In many parts of the world, June is known as Pride month, but every month is an opportunity to show love and acceptance to those that identify as LGBTQ+. To all our readers & members who consider themselves lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender non-conforming or otherwise curious and playful with gender and sexuality: we see you!
Though the times we live in now allow for greater visibility of queer people around the world, there is is still a lot of work to be done to center the experiences of LGBTQ+ people. In June our communications and outreach cluster held a teach in looking at accessibility within the climate movement. Accessibility needs take form in many different ways, including race, class, parental status, language, and so on. What connects these themes is the need for inclusivity; for people of all walks of life to be welcome in our conversations and planning for a future where everyone can thrive.
In the coming weeks we will be exploring ways to be more inclusive; focusing on a different theme each week. Since this is a time where the lives and contributions of LGBTQ+ folks are being celebrated, what are some ways in which we can improve how we welcome people who have those identities? And what are our shortcomings? Notions of gender and sexuality vary greatly depending on one’s culture, upbringing and faith, among other factors. In our movement toward a just world, it is important that we create safe spaces for people who are queer or gender non-conforming regardless of our personal beliefs.
We can do so by focusing on the language we use to talk about gender and sexuality. The most important thing every single one of us can do to create a more LGBTQ+ inclusive space is not make assumptions. It can prevent a lot of shame, embarrassment and confusion. Along these lines, remember that the way a person appears may not always reflect their gender identity. This is why we ask people to share their preferred gender pronouns, often shortened to “PGPs”, when doing introductions. This allows each person to speak for their self and reduces the risk of referring to people in a way they don’t want to be referred to. This second point can be hard for us to remember, especially because for many of us the language we’ve been raised with uses very strict gender logic, so we are asked to shift from years of seeing and saying things one way to stretching and expanding our understanding. It is okay to make mistakes along the way, but do not let that be an excuse for disrespecting another person.
When talking about language we recognize that this includes non-verbal communication. This means being aware of our facial expressions and body language in our interactions with others. When you meet someone, how can you carry your body to convey that you are open? That you are listening to them? In what ways is your body showing comfort or discomfort? If you are faced with someone who’s presentation confuses you, take the time to soften your facial muscles and ask yourself where your discomfort comes from? Sometimes we find that it has nothing to do with the person in front of us and is actually a response to internal judgements or assumptions.
As with all people, LGBTQ+ folks deserve to be welcomed in shared and public spaces. No matter how much exposure we have to queer language, knowledge and/or people, we all are capable of speaking to each other in a way that honors our unique ways of being and allows for connection across difference.