring about. Responding to AIDS taught them what is needed and how to provide it. COVID-19 is proving again how visionary, and necessary, they will continue to be going forward. As Knowlton put it, “COVID-19 is going to be a wake-up call in so many ways.”
Over the years 2018-2020, a European partnership of 16 organizations (7 NGOs and 9 schools) worked together on an antibullying project which aimed to develop a method high schools can use to review their antibullying policy and to plan improvements. The project was called the “Anti-Bullying Certification” project (ABC, https://www.gale.info/en/projects/abc-project) because the original aim was to develop a certificate for good antibullying policy.
In the course of the project it became increasingly clear that developing a formal certification would not be so easy, and certainly not feasible within the timeframe of this project. Several issues arose, among which were:
What is a good antibullying policy?
How do you measure or score and antibullying policy?
Who is responsible for the maintaining the quality of the antibullying policy?
This article is the first one in a series of three where we discuss these issues. Although the ABC-project was coordinated by GALE (the Global Alliance for LGBT Education), it was a general antibullying project. Of course, LGBTIQ issues were included. Because these articles were specifically written for Outbüro, we take the specific perspective of LGBTIQ students and antibullying school policy with attention for homophobic and transphobic bullying. It is our opinion that when a school antibullying policy fails LGBTIQ students, it can not be an adequate policy anyway. And because LGBTIQ students are usually one of the most discriminated groups in high schools, adequate inclusion of LGBTIQ students in the antibullying policy could even be seen as a litmus test for the quality of the policy.
Differences of opinion on conceptualizing quality
One of the first things we noticed in the project was that the participating schools were in the first place not so interested in assessing their policy, but more in getting information about how to improve their antibullying policy. Like all schools, the schools did have an antibullying policy and undertook a number of activities to combat bullying, and most schools were also active in combating discrimination – although specifically combating homophobia are transphobic was not always part of that effort.
Next to the schools, the partnership consisted of seven NGOs, one of which was the European Antibullying Network (EAN), of which all the other NGO-partners were members. We could say that these NGOs were quite expert on antibullying. But when we started to discuss in the partnership what a high-quality antibullying policy is – in our view – it quickly became clear that we had widely different views on this. Some partners viewed “quality” as having the “right” procedures in place, while others were thinking more in terms of involvement of the whole school population or even the entire surrounding community. Others were more scientifically oriented and advocated the use of scientific findings on what seems to work and what doesn’t work. One partner said that it all depends on the school itself and that “imposing” any criteria would take away the autonomy and ownership of the school and therefore would be counterproductive.
All partners agreed that including “diversity” was important, but there were differences in focus: whether diversity should be mainly take into account disabled students, high or low level performing students, immigrants, or if it should include LGBTIQ issues, and to what extent this all should be explicit.
These divergent views made clear that even experts don’t readily agree on what quality antibullying policy is. In the project, we made some “working” decisions to be able to progress, even though not all the partners fully agreed on all the decisions. The main decision was to start our development of a standard with a scientific basis, even though we disagreed how we should “advise” or “judge” schools on this.
The question “what works best in an effective antibullying policy” is not easy to answer. There is a lot of research on bullying and antibullying methods, but most research on methods is on programs that have been copyrighted and do not want to publish the exact content of their programs for commercial reasons. Most “effective” programs are not “one” single method but consist of a combination of several interventions. The developers of such programs commonly maintain that their program is the most ideal combination or has a unique key intervention that makes the difference. But we don’t know to what extent that is true in which are the elements that make the difference. For example, the scientific evaluations of the famous “Olweus” antibullying program show that the effect of this program may be to in large part to the enthusiasm of Dan Olweus himself as a driving force of the program. When he is not there to coach the program, it seems to be much less effective. And by the way, in most currently tested antibullying programs, anti-homophobia, anti-transphobia or heteronormativity are not expeditious parts of the programs. Sometimes “discrimination” is even seen as a different phenomenon than bullying and then discriminatory bullying is not included in the program.
In the ABC-partnership we believed it would be useful for school not only to have a guide to which of these “all-round” programs are effective and in for which type of schools, but to know which elements from these programs are the “effective elements” that predict if a school policy will have a high impact. We did a review of research on potential effective elements and had a discussion to see if we – as experts on antibullying – agree with the main conclusions. Based on this review and discussion, we established a list of 6 “effective elements” of antibullying and prosocial policy.
1. Group formation and norming ground rules
Based on Dutch research by Ton Mooij on school safety, we found that starting the year with setting rules for social behavior is the single most essential intervention to create a safer school climate. Moreover, this has to be done no later than six weeks into the school year, otherwise it is too late and teachers cannot easily guide the group back from the created anarchy into a safe and supportive group. Looking from the perspective of LGBTIQ students, it would be extremely important that each class in the beginning of the year jointly decide that name-calling, social exclusion and bullying are “not done” in their class, which sets an important norm they can come back on later in the year, when incidents undoubtedly happen.
Similar to the research of Ton Mooij, Bruce Tuckman found that groups have a typical kind of development. Teachers need to clearly guide this group formation to establish a supportive group. Tuckman distinguishes 4 group phases: forming, storming, norming, and performing. In the forming phase, students usually keep quiet and look around what this new group is about. The storming phase starts when the more dominant individuals step forward and claim a position of status in the group. In typical heteronormative environments, the most handsome and loud students, like macho boys and “top bitches” among the girls, take the initiative and may be able to establish themselves as informal leaders. Teachers can influence this storming phase by doing cooperative activities which show that all group members have their own worth and that your status in the group does not only depend on being handsome, loud or mean. When this first “picking order” has been established, the group develops informal norms on how to interact within the group and to outsiders. This is called “norming”. In this phase, the teacher can initiate a discussion about class rules about social behavior and facilitate the setting of explicit norms in the group, rather than just leave it to the anarchy of the group process. The “performing” phase is the phase where the norms and ground rules have stabilized. In a balanced and prosocial group, the performance is constructive and cooperative; ”high status” students protect and take care of other students. Students who are less fast or less able to learn, or minority students, are included in group processes, friend circles, and helped when they are in need, and protected against attacks from other groups. In a group where the power distribution is unbalanced or where “leaders” exert their power in a selfish or abusive way, asocial and negative behavior may become the norm. Processes like “kiss up to leaders and kick down to unpopular students” (bootlickocracy) may become class culture. Sexism and homophobia are often rampant in bootlickocracy, gang-like groups. Like Mooij, Tuckman thinks the group formation phases commonly take about 6 to 8 weeks. In bootlickocracy groups, most antibullying programs or LGBTIQ emancipation programs will have little effect.
