In our industry, the discourse regarding Pride Month has historically involved a fair bit of short-term navel gazing… namely looking at brands that are doing Pride Month well and those that aren’t. Who is slapping a rainbow logo on their social accounts for the month versus who is making long-term, meaningful commitments to LGBTQI+ organisations, businesses and the community.
While that historical binary has been helpful in holding organisations to account in the trade press, it's not an enduring dialogue that will drive a step-change in support of the LGBTQI+ movement more broadly.
With Pride Month (June 1 - 30) starting this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about the long list of important conversations that we should be having this year. And, mark my words, there are a lot we urgently need to be having, particularly in the wake of an election that saw the transgender and gender diverse people in our community repeatedly targeted and discriminated against.
So, what should we be doing?
Winitha Bonney OAM hosted a session earlier this year where she made a comment that has stuck with me. She spoke to the power of ‘calling in’ rather than ‘calling out.’
She was referencing the finding that in calling people out when they make a mistake in vernacular that references our diverse communities, it can actually trigger regression in those same people’s understanding and their inclusion journey.
For the queer community and our allies, I think that’s a particularly important concept to remember - particularly when we’re talking with people who don’t identify as LGBTQI+.
The case in point is a conversation I had last month.
A straight, cis-gender (person whose gender identity corresponds with their birth sex) friend was expressing their concern about including pronouns in their email signature. They thought it would appear to be virtue signalling. An empty gesture with no real value other than to make them appear au fait.
It wasn’t until I explained that by including pronouns in day-to-day communications, like on email signatures, LinkedIn profiles etc, and thereby actively showing your allyship with the trans and gender diverse community that he understood why such simple actions can actually be a profound gesture.
A clear sign that you are open to learning and understanding, and that you represent a safe space to have those discussions.
That conversation didn’t have to go that way though.
If that person hadn’t been a friend, I can easily imagine how I might have bristled at their comment and called out their lack of understanding, deeming it non-inclusive or discriminatory.
But in doing that - in calling them out - I don’t know if either of us would be much the better for it…
Of course, I’m not talking about outright acts of homophobia, interphobia or transphobia like those Australia has bore witness to over the past few months. Those require a very distinct (and in my view, firm) response.
It’s instead, those moments where people make a genuine slip. Or they aren't using the appropriate vernacular.
After all, for many of us, there’s a lot of unlearning to do - particularly when it comes to gender inclusive language. Instead, we can use these moments as opportunities to shed light and to gently guide.
If this year’s federal election showed us one thing, it is how incredibly damaging misinformation can be.
The Liberal candidate for Warringah’s comments regarding the transgender community served to further marginalise a vulnerable minority group that already faces significant levels of discrimination and hate in the Australian cultural sphere.
When we do things like consuming and sharing media that features trans and gender diverse talent, educating the people around us on the glorious diversity within the LGBTQI+ community and stating our pronouns at the start of meetings, we make a small but powerful step in the opposite direction.
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