Color & Control:

Embracing gender equity and diversity

We all remember how confusing and complicated our younger years were. Not only were we discovering ourselves for the first time and adventuring within our own personalities and could be found challenging authority with true conviction. 

Sadly, not all of us were able to be open about who we discovered within ourselves and as such found ourselves the subject of family shame, stigma and discrimination. Today, hopefully some things have changed and as parents and family members we can see the way forward to encourage our youngsters in ways that are inclusive and mindful of gender equity. 

So, how do we become a better at supporting youth within the LGBTQIA+? Here are some suggestions to look at to start your journey into becoming a true accomplice for people in any marginalized community:

Research: Before you jump in head first into fighting for social justice, you have to understand what you’re fighting for and why. Don’t turn to your friends from a disadvantaged community and expect them to give the emotional labor to educate you. Do your own research. Look into the history and causes of the movements you want to support.

Listen: Be willing to unlearn inherent biases. There are podcasts, local speakers, zooms classes, and endless resources online for you to hear what people from a variety of communities are trying to tell you. 

Stand up: When you see something, say something. Sit your family or friends down and have those hard conversations. Educate yourself on how to identify slurs, derogatory language and other bigoted language to keep people in your circle accountable for what they say.

Accept your mistakes: Being an accomplice is an ongoing learning process, you are bound to say or do the wrong thing at times. When that happens, you need to find ways to be open to accepting the correction given to you, acknowledging it, and do better next time.

Don’t be performative: Another term you may have heard before this is virtue signaling. This is the practice of words, posts, and gestures that do more to promote your own virtuous morals than it actually helps the causes that you are intending to showcase. 

Get comfortable being uncomfortable: We are naturally averse to change as humans, but that comfort comes at the expense of distressed populations. The current status quo often benefits a small few while excluding others.

Influence others: Depending on who you are you may have privilege as a non-marginalized person. That doesn’t mean you’ll never face struggles, but you won’t be stigmatized as much as others for based on your gender, sexuality, race or ethnicity. With that you have a higher chance to be heard by peers and to encourage them in their involvement in supporting and uplifting voices from excluded people.

Hopefully, these tips help you start your journey to help us all accomplish equity and equality for everyone. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” 

Natasha Way, Ahki Odayin, a two-spirit person of the Ojibwe People of Wikewemikong First Nations, and Bonnechere Mètis Nations of Ontario. They are an editing assistant, indigenous and disabilities rights advocate.

Terms to know:

2SLGBTQ+: 2-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer, and additional genders and orientations including agender, asexual and pansexual.

SMG: Sexual gender minorities.

Two Spirit: Culturally-specific identity used by some Indigenous people to indicate a person whose gender identity, spiritual identity and/or sexual orientation comprises both male and female spirits.

Gender-fluid: Someone with varying gender identities over time.

CIS Gender: Someone who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth.

Homophobia: The fear, hatred or aversion to people with same-sex attractions.

Transphobia: The fear, hatred, or aversion of people whose gender identities differ from the sex they were assigned at birth

Non-binary: A person whose gender identity does not align with a binary understanding of gender such as man or woman. I.E., gender fluid or two-spirit.

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