Tools for Detecting Bias and Cultural Beliefs and Moving Beyond those Barriers

E​ditorial assistance from Lea Córdova

There is great diversity in people’s expression of gender identity and sexual preference in our culture. Everyone has a right to have their own beliefs around their personal responsibility, morals / values and relationships. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) includes gender identity and sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination clause to protect the rights of survivors to have access to services.

Service providers, as do all people, develop their preferences and biases from their experiences, as well as from the information they have encountered and the pressure of faith belief / environment. While these beliefs are private and not always discussed in a public forum, they can still interfere with survivors being able to have equal access to services.

Professional skills are needed to provide the most competent services an organization can offer. The provider’s personal beliefs and biases may need to be set aside to avoid conflict with the stated goals of their service organization. The purpose of the service provider’s program is to offer it in order to establish the survivor’s stability and support continuity.

Key elements for providing culturally competent services include knowledge of the issues, fears and strengths in each survivor. Queer, transgender, bisexual, lesbian, and gay (QTBLG) identified people have specific concerns around their experiences, from stigma, discrimination and prejudice, which relate specifically to the provider’s attitude and care.

A skilled provider will show all survivors:

  • Respect for human dignity — Respect what is significant to the survivor – their lived experiences and their sources of support
  • Honor self definition and self determination — Recognize and present choices/options
  • Provide egalitarian services — Focus is on survivors specific concerns and their needs, meet them where they are

Every survivor deserves competent, sensitive services, and sometimes this requires that personal beliefs and biases be set aside. Get the job done – accomplish the established goals, provide the services that are needed.

Helpful guidelines to consider to enhance services and to avoid discrimination

  • Avoid assumptions as they do not necessarily fit another’s reality — ‘Different’ should not be translated as ‘wrong’
  • Stay engaged with those who have a different gender identity or sexual orientation — Understanding ‘how’ not ‘why’ they are different
  • Set aside any personal desire to ‘judge worthiness’ of a survivor — Accept that everyone has different experiences, insight, objectives and resources

Pay attention to your reactions to QTBLG survivors and enhance your engagement skills.

  1. Examples of statements providers might use to indicate disconnect due to their discriminatory biases. Reflect on how these statements, and similar ones, place a provider’s bias in the way of meeting the survivor where they are.
    • “I don’t understand. It is too confusing for me. I am sure that I won’t get everything right.”
    • “Their gender expression (or gender identity, and/ or sexual orientation is simply immoral.)”
    • “They make it harder than it is. Why can’t they be just like the rest of us?”
    • “They make a big ‘thing’ out of being different. They should just straighten out.”
    • “It is too hard for me to remember to use that pronoun (and/or name). It isn’t grammatically correct.”
    • “When you are correcting me for the pronoun I use for you, you are not listening to me.”
    • “My intent is to help. I don’t mean to hurt them.”
  2. Case studies – that show best practices in use in the organization, and other organizations.
  3. Role play – for group reflection on best practices for responding to discriminatory biases.

To care is to meet the needs and issues identified by the survivor within the organization’s available resources. Increased access of services for Queer, Transgender, and Bisexual, Lesbian, and Gay survivors’ increases success, if there is competent job performance. Overcoming barriers created by provider’s biases and discrimination leads to improved outcomes in the survivor’s ability to heal and move forward.

Additional Resource

FORGE: “Confronting Client Bias

About the Author

Rev. J Zirbel

J Zirbel (no pronouns, simply J) is a minister, ordained in the Church Within A Church Movement and co-founder and executive director for Rainbow Community Cares (RCCares).

J served on the Governance Committee of the National Coalition of Anti Violence Programs (NCAVP), as a member program of NCAVP, a non-profit working to ...