Brittney Johnson is a 14-year-old transgender youth who entered the justice system in 2016 as a Child in Need of Services (CHINS). She was caught shoplifting and refused to follow her parents’ directions.
Brittney struggled with her gender identity and authentic acceptance by her family, specifically her step-father. For example, her father would call her a “sissy,” and refuse to allow her in his car because Brittney dressed like a “girl.” Feeling misunderstood and isolated, Brittney began acting out and was eventually expelled from school.
In December 2017, Brittney enrolled in youthSpark’s Expressions! program for LGBTQ court-involved youth, and developed relationships with adults who supported her gender expression. Engaging in Expressions! made Brittney feel like she was not alone, but surrounded by people who have supported her through the ups and downs of her transition.
Although Brittney still faces discrimination, she does not let that stop her, because she has the love and support of her mother, probation officer, and youthSpark’s Youth Services Center staff. youthSpark also matched Brittney with her mentor, Melania, who also identifies as a transgender woman.
She has learned resilience strategies and has become confident in her self-expression since connecting with Expressions! and Melania. She introduces herself as Brittney and uses she, her, hers pronouns. This fall she started the semester at a new school. She was able to positively communicate her gender identity and was accepted for who she is at the new school. Brittney is thriving and displays a positive attitude towards being her unapologetic self.
LGBTQ youth are three to seven times more likely to enter the street economy and engage in survival sex to meet basic needs. Because of this, we find it of vital importance to partner with organizations like youthSpark who are creating safe spaces for LGBTQ youth to find love and acceptance. Find out more about the work that youthSpark does here.