“It felt as if we are putting together a guard of underground ninjas”: LGBT-friendly psychologists about working in a new reality

Sphere Foundation’s psychological assistance program held a scientific and practical conference for psychologists of Russian schools working with LGBT+ teenagers. More than 100 specialists from 90 schools from different regions of Russia took part in it. During the sessions, the participants discussed the most up-to-date scientific positions on sexual orientation and gender identity and eventually formed several theses.
  • There are LGBT+ teenagers in any school, however, the strengthening of state queerphobia and of#nbsp; the anti-scientific view on counseling discriminates against and stigmatizes both the teenagers themselves and the specialists who help them.
  • Instead of establishing channels of professional communication and support, school administrations put pressure on psychologists and forbid raising topics of sexual education, orientation and gender identity.
  • Despite all the obstacles, it is necessary to develop measures to ensure quality care and make it accessible to all school students, regardless of their gender, orientation, and ways of self-expression.
  • Due to the limited access and lack of information about free help, as well as psychologists themselves fearing being fired due to “propaganda”, the risk of suicide among young people is increasing.
  • Against the background of the new law on “propaganda”, the feeling of legal repercussions as the result of counseling adolescents has increased. The participants of the conference demand that the law be repealed#nbsp; and that sex education courses for teenagers throughout the country should be introduced.

Olga Razmakhova, Head of Sphere’s Psychological Assistance program:

— We decided to make the conference a closed one, and, to be honest, I had a feeling that a guard of underground ninjas was being put together: we made lists and negotiated in absolute secrecy, because if the school administration found out that their psychologists were participating in LGBT+ events, they could be fired.

It seems that we are the first among psychological initiatives who have focused on the most complex and closed group (friendly psychologists in schools are now very vulnerable) and created a space for dialogue for it. Also keeping in mind#nbsp; the current policy.

In such a way, we have indirectly influenced almost a hundred schools in the country and the lives of teenagers who study there.

You can always contact us for free psychological assistance by submitting a request via our Telegram bot, filling out a Google form or writing directly to the service coordinator: psychology@spherequeer.org

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