2. Understanding how bullying works and how to act against it
Another effective element that is found commonly across effective antibullying programs, is explaining how bullying processes work and discussing with students (and with teachers) how to act against it in a practical way. A major misconception is when people think that bullying is based on individual negative behavior from a bully towards a victim. Although it is true that bullying implies perpetrators and victims, research has shown that the most important factor in the prolongation of bullying are the bystanders. The bystanders are the students that are watching, are fascinated by the violence, and do little or nothing. Some of the bystanders may be inclined to help the victim, but may be afraid to act up because of they are afraid to be victimized themselves or to lose status. Other bystanders may attempt to raise their own status by helping the perpetrators by cheering them on, or helping the perpetrator in other ways. Contrary to common expectations, the “bullies” are usually not “little nasty criminals”. More often they are the most popular guys and girls in the school, and they bully less powerful people as part of the way they establish and maintain their popularity. Sometimes they are former victims of bullying would try to protect themselves in a preventive way by bullying others. Most LGBTIQ people understand that conforming to heteronormativity plays a major role in this “popularity” and power competition, and in the exclusion and degradation of people who are nonconforming.
If we understand these processes, then it becomes obvious that just punishing a single bully and comforting a single victim is a drop on a hot plate in an unsafe environment. Effective antibullying programs are able to change the atmosphere into a non-competitive and cooperative environment. Heteronormativity, sexism, homophobia and transphobia are integral elements of competitive and exclusionary environments. It now also becomes clear why a range of antihomophobia programs, which only focus on visibility of and the empathy with the “poor” or “normalcy” of gay, lesbian or transgender “victims”, are probably not very effective. Although it requires more sophistication, effective antihomophobia and transphobic programs should focus on integrating the deconstruction of heteronormativity and this way contributing to a much broader positive and cooperative environment.
3. Systematically creating commitment
A school policy/strategy becomes more effective when more stakeholders have been involved in its development and maintenance in a participatory way and when they are more committed to it.
This “effective element” comes from a body of research on how organizations can improve themselves. We base ourselves particularly on Everett Rogers and John Kotter. Rogers distinguishes innovators, early adopters, an early and a late majority and laggards as different kinds of people with different attitudes towards innovation. Innovators are the people who always take initiative to experiment with improvement. Early adopters follow the innovators when they have the impression that an innovation may work. The early majority and the late majority participants don’t take initiatives. They follow the lead when an innovation proves to be good or attractive. The early majority tends to adopt successful innovation, but the late majority is often hesitant, and often only goes along with it because “everybody else does it” (social norming) rather than out of intrinsic interest. The laggards remain against change even when the majority adopts it. Such people either claim an exemption within the new routine or they leave the organization.
One lesson we learn from Rogers is that you cannot expect the entire school population to adopt an improved antibullying policy at once. Successful innovation requires going through a number phases. The school management should engage innovators first and then gradually extend the team commitment to a larger part of the staff , students and possibly even parents and community stakeholders. The laggards may be loudly against and the LGBTIQ movement may be tempted to focus on them because they are so loud and seem most threatening. But according to Rogers, there is as much risk that this strategy would focus the attention to the resistance rather than facilitating the growth of commitment.
Another lesson we learned from Rogers is that a key moment in the innovation process is the decision of the management to engage with a new idea. This decision usually takes place of the innovators community initiative and halfway the commitment of a somewhat larger group of early adopters. The estimate is that about 15 to 20% of the school population to support the initiative to improve the antibullying policy, or for example to include LGBTIQ issues in school policy. Rogers calls this the “chasm” because many innovations in organizations fail because not enough key people support the proposals at this early stage of development. Good ideas fall into the chasm of other daily routines and priorities.
When the decision is taken, the proposed new routines are tried out (“implementation”) and tailored to the organization in order to be able to integrate them successfully. The closing phase of Rogers is confirmation, when the majority adopts the new routines and when the new practices are documented and new students and new staff are systematically introduced to them.
Another researcher, John Kotter, claims the key to organizational change is that your heart must be in it. And with your heart we mean the heart of the organization. Innovation cannot be a trick, method or technique; commitment is the heart of change. When we translate this to antibullying, or to antihomophobic and transphobic bullying, it becomes clear that antibullying measures or LGBTIQ integration in school policies cannot rely on simple rules or tricks, like (only) labelling bathrooms as gender-neutral or hang up posters or rainbow flags. The core of the effort should be in why and how the entire school population feels it is important to support this cause.
4. Positive behaviour support
A fourth effective element we found was to support positive behavior and ignore negative behavior as much as possible. Complimenting, rewarding and no-blame methods are much more effective than negative methods, like blaming bullies, extra attention for bullies, and punishment. This finding goes against the common feeling that antibullying policy should focus on reporting, apprehending, and punishing bullies. In the context of homophobia and transphobia, this may even be more controversial. In one of the GALE trainings, a gay teacher became extremely upset when I asked if he could think of a positive alternative to punishing a homophobic student. For LGBTIQ people, the threat of bullying and discrimination may trigger a fight or flight instinct that impels them to call for punishment, even though this is not likely to change the mind of the homophobic student.
A large body of research shows that punishment does not really work to establish prosocial or tolerant behaviour. A main effect of punishment is that students were punished don’t change their attitude and keep engaging in the same negative behavior, but this time outside the view of authorities. The general lesson is that punishment pushes negative behavior underground rather than eliminating or changing it.
It is true that the threat of punishment can lead to less negative behaviour, but only when there is a rigid and continuous monitoring and discipline. This type of prison-like discipline is not consistent with modern views on how to help young people to become empowered and democratic citizens. Role-modelling strict behavioural control will deprive students of important learning experiences in the area of taking own responsibility. Homophobic and transphobic students are part of a heteronormative environment and punishing them for what they experience as “normal” is not the best way to correct their heteronormative expectations and judgments.
Another body of research shows that giving compliments is a strong motivator and that it makes people feel empowered, happy and rewarded. When teachers and other school staff compliment students consistently for positive and cooperative behavior, or for tolerant and reflective statements, this will role-model positive behavior and influence other students who are more afraid of change.
One alternative method to deal with conflict and negative behaviour is called “restorative”. These methods have a so-called “no-blame” perspective. The no-blame perspective involves both perpetrators, victims and bystanders in the solution of conflicts.
One method is “Undercover Teams”; small teams of students who work ‘secretly’ together to solve problematic situations in their class. Both bully and victim are part of the team, next to some influential group members. If an LGBTIQ students would be excluded or discriminated in a class, an undercover team would not talk about who did what or blame someone for being wrong. Instead they jointly focus on changing the situation by making small-scale resolutions to support the LGBTIQ student. Small-scale interventions by the undercover group could be not staying silent when there is name-calling, asking the LGBTIQ student to join for lunch or support activities (to change exclusion to inclusion), or to give support to the victim when they are bullied by others, especially by involving supportive bystanders. By involving the perpetrator as a partner, the perpetrator is given the chance to cooperate with the solution and implicitly it is shown that the perpetrator is not seen as “the best person” but as somebody who made a mistake and who can change. When the perpetrator does not feel comfortable in changing their behavior right away into supportive behavior, their being part of the undercover team at least compels them to not frustrate the undercover team solutions.
Another method is the “Real Justice Session” where the perpetrators and victims, their peers and responsible adults are invited to one or more sessions to discuss and decide how to create “justice” in escalated conflicts. “Real Justice Sessions” could be more appropriate when the entire school community or the wider community is involved in perpetrating a homophobic and transphobic atmosphere. By getting all stakeholders together and get into dialogue about how to interact in a positive social way with each other, there is a better chance that key stakeholders in the community can agree on cooperate and role model a positive environment. Real Justice Sessions were invented in Australia to solve structural tensions between originals and white Australians in and around schools, but their application has also been tried out for homophobia and other conflicts that go beyond small-scale group tensions.
5. Focus on school culture and prevention
A good school policy focuses at least as much on prevention (creating a positive school climate, not only preventing negative behavior) as it does on handling incidents. Incidents will always occur, but need to be seen in the wider context of small group processes and the influence of the larger school system/routine.
One school of research focuses on “prosocial behaviour” or “prosociality”. The prosocial method therefore puts a lot of value on creating a “pedagogical community” within the school, but also with parents and community groups and leaders. Most schools agree with this principle, but in practice the adoption of such of perspective may become difficult when in-depth prosociality requires a political choice: social inclusion is social inclusion regardless of the minority group.
Although many schools think that “education” or a safer school climate is neutral and non-political choice, and practice it is often not. This means that schools will have to think hard about their position regarding inclusion in the world, and the macro and micro consequences this has for their strategy and policy.
6. Clear and consistent school rules
School rules and procedures are necessary, and should be concise, clear, widely shared with all concerned and consistently applied. Paper-only policies in drawers are useless.
Many schools have a long list of detailed rules. The list is often too long to remember or to recite. Research shows that most people can remember a list of 4 or 5 items, when the list becomes longer, it becomes too difficult. It is better to have a short list of 4 key ground rules and discuss with teachers and students how these “ground principles” work out into more detailed norms on social behaviour. We get often questions of schools which 4 rules should be formulated. As Ton Mooij already noted, this does not really matter. When a group of students or teachers discuss this, they usually come up with similar types of ground rules.
This learning experience also is relevant for LGBTIQ issues. Many LGBTIQ organizations call for specific rules regarding LGBTIQ discrimination. The argument for this is that when rules are not specific, they it will not be followed up and get lost into heteronormative “generic” approaches. While it is true that heteronormativity tends to eradicate attention for LGBTIQ issues, I think LGBTIQ movement needs to learn to recognize that sexual and gender diversity sensitivity in schools cannot be protocolized in detail. In the ABC-project we had an elaborate discussion with students from five countries on this. They agreed that diversity is an important subject and all relevant groups have specific needs for sensitive treatment, but at the same time that it should be part of the entire openness and togetherness of the school culture.
The ABC-antibullying policy checklist
The ABC-project partnership adopted an antibullying policy checklist which the school can use to check what they are doing in the area of antibullying. In developing the checklist, we have decided to use 10 checkpoints that are based on the scientific findings described, but framed in the 4 categories of how antibullying policy is traditionally described: pedagogical culture (the joint establishment of the antibullying strategy), prevention (rules and dialogue), response (stopping violence, restorative approach, how to handle incidents) and tailored interventions (how to deal with repeated negative behavior and structural discrimination).
The current ABC-antibullying policy checklist is probably not the ultimate solution, nor ideal to fully integrate non-discrimination policy in schools.
In other projects which are more specific on homophobia and transphobia, GALE used another model to frame school policy: the “GEEC” model. “GEEC” stands for Goals, Environment, Education and Counseling. These four “pillars” of school policy are more common to describe the entire school policy rather than just the antibullying policy. In the GEEC model most of the traditional antibullying policy would be located in the “environment” category and it would maybe be enriched by some lessons in the “education” category. But heteronormativity pervades the whole school system is not something that only pays out in the school yard or hallways (the environment). Therefore seems more appropriate to fully integrate anti-heteronormativity in the entire school system.
GALE will now attempt to redevelop the results of the ABC-project into a more specific “gaynergy” label, which is even more adapted to monitor and properly integrate anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, and anti-transphobia in the entire school system.
May 11, 2020
(updated May 11, 2020)
Published by Dennis Velco
Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer entrepreneurs often struggle well beyond their heterosexual start-up counterparts in many areas of business. One, in particular, is raising funding in the form of venture capital and operational working capital funding to launch and grow their business. Most businesses will need to apply for some sort of working capital during their lifetime. Traditional loans are not always an option to many LGBT business owners due to the lengthy paperwork required and strict rules and guidelines, and discrimination from the staff of traditional VCs/Banks/Leading Companies/Financial Institutions who have historically favored heterosexual white males. Progress towards diversity in entrepreneur funding is happening, yet continues to be slow.
Several financial companies and organizations have stepped up to aid LGBT entrepreneurs in acquiring the capital they need to see their vision to reality and continue its growth trajectory.
We’d like to consider this an active and growing list. If you are aware of a company or organization that providing funding and capital targeting the LGBT entrepreneur, we’d appreciate you using the Contact Us form and provide a link to their primary website so that we may review their info and potentially add them the resource list below.
If you contact any of the below, we’d greatly appreciate it if you would let them that you learned about them here on OutBüro.
Note: this site does not have SSL active, yet still live.
We’re out to change the world of business finance! Founded by LGBT with a focus on LGBT and other minorities. Diversity Fund is a new business finance platform that unites rewards, lending, and equity finance provides sophisticated tools for investors to evaluate each deal and company and is fun and engaging for everyone!
Through Diversity Fund, an entirely new generation of entrepreneurs can finance their venture or expansion by immediately reaching thousands of potential investors who support their goals. Diversity Fund opens the world of business finance to entirely new sets of entrepreneurs and investors and leverages crowdfunding to even the playing field to the rest of us. Founded in Austin, Texas, Diversity Fund seeks to become a leader of small business finance and a trusted source for both entrepreneurs and investors. We’re excited about Diversity Fund and hope you are too. Be sure to register, so that we can send you information and news. Also, subscribe to our e-newsletter and check out our social links for more!
LGBT Capital was established in 2010 with a focus on the LGBT Consumer segment as a credible investment sector and to demonstrate the business case for advancements in LGBT equality and inclusion.
Since then and to support these aims, LGBT Capital has pioneered the development of an LGBT Diversity Investment Index with a complementary Institutional Investment methodology, developed Statistics and Research to demonstrate the potential of the LGBT Consumer Sector, and launched the first international specialist LGBT Wealth Management offering as well as an LGBT focussed Property Portal. LGBT Capital also works with a number of quality LGBT focused businesses to support their investment plans and growth.
LGBT Capital’s portfolio is guided by a primary focus on a sound business opportunity while actively supporting the advancement of LGBT Equality and Rights globally We prefer to work closely with clients and partners towards achievable goals. We will advise, but prefer to help structure, implement and execute. We believe in the power of Impact Investing and in particular that Impact Investing can support the progression of LGBT freedoms and inclusion globally. We also believe that the growth of quality LGBT businesses, particularly in developing markets, will play a key part in further developing LGBT freedoms and quality of life.
Formerly known as Google Ventures, GV was launched in 2009 to serve as the venture capital arm of Alphabet, Inc. Since then, it’s invested in over 300 startups within the life science, healthcare, artificial intelligence, robotics, transportation, cybersecurity, and agriculture industries. Some of these startups include Walker and Company, Tala, and Vida.
Google Ventures is very open to exploring relationships of entrepreneurs of all backgrounds.
We believe in the power of spending time together face to face. Whether we’re hosting a summer BBQ, celebrating Pride, or playing softball, you’ll find us with our portfolio founders and their teams.
Startup52X is focused on grooming extraordinary startup founders to launch highly successful and profitable ventures. We especially like teams that have at least ONE founder from underrepresented communities in tech. These include people of color, women, entrepreneurs who are – veterans, with disabilities, immigrants, LGBTQ, etc. We hope to increase diversity in startup and tech spaces while launching outstanding ventures.
Startup52 is an early-stage accelerator based in New York City. As the first sole diversity-focused accelerator in NYC, Startup52 was founded by Chike Ukaegbuto identify and groom outstanding entrepreneurs, especially those from untapped and under-tapped communities. Our main goal is to increase diversity in startup and tech spaces.
We run two cohorts a year with up to 15 outstanding ventures per class. Startup52’s ecosystem of partners, mentors, advisers, industry experts, investors and more, helps our ventures and founders thrive well even under the daunting challenges of startup entrepreneurship.
Our program follows an intensive structure that implements strategy aimed at uniquely helping startups develop an effective framework for decision making in focusing, aligning, executing and delivering against strategic adaptive and growth initiatives. This, we hope will lead to launch, longevity, and successful exits.
Our community of mentors, advisers, experts, serial entrepreneurs and more, are successful people, who have sold businesses, held executive positions at large companies, have advanced degrees from ivy league schools, are current entrepreneurs, among other great accomplishments.
AngelList is a U.S. website for startups, angel investors, and job-seekers looking to work at startups. Created in 2010, the platform has a mission to democratize the investment process and to help startups with their challenges in fundraising and talent. It started as an online introduction board for tech startups that needed seed funding. Since 2015, the site allows startups to raise money from angel investors free of charge.
The LGBT Market on AngelList is a resource to consider. Companies listed include HER and HORNET along around 150 other LGBT entrepreneur-owned businesses and worth investigating as a potential venue for exposure to angel investors
Connectivity Capital Partners is a venture capital firm that funds early-stage startups. Through the efforts of its Chief Investment Officer, Denmark West, the firm advocates for diversity in technology by supporting extraordinary startup founders regardless of their background.
As an LGBT entrepreneur, you are a champion of your brand. With Republic you can create a crowdfunding campaign that does more than attract small investors – it aids in creating brand ambassadors. Not LGBT specific as a platform, yet via your network and the compounded social influence that has you can spread your fundraising efforts to the audience of your making coupled with an active investor pool of 350,000 current members. In May 2016, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission enacted Title III of the JOBS Act, allowing non-accredited investors — the majority of the US population — to invest in startups. But the complicated legal requirements demanded a founder and investor-friendly, easy to use platform to make startup investing truly accessible while adhering to legal requirements so that it is an ethical safe space to invest from within.
That’s why we built Republic: to democratize investing and level out the fundraising landscape for founders and investors alike. We’re SEC-registered, FINRA-licensed, and if you’re at all interested in startups, you’ve heard of our past work: Republic is part of a family of startup platforms together with AngelList, Product Hunt, and CoinList — one of the most trusted online startup ecosystems in the world.
Gaingels is a profit-focused, mission-based affinity organization (a networking group of investors) which offers venture-stage investment opportunities into companies worldwide that have at least one LGBT founder, senior C-level executive, or board member.
Our members put great effort into assisting the companies we invest in. In turn, exceptional founders seek out this type of assistance to produce strong returns.
We also invest directly in venture funds, accelerator partners, and charity partnerships, including our own scholarship and mentoring program.
Announcing the Diversity Initiative, the largest venture capital resource ever created to focus on underrepresented entrepreneurs. This $125M commitment, part of Intel’s groundbreaking diversity efforts, will ensure that funded entrepreneurs enjoy the access to business development programs, global network, technology expertise and brand capital their talents deserve. Focusing on both the seed-stage and expansion phases, Intel Capital – Diversity Fund invests in technology, environmental or social mission driving startups, and must be within the U.S.
In June 2015, Intel Capital announced the venture industry’s largest-ever commitment to invest in technology companies led by women and underrepresented minorities (African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans).
Initially envisioned as a five-year, $125 million fund, the Intel Capital Diversity Initiative was expanded in October 2016 to also invest in startups led by entrepreneurs living with disabilities, U.S.-based entrepreneurs from the LGBTQ community, and U.S. military veterans.
In May 2018, Intel Capital announced that the Diversity initiative had exceeded its initial $125 million investment target more than two years ahead of schedule. Through September 2019, we have invested $381M in companies led by diverse teams; such companies make up 15 percent of our active portfolio.
500’s mission is to discover and back the world’s most talented entrepreneurs, help them create successful companies at scale, and build thriving global ecosystems.
We believe that great founders come in all shades, genders, and nationalities.
Since our inception, we’ve made it our mission to find and empower talented founders, whether they’re across the world or overlooked in our own backyard.
Diversity has always been a core value at 500. We’re committed to being champions of the global VC community, not as it is, but as we’d like to see it.
At 500, we don’t just slap a poster on the wall about diversity – we know that LGBT founders, mentors, and investors are a huge part of what makes our #500Strong family so great. In 2014, we even launched Rainbow Round to highlight great entrepreneurs and do more community outreach.
If you have a socially responsible business model, Pipeline is a great start. Business owners can pitch to a network of women investors through pitch summits which happen several times throughout the year in various locations. To be eligible, businesses must be for-profit, headed by a cis female, non-binary femme or transgender woman. Our members serve as the friends and family for entrepreneurs who may not already have support at their critical startup stage.
DigitalUndivided understands that cultural, structural, and financial barriers have functioned to restrict the involvement of people of color in economic chances. But, black and Latina women are the fastest-growing set of entrepreneurs in the USA. BIG is more than an incubator- it’s a direct pathway into the innovation economy for women of color. The BIG process begins with START, an invite-only weekend of ideation, pitching, feedback, and networking. From this weekend, we chose the cohort of the BIG Incubator
Self admittedly, this is an investment portfolio that happens to take on minorities, not as a mission, but as a matter of good business as discussed in his short article here >> How to build a successful and diverse venture capital portfolio without really trying Brooklyn Bridge Ventures manages $23 million across two funds, leading or co-leading investments of around $350,000 in New York City companies that have yet to raise $750,000 in prior rounds. BBV is the first venture capital fund based in Brooklyn, NY and it is managed by Charlie O’Donnell. Conversations often start pre-product and pre-deck. The fund invests in a wide variety of sectors, so say hello.
Kapor Capital invests in tech-driven seed stage companies committed to closing gaps of access, opportunity or outcome for low-income communities and/or minority underrepresented communities in the United States. We are open to investing in every sector, including education, work, finance, justice, food, and health.
We have invested exclusively in companies that have real potential to produce both significant financial returns and large-scale social impact by:
closing gaps of access to information or goods and services; and/or
expanding economic opportunity in the workplace and the marketplace; and/or
increasing outcomes such as efficiency and competitiveness of market-based solutions to social and economic issues.
We seek entrepreneurs from all backgrounds, especially people of color, women and other groups that have been historically underrepresented. We believe lived experience helps entrepreneurs identify rapidly-scalable, market-based solutions others have overlooked.
They construct Hispanic and Minority company success stories by giving experience for early-stage companies. They supply mentorship, strategic guidance, and technical assistance. They focus particularly on first-time entrepreneurs and first-time small business owners.
Astia was founded in Silicon Valley in 1999 as a non-profit organization dedicated to identifying and promoting best-in-class, high-growth ventures that include women leaders.
Astia levels the investment playing field by cultivating a trusted global ecosystem of engaged male and female investors and advisors, who offer crucial resources, including capital, networks, and expertise. Unlike most VC’s, investment firms, or accelerators, Astia provides a creative, proven approach that contributes to the success of women leaders and their ventures.
Collaborative Fund Partners, LLC, is a social impact and inclusion investment firm. CFP exists to “do well by doing good.” Through a multi-company investment approach, CFP is able to minimize placement risk, where most early-stage funds have failed in the past. By becoming directly involved in each company, CFP is able to maintain a quality control position with the management team and the use of funds needed to take each company into revenue and profitability.
Collaborative Fund Partners, LLC generates capital appreciation through investments in its portfolio companies that meet the Fund’s investment policies. The Fund will seek to fulfill its primary investment objective by making investments in early-stage companies that require additional equity and/or working capital in order to establish or expand their businesses
Founded in 2011 by Angela Benton, NewME has accelerated hundreds of entrepreneurs through our online platform, residential “boot-camp” accelerators, and equity portfolio. We pioneered diversity in Silicon Valley by focusing on helping entrepreneurs identify strengths from their non-traditional backgrounds and leveraging them in business. We’ve helped hundreds of entrepreneurs build better businesses some have even went on to raise venture capital funding. To-date NewME has helped minority entrepreneurs raise over $43MM in funding.
Mariah Lichtenstern’s background of building bridges between the privilege with those that are not prompted her to found Diversecity Ventures. Its focus is to invest in startups that not only aims to make a socio-economic and environmental impact but, more importantly, those that strive to promote cultural, geographic and cultural diversity.
Co-founded by Shauntel Poulson, Reach Capital is a venture capital firm that aims to support minority-led startups striving to help underserved communities in the country, particularly in the field of education. We invest in education because we believe itʼs our most valuable resource. It has the power to influence our course, contribute to our dreams and strengthen our communities. We invest in the people we believe in and the ideas we want to help build. Whether we are your sole investor or one of the many partners along your journey, we’ll always be there, ready to go to bat for you when necessary.
Black Angel Tech Fund was started by a group of successful Black entrepreneurs and angel investors after a thought-provoking panel about the lack of Black startup founders during the 2015 Stanford Black Alumni Summit. Since then, they have taken up the cause to use financial resources from successful African-Americans to support Black-owned startups. If you are LGBTQ and also happen to be African American, this VC may have interest in you.
Digitalundivided was founded by Kathryn Finney in 2012. Its mission is to champion Black- and Latinx-owned startups, by providing financial support and sound advice that will not only help launch these startups but also scale. If you are LGBTQ and also happen to be African American or Latinx, this VC may have interest in you.
DID continues to expand it’s impact and create true systems change through initiatives like The Doonie Fund, which has made over 1000 micro-investments in black women entrepreneurs and the expanded START program, which serves as an entry way for Black and Latinx women entrepreneurs into high growth entrepreneurship.
Project Diane 2020 is set to be released in Fall 2020 and while financial impact remains a central focus, 2020 data will spotlight community impact and what it truly means to be “self-made” in the tech and innovation space.
Based in New York City, KEC Ventures was founded by entrepreneurs from different ethnic backgrounds and industries. This unique blend of leadership gives KEC Ventures the ability to discover and support early-stage startups founded by entrepreneurs belonging to minority groups.
We help entrepreneurs bring the future into focus to find their breakthrough moment. Our proven track record of 100+ investments has unlocked growth opportunities through capital, advisement, and relationship building. We are the result of the merger between successful Los Angeles and Bay Area based Seed funds, Cross Culture Ventures and M Ventures. We invest in technology companies that create infectious products that benefit from shifts in cultural trends and behaviors in an increasingly diverse global marketplace.
Based in New York, Harlem Capital Partners (HCP) is a venture capital firm that focuses on early-stage, minority-owned startups. Its mission is to invest in 1,000 of these types of startups within the next 20 years, with half of these being women- and minority-owned startups. HCP focuses its investments towards startups that aim to enhance financial, marketing, and operational experiences. As a solution to this challenge, HCP partners with entrepreneurs who have revenue-generating tech-enabled products or services that can leverage our financial, marketing and operational experiences to implement key processes to go from selling products to running a sustainable business.
Dreamit Ventures prides itself not only one of America’s top startup accelerators but also a catalyst of diversifying startup ownership in the country, particularly those that focus on developing Health and Urban Tech solutions.
Its partnership with Comcast Ventures aims to provide financial support and mentorship to minority-owned startups with ready-made products to help them scale through their Dreamit Access program.
Since it was founded, Humble Ventures has invested in 47 different startups, 70% of which are those established by women and entrepreneurs belonging to minority groups. These theCut, The Mentor Method, and KweliTV. Humble Ventures’ goal is to bring to innovative startups collective human, financial, and technical resources for them to launch and scale.
We focus on diverse entrepreneurs that are solving problems for the fastest growing demographic segments. We believe that diverse entrepreneurs provide opportunities for disproportionate returns and represent the markets of the future. We know that diverse audiences are tied inextricably to the future of cities. These audiences require responsive healthcare, access to wholesome food, economic stability, education, safe neighborhoods, and tight social support to create an environments for them to thrive.
Founders First Capital Partners is a venture capital firm founded by Kim Folsom with the goal of providing capital and support to startups owned by women, entrepreneurs from minority groups, and military veterans.
We fund service-based companies generating between $250K and $5M in annual revenues typically led by minority, military veterans, or woman founders. We offer Revenue-based investment (“RBI”), a new form of business financing, distinct from the preferred equity structure most VCs use and more flexible than traditional bank debt.
Its goal is to help startup founders not just launch a successful business, but also one that can be carried from one generation to another.
Valmo Ventures is a venture capital firm founded by Valerie Mosley, a successful entrepreneur who’s made it her mission to help under-represented startup founders grow both their self-worth and net worth.
In line with this, Valmo Ventures’ mission is to create, advise, and partner with startups to transform them into valuable and profitable assets to society as a whole. Valmo Ventures creates, collaborates, and invests in companies, assets, and efforts that add value to portfolio returns and add value to our society. We believe that when we advise, invest in, and collaborate with bright, like-minded, and like-hearted individuals, extraordinary results are possible.
While Base Ventures is still a relatively young venture capital firm, it’s already making a mark as far as bridging the gender, and ethnic gap observed among startups in the country. Already, it has raised multi-million dollar funding for startups like StyleSeat and Balanced Payments.
Much of the success of Base Ventures is owed to its founder and Managing Director, Erik Moore. A seed investor of Zappos.com, Moore is recognized as one of the top 25 Most Influential Black in Tech and is driven by his desire to change the world by investing in young entrepreneurs.
Precursor Ventures is a venture capital firm that provides funding to pre-seed startups developing B2B and B2C software applications and services, and connected hardware. Although it’s one of the lesser-known firms, Precursor Ventures has willingly taken on the mission to ensure startup founder from diverse backgrounds are given equal opportunity to receive funding to grow and scale their businesses.
Precursor Ventures was founded with one simple premise. It is our belief that all entrepreneurs, regardless of background, benefit from having an institutional investor to help them scale and grow their company from the very beginning. We have built the entire firm around this premise that helping entrepreneurs get started and scale will be our life’s work. To that end, we have six core principles that drive our decisions and strategy:
We want to invest in your first institutional round of investment. We do not have requirements for traction or metrics. We want to be part of the company as early as possible. We are unafraid to back unproven, first-time entrepreneurs; unproven is not the same as incapable. We believe that the greatest returns in venture come from entrepreneurs who are capable but have not yet had the opportunity to show the world their talents and capabilities. We aggressively back entrepreneurs who have something to prove. We hold ourselves to high standards in terms of the diversity of founders we back and support. We are committed to investing in founders who represent a wide variety of backgrounds in terms of gender, race, background, academic experience and life circumstances. We are patient because building meaningful companies takes time and the rewards are great for those who participate in the entire journey. Building great companies takes time. There are no shortcuts and we know that the journey will be long but the rewards are worthwhile. We focus on long-term thinking. We value intellectual curiosity and open thinking. The best companies are built by curious founders who question everything and are open to thinking about new ways to tackle problems. We invest in early-stage companies in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, and Toronto. We are willing to consider other geographies, but we focus our energy in these locations.
Excel Capital Management is a proud supporter of the LGBT community, and we are here to help with all of your business funding needs! For more information on Excel and the funding solutions we offer, check out our Solutions page and APPLY NOW! For even faster service, contact one of our funding specialists TODAY at 877-880-8086
Wells Fargo a national leading small business lender for eleven years and they are dedicated to supporting the business needs of the LGBT entrepreneur client community. This dedication includes being a founding corporate partner of National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) and strong support for LGBT inclusion with their LGBT clients and their employees. As an employer, Wells Fargo fosters a culture in which all people and their individual differences are not only accepted but celebrated. If you’re an LGBTQ+ employee of Wells Fargo rate them here.
Being an entrepreneur is never easy. But so worth it. You can make inroads to attaining your entrepreneurial goals. Be smart about who you partner with for funding. It will be a long-lasting relationship not to be taken lightly.
Bear in mind there is not any failure, only feedback. Remember that there are organizations and persons which are pushing for diversity and that encourage LGBTQ and other diversity entrepreneurs. One such organization is the National Venture Capital Association who has listed over 40 venture funds dedicated to diversity. We are still reviewing all those companies to validate they are worthy of including in this list in a future update.
In recent surveys, more than 95% of Americans say they were at least somewhat concerned about how intent companies use their data, especially browsing history, and not to mention the US Government’s NSA continue to violate American’s Internet Privacy Rights or other governments around the world. Whether you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) or straight, what you do online can reveal a lot about you. Perhaps way more than you would be knowingly comfortable with sharing with others.
You’ve heard the saysing and likely have said it yourself, “Just Ask Google”. Sounds great, except when it comes to your private information.
Google tracks its user’s information for several reasons. For one thing, the company wants to make its services more efficient. Knowing your search history can help bring more relevant results to the top of future searches. This can be helpful and convenient, but it’s not all Google does with your data. They also use it to advertise more effectively. This means that advertisers can target their campaigns at people based on their demographic, sexual orientation, gender identity, political affiliation, or even personality type all from you directly providing it or from them deducing it from all your online habits, searches, site/page visits and such.
Creepy Ads That Follow You Around
I’m sure you’ve experienced looking at a product on a website or doing a search for a topic, then all a sudden those products or services are all the sudden showing up in advertisements on totally unrelated websites you visit. It is called Ad Retargeting. It can seem a bit creepy. So you may have been searching for Egyptian Cotton sheets and now seeing advertisements all over for that product. No harm right? Well, think about the other products you search for online and sites you visit. Yes, the search engine companies are tracking all that too. You may not see retargeting ads simply because merchants haven’t set up ad retargeting promotions that leveraging Cookies discussed in a bit. But rest assured, most internet search engines KNOW.
What Can You Do to Increase Your Internet Privacy, Safety, and Security?
Go ahead, it’s not vanity here. You should do it. How about jump down to the No-Tracking Browser section and try a few other browsers for this.
Do a search on your name. You may consider adding your location in the search if your name is not super unique – like John Smith. You will find that some sites have your name, home address, phone number, email account, and other information. Often these are public information aggregation sites trying to sell you or others access to the full record. For the most part, those are harmless.
If you find any site that has questionable data, use the site’s contact form to request the information to be removed.
No Longer Used Apps and Websites
When searching for yourself online you may come across profiles on apps or websites that you completely forgot about you use to use. Maybe you signed up once a long time ago and never used it since. It is a good idea to log onto those apps or sites to finally officially delete the account. You may have to use the Forgot Password feature to set a new password to access the account. If you no longer use and/or have access to the email associated with the account, use the site’s Contact Us form, or Support features to inform the app/website administrators that you once had an account under the email and that you no longer have access to that account and would like the account removed or set to your new email. They may ask you to provide some form of identification to assure you are the person associated with the account. This can take some time and effort on your part, but so worth having all that cleaned up instead of lingering out there.
Job Hunting – Clean Up
Along with this, keep in mind that potential employers will search your name like as above to try to find information about you in addition to looking at popular sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. The less info out there, likely the better. If you have your Facebook account open (public) consider setting it so that only those directly connected with you can view your profile. Also consider going through all those past postings, photos you are tagged in, and photos you uploaded and removing the tags or aking the other person to remove the photo, and clean up your past posting and photo to the bare minimum and job hunting friendly. Photos to highly consider removing are those where you are nearly naked, and looking like you are a party animal. I like to have my fun too, but consider, especially if job hunting, how those may look to a future employer – or a new romantic potential.
Mobile Apps – Limit It
Just because others are on an app doesn’t mean you should be on the same apps. Choose wisely and limit the number. Studies indicate that LGBTQ persons use “dating” sites and apps significantly more than heterosexuals. So, if on mobile “dating” apps and sites, consider limiting the information you provide both in profiles and via message chats. That naughty pic you send could end up in the hands of more recipients than you intended. If you must use location sharing, set it to Only When Using the App – otherwise, it may be tracking your every move. Additionally, this also helps save the battery life of your device.
People Aren’t Always Looking to Date
Ok, we know this by the sheer number of profiles that have “married” and “in a relationship” in their status. OK – not judging. But, if on those apps/sites there are also dubious players trying to run scams and phishing for personal information. One current scam that has been around for a while yet still active is a profile that will have a fairly attractive person with a fit body tap, woof, wink, etc. your profile. On Grindr on their profile will often say “via Explorer) which is not Internet Explorer, it is Grindr Explore where you can set the location you want to browse. The profiles state they are looking for love, a life partner, a soul mate, that communication is key, and more often than not that (for the guys) they are versatile – covering their sexual bases. There are a couple of approaches, such as stating they are a military service member currently stationed overseas and returning home in a few months. All that is trying to engage your sense of nationalism, fantasy, and hope. Sick really and as a US Army Veteran, I am disgusted by them using the military in their ploy.
I have heard from several sources, and have experienced some myself up to a point, that after some time of “getting to know you” they will come up with some excuse and ask you to transfer money to them. Sometimes they will claim they want to give you money and in order to do so, they must have your bank account website login information. HELLO, with just an email address there are many ways you can send me money if you really want to – RIGHT? PayPal to name just one, heck even Facebook has a feature to send another person money. There is no legitimate reason to provide a complete stranger your bank account information let alone access your bank’s website login.
Once Posted – It is Out There
Keep in mind that once you post anything, be it a comment, a “like”, a share, an article, a photo, it is out there. Even if you delete it, it still has the potential to be out there. When you delete from a website or app, the content is usually not really deleted, it’s just turned off from your visible profile. Sites like Facebook inform that when you delete posting and photos, they may still exist on other people’s timelines. Some data even if “deleted” is retained on servers associated with your account just in case they offer and Undo feature and for legal purposes. Another way no matter the platform, others may do a screen capture, copy, and/or download it.
For each and every app and website, review its Privacy Settings. Make the choices that you are most comfortable with. We recommend setting every one as restrictive as possible. Opt out of the site using and/or sharing your information with 3rd parties. We cannot possibly list all websites and apps, but here are some top sites and links to instruction on how to set your privacy on each:
Want to recommend other sites with linked to their privacy settings documentation? Great. Please add in the comments and I will update the article periodically.
If an app or website provides instant notification of changes, turn those on. These can alert you to things such as when your account is logged in from a new device or location when you are tagged in photos when a password is reset and much more. Each app and website options may vary so you should look at this on EVERY single one.
Search the website or app for Double or Two-Step Authentication or do an internet search for the website or app name and those terms to attempt to location user documentation if it has it. Here are a few popular site links to user documentation that have two-step authentication.
Consider setting up some Google Alerts that get sent to your email when new content on the internet becomes available. We recommend setting one up for your name, and then the name of all apps and websites you have accounts on plus adding keywords like “security”, “breach”, “leak” and so forth. That way if any app or site is reported on having a Security Breach in some way, you will know as soon as possible.
Cookies, first what are they. Nope. Not yummy peanut butter chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin and walnuts. We are talking about calorie-free small bits of code sent by a website to a site visitor’s computer/device to help the website remember stuff and provide the user with a rich experience. Some cookies are long term meaning that when you leave a site and later return, they help make your return more convenient. Other cookies are called session cookies that are only active during your logged in online sessions. Some cookies in today’s world may be active even when you are not on the site such as location tracking and push notification. They may track whats is in your shopping cart – have you put things in a shopping cart, left the site, then returned and all the items are still there? Sure you have. That’s cookies at work.
Are Cookies Safe?
Under normal circumstances, cookies cannot transfer viruses or malware to your device. Because the data in a cookie doesn’t change when it travels back and forth, it has no way to affect how your computer runs. However, some viruses and malware may be disguised as cookies. To a degree, third-party tracking cookies may cause concerns about privacy and security concerns, since they make it easier for malious actors to trace what you are doing online couple with browser history data. I advise you to review the cookies your browser has stored and manage them by clearing those associated with sites or services you don’t actively use or are completely unknown to you.
If you set your browser to clear all browser history, the worst case it that it will not have the history to auto-fill website URLs as you begin typing. Yes, that is serious about it. If you don’t mind typing out the full website URL, then it will have next to no impact on your internet surfing experience. Just a few more keyboard strokes. Retaining all that browser history has the potential to expose your browsing habits to dubious or unethical internet companies and such. It also could be easily viewed by anyone with access to your device.
Cookies are why when you visit Facebook, LinkedIn and Google you don’t have to relog in day after day. They rember the on site searches, and other stuff. Would it hurt if your 100% cleared all cookies each time your browser closes? Well, only you can answer that. You may always try it for a short period. In Chrome you have options to block particular sites from adding cookies, specify a site to clear on browser exit and white list sites.
I do A LOT of internet browsing in what I do. I will be honest and say it’s been quite a while since I looked at my own cookies. Tonight I managed them and spent around 45 mintues deleting hundreds of cookies out of my browser. I took 3 passes at it and got it down to only cookies I really recognized the website AND use on a regular basis. Here are a few of the rules I used:
Lots of cookies where obvious they were for advertising tracking – GONE.
Tons where from sites I only visited due to my work and likely have little reason to return and if I do, they will just see it as a “new visitor” or I have no real reliance on so no big deal – GONE.
Any cookie that I had no idea what it was and many had odd names, lots of characters and numbers yet means nothing to me – GONE.
Even some sites I likely will visit again yet I know they track visits and then have a paywall – say after reading beyond 3 articles they close the gate so you pay – GONE start fresh at zero.
For now I’m going to schedule once a month on my calender to do this exercise. It then should only take around 10 minutes or so. Consider giving that a try.
No-Tracking Internet Browsing
Along with browsing history tracking, you might use your laptop or mobile device to connect to internet hotspot while you are out and about, say having a coffee. Those internet connection services sure are handy, yet they are also opportunities for dubious players to snoop on your activity, steal your information, or even infect your device with malware or viruses. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can not only protect you from hacks, but they also allow you to browse the web anonymously without the fear of being monitored or tracked. In testing the below I found their search results are very on par with Google and Bing. It may even be in some cases better because they aren’t taking all your past search history, browsing history, or location into account. Sure other sites, if you search for “Best Ice Cream Shop”, may first show you local ice cream shops but that is also forcing the assumption that is what I’m searching for. Sometimes to get national results on Google I’ve had to turn off local and use their incognito version instead of them just providing what I asked for. If I wanted “Best Icecream shops in Fort Lauderdale”, that would have been my search.
Top No-Tracking Internet Search Options:
Proxy Server Routes Searches through servers not registering your IP address
Mobile Security App
Browser Integration Adds layer of blocking common browsers from tracking you.
April 14, 2020
(updated April 14, 2020)
Published by Craig Derene
We’ve all been there—a tough day on the job that makes us eager for a new opportunity. Those periods at work can be frustrating, leading our minds to wander, longing for the American dream. Whether you’re stuck in a cycle of routinely sifting through job openings or you’ve just come to the conclusion that you need a fresh start, the idea of becoming your own boss is a refreshing thought. It’s common and OK to be dissatisfied with corporate America, feeling like you’re meant for so much more. You are reading this so YOU ARE MEANT FOR MORE. Own that, explore your options and take action toward making a change. A new opportunity might be on the horizon for you if you see it and seize it. So let’s explore the reality of opening a small business and how a Franchise Consultant can help guide you to a successful investment of your time and resources and if an established proven business model cutting your startup learning curve and increasing your chances of business startup sucess is right for you .
America has an estimated 1.4 million LGBT business owners as innovators, job creators, taxpayers, and providers of essential services that benefit our entire society. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender business owners are a vibrant, essential part of the small business engine that makes the U.S. economy run. That is why Franchise Connect Pro has partnered with OutBüro to help bring awareness and opportunities to the LGBTQ community.
Why owning a franchise may be the right choice for you
The truth about starting a small business
Many people looking to make a professional transition turn to starting their own business. Those who start a brand-new business offer unique products and services to the market, but the advantages of being an entrepreneur are usually exceeded by an overwhelming number of financial woes and time constraints.
While we definitely admire the drive and passion needed to start your own business, this might not be the most fruitful avenue for you, as shown in these facts of the reality of starting a small business:
Starting a small business might not be a practical option for you to invest your time and resources into, but there is thankfully another way: franchise ownership.
Investing in a Franchise
With a successful model and established brand in place, aspiring business owners can find success by becoming franchisees. Not only is franchise ownership successful in terms of finances in many cases, but it is also beneficial for your overall happiness and satisfaction with your career, as shown in these stats as reported by Small Business Trends.
90% of franchise owners enjoy their business, and 85% positively support their franchisor.
Nearly 75% of franchisees would choose this path again if given the option.
Nearly 80% of franchise owners would recommend franchising with their brand to others.
If you’re a pizza lover, then you might think that owning a nationally recognized pizza chain will be the perfect opportunity for you, but that isn’t always the case. Your professional strengths and desires might be calling you to own a business in a different industry. Guidance in finding the perfect brand is where a Franchise Consultant can help.
Making the Right Choice: Working with a Franchise Consultant
Your next step should not be a guessing game. Owning a franchise will be an investment of your time and money. When working alongside a Franchise Consultant, you’ll get intuitive advice and insight on what option is best for you and your family, factoring in your ideal schedule, income, and industry. A Franchise Consultant will carefully contemplate and evaluate your drive and passion, taking into consideration factors such as when you want to work, where you want to work, and what line of business you want to be in.
Pairing you with a franchise that’s the best match for your personal and professional needs, a Franchise Consultant will work alongside you to make the most of your next career path. And, much like working with a realtor to shop for a new home, working with a Franchise Consultant is no cost to you!
Have Questions? Let’s Chat
Uncover Your Next Step with Franchise Connect Pro
It is our passion to link LGBTQ professionals to a franchise business opportunities perfect for them. As a Certified Franchise Consultants, we are passionate about helping people like you find their best match and increase your chances of business sucess through established business models and brand with recognition